Student and pre-service biology teacher conceptions of the role of organismal agency in evolutionary adaptations

Darwin’s theory of evolution emerged from his deep contemplation regarding the role of organismal agencies in the development of adaptive forms over generations. Modern synthesis approaches to evolutionary biology, adopting narrowly gene-centric perspectives, tend to abstract out, or even refute the role of such agencies in evolutionary change. Evolution education, having been developed largely in the mold of such narrow gene-centrism, tends to view agency as a concept that is not a part of, or even antithetical to, the central learning target of the field. In this work, we question that assumption, and explore student conceptions of agency as it relates to expert evolutionary reasoning across five diverse case studies. We view this work as a first step in laying a foundational understanding of student and pre-service teacher conceptions for evolutionary reasoning that adequately accounts for the role of preferences, goals, and behaviors of organisms in adaptive change.

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