Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Michelle Withers

Committee Co-Chair

Jonathan Cumming

Committee Member

Katrina Stewart


The United States is ranked very low in acceptance of evolution when compared to other countries of similar socioeconomic status. The resistance to evolution extends to high school students and teachers, where much research has been performed on the topic of evolution education and the context is well understood. The initial goal of my thesis research was to establish a context for evolution education at the post-secondary level, which was accomplished by performing a national survey of evolution instructors. Although there was great variation among high school teachers, college instructors were surprisingly consistent in their training, methodology and personal views. The second goal of the study was to develop and investigate the impact of a learning activity that promotes personal reflection on views and beliefs on student acceptance of evolution. On average, students experienced increases in acceptance of evolutionary theory whether they completed the above mentioned activity or a control activity that focused on the evidence for evolution. However the experimental activity resulted in a larger increase in acceptance for students with a lower initial acceptance and students who had higher final acceptance levels experienced higher gains in conceptual learning as evidenced by changes in performance on a pre-/post-concept inventory. Considering the overall uniformity of evolution instruction at the college level, it would be beneficial to further study the influence on student acceptance of evolution of approaches that combine evidence for evolution with confrontation of student belief-based barriers.