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Thesis/Dissertation Seminars

Dissertation Defense: A Study of Central Florida College Students' Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution, Microevolution, Macroevolution, and Human Evolution

ED 306
April 24, 2017 @ 02:00 PM - 03:00 PM

Announcing the Final Examination of David Schleith for the degree of Doctor of Education

The goal of the research was to explore levels of acceptance of the theory of evolution and its constructs in college students studying biology. In order to determine levels of acceptance of the theory of evolution, the Inventory of Student Evolution Acceptance, or I-SEA, was administered to over 500 college students taking a course related to biological science during the Fall 2016 term. In addition to the I-SEA items, which are subdivided to provide data about acceptance of microevolution, macroevolution, and human evolution, students were asked demographic questions including high school attended, graduation year, gender, race, major, prior high school biology coursework, and frequency of attending worship services.

Overall, students tend to have very high levels of acceptance of the theory of evolution; 78% of the students surveyed have a very high level of evolution acceptance. Only 4% of the students surveyed demonstrated low or very low levels of acceptance of the theory of evolution. Microevolution was the most accepted construct measured. Macroevolution was the second most accepted construct measured and human evolution was the least accepted construct. Prior high school coursework did not have a statistically significant effect on evolution acceptance in the study population. Students who reported attending worship services weekly or more scored statistically significantly lower on the I-SEA than peers who reported attending worship services less than weekly. Worldview has a dramatic impact on learning.

Educational leaders should understand the Federal mandates related to evolution education, such as the unconstitutionality of teaching Creationism or Intelligent Design-Creationism. Educational leaders should also understand the State level mandates related to evolution education. In the State of Florida, biology is required instruction to earn a high school diploma. All students must take a Biology end-of-course examination which constitutes 30% of the students' final grade. Specific science standards covering the theory of evolution are included in the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards which were adopted in 2007. The nature of science is another strand of standards embedded in all science courses in Florida from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Explicit instruction in the nature of science has been shown to improve understanding and acceptance of the theory of evolution. Challenges to the teaching of the theory of evolution have been launched in the Florida legislature several times since the 2007 adoption of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. The Discovery Institute—the flagship organization supporting intelligent design—drafted a model bill which has been recycled over sixty times and introduced in several states including Florida in 2008, 2009, and 2011, (Matzke, 2015). While these challenges to evolution education in Florida were all defeated, the contrived controversy surrounding the theory of evolution poses educational challenges for science educators and educational leaders alike. The Inventory of Student Evolution Acceptance serves as a useful educational tool to inform instructional decisions in the biology classroom.

Committee in charge: Kenneth T. Murray (Chair), Walter Doherty, Lee Baldwin, Robert Everett


The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award degrees at the associate, baccalaureate, master’s, specialist, and doctoral levels. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of the University of Central Florida.

Please note the commission's expectation that contact occur only if there is evidence to support significant non-compliance with a requirement or standard. For other information about UCF’s SACSCOC accreditation, please contact the university's SACSCOC liaison in UCF's Office of Academic Affairs.

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