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Table 2 A theoretical framework for novice-expert evolutionary reasoning about natural selection and genetic drift

From: Students’ Mental Models of Evolutionary Causation: Natural Selection and Genetic Drift

Level of Expertise Reasoning Model Example Reference
Expert Adaptive + Non-adaptive “Although the initial divergence of Homo from the australopiths may have involved selection, divergence after this time (at least in the facial characters analyzed) could have occurred through random processes alone.” (Ackermann and Cheverud 2004, p. 17951)
Both natural selection and genetic drift collectively explain patterns of evolutionary change. “This result suggests that both random and to a lesser extent nonrandom processes played an important role in the diversification of this morphologically diverse group; it does not necessarily mean that both played a role across all parts of the group.” (Ackermann and Cheverud 2004, p. 17949)
Adaptive vs. Non-adaptive “QTL data do provide information on the roles of natural selection vs. genetic drift in phenotypic evolution.” (Orr 1998, p. 2102)
Either natural selection or genetic drift leads to evolutionary change.
Emerging Expert Adaptive (key concepts only) “A mutation may have taken place that allowed a locust to be immune to DDT, this trait was then passed on. These immune locust were the only (ones) that survived and reproduced. Over time, the mutated trait became common of the locust species ‘migratoria’.” (Nehm and Ha 2011; supplementary materials)
See also this paper.
Only natural selection explains evolutionary change.
Novice Mixed/Synthetic (naive ideas and key concepts) “Due to the fact that animals continually ate the “broken bush” species, the species developed a poison that would fight off predators. This poison worked, and more and more plants decided to use such a survival strategy. Only the strong survived and reproduced, which were the plant species containing poison.” (Nehm and Ha 2011; supplementary materials)
Naive ideas and natural selection explain evolutionary change. See also this paper.
Pure Naive (naive ideas) “Flightless bird species could have originated from other bird species that can fly because they did not have a specific need for flight. Since they didn’t need and/or use their wings for flight, a selective pressure may have worked on them to cause their wings to become flightless.” (Nehm and Ha 2011; supplementary materials)
Only Naive ideas explain evolutionary change. See also this paper.