Impact of Chukwin-mini unit on students' understanding of natural selection
Bauer, Sarah Elizabeth
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Instruction on evolution can be fraught with controversy, which may lead to teachers avoiding it and students struggling to learn it. Yet it is national science standard, a foundation in the field of biology, and a key to science literacy. A constructivist mini-unit incorporating simulation-based games involving a population of imaginary creatures called Chukwins was created to maximize student learning and minimize tension. It was tested in an elementary, junior high, and high school classrooms in three different locations. Changes in understanding were assessed with pretest/posttest data. Surveys and interviews provided additional evidence on students' attitudes towards the mini-unit, its impact on learning and engagement, and understanding of evolution. Students made statistically significant improvements on assessments regarding natural selection, reducing their number of misconceptions and slightly improving their ability to apply correct concepts. Retention scores indicate that the changes, though small, are long-lasting. Little change was found in students' attitudes towards evolution after treatment. The vast majority of students viewed the mini-unit favorably and found it to be a valuable learning opportunity, which was echoed by the classroom teachers. The mini-unit could be a valuable tool for teachers in helping students learn about natural selection and evolution in a way that is fun, motivating, and leads to conceptual change even for students with strong opposition to the theory of evolution.