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Table 3 BEL survey statement teachers’ and students’ percent responses

From: Teachers teaching misconceptions: a study of factors contributing to high school biology students’ acquisition of biological evolution-related misconceptions

  Category Statement Percentage responsea
    1 2 3 4 5 6
1 SSMT1 A scientific theory that explains a natural phenomenon can be classified as a ‘best guess’ or ‘hunch.’b 2.9 11.4 8.6 77.1 0.0 0.0
11.9 37.3 22.9 11.9 15.7 0.2
14.0 31.9 22.2 22.0 9.5 0.4
2 SSMT2 The scientific methods used to determine the age of fossils and the earth are reliable. 42.9 28.6 20.0 8.6 0.0 0.0
22.6 50.4 14.0 6.3 6.5 0.2
25.0 44.0 16.4 9.9 4.7 0.0
3 SSMT3 According to the second law of thermodynamics, complex life forms cannot evolve from simpler life forms. 11.4 11.4 20.0 28.6 25.7 2.9
9.5 11.0 16.8 17.2 44.8 0.7
10.8 17.7 23.5 21.1 26.3 0.6
4 SSMT4 The earth is old enough for evolution to have occurred. 54.3 22.9 5.7 11.4 5.7 0.0
28.5 27.4 11.9 20.0 11.6 0.6
36.4 23.3 12.7 18.8 7.8 0.9
5 SSMT5 Evolution cannot be considered a reliable explanation because evolution is only a theory. 5.7 17.1 11.4 60.0 2.9 2.9
30.2 24.8 20.5 13.4 10.8 0.2
30.8 27.1 19.6 16.0 6.3 0.2
6 IE1 Evolution always results in improvement.b 5.7 11.4 25.7 54.3 2.9 0.0
6.9 22.8 28.2 25.4 14.9 1.9
7.5 22.4 30.8 29.3 8.6 1.5
7 IE2 Members of a species evolve because of an inner need to evolve.b 2.9 8.6 11.4 71.4 5.7 0.0
11.2 28.9 21.1 16.4 22.4 0.0
9.5 26.1 24.4 23.9 15.5 0.6
8 IE3 Traits acquired during the lifetime of an organism - such as large muscles produced by body building - will not be passed along to offspring. 77.1 8.6 8.6 5.7 0.0 0.0
30.0 24.6 19.0 17.5 8.8 0.0
42.0 21.3 16.6 13.8 6.0 0.4
9 IE4 If webbed feet are being selected for, all individuals in the next generation will have more webbing on their feet than do individuals in their parents’ generation.b 17.1 22.9 0.0 60.0 0.0 0.0
9.1 1.9 21.8 11.6 24.6 0.9
18.3 35.8 23.1 11.2 10.6 0.9
10 IE5 Evolution cannot cause an organism’s traits to change within its lifetime. 71.4 11.4 5.7 8.6 2.9 0.0
16.6 20.1 26.5 15.9 19.6 1.3
20.1 29.9 20.7 18.5 9.9 0.9
11 NE1 New traits within a population appear at random.c 48.6 25.7 14.3 8.6 2.9 0.0
10.3 30.6 26.9 13.8 17.9 0.6
9.9 28.5 31.0 22.2 8.0 0.4
12 NE2 Individual organisms adapt to their environments. 20.0 22.9 11.4 45.7 0.0 0.0
49.4 32.1 8.2 4.1 5.2 0.9
44.2 32.8 11.4 7.8 3.0 0.7
13 NE3 Evolution is a totally random process. 22.9 20.0 20.0 34.3 2.9 0.0
10.1 16.0 24.4 25.4 23.7 0.4
11.6 19.0 26.3 30.0 12.5 0.6
14 NE4 The environment determines which traits are best suited for survival. 51.4 37.1 11.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
24.3 33.6 17.2 11.9 12.3 0.7
31.3 34.0 20.7 8.8 5.0 0.2
15 ME1 Variation among individuals within a species is important for evolution to occur.b 74.3 17.1 8.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
11.2 28.0 18.8 9.3 32.6 0.0
21.5 34.3 19.0 12.1 12.5 0.6
16 ME2 ‘Survival of the fittest’ means basically that ‘only the strong survive.’c 8.6 31.4 17.1 42.9 0.0 0.0
35.8 27.2 17.2 12.5 7.1 0.2
44.8 24.4 13.6 12.7 4.5 0.0
17 ME3 The size of the population has no effect on the evolution of a species.b 2.9 0.0 31.4 65.7 0.0 0.0
12.5 17.4 33.2 21.8 14.9 0.2
12.7 21.6 27.6 29.7 7.8 0.6
18 ME4 Complex structures such as the eye could have been formed by evolution. 34.3 17.1 11.4 34.3 2.9 0.0
10.8 26.1 17.4 25.9 19.2 0.6
15.5 22.4 21.1 29.9 10.6 0.6
19 ME5 Only beneficial traits are passed on from parent to offspring. 0.0 0.0 17.1 82.9 0.0 0.0
8.8 21.5 26.5 34.0 8.2 1.1
7.8 23.9 21.8 40.1 6.0 0.4
20 ESE1 There exists a large amount of evidence supporting the theory of evolution.b 51.4 11.4 11.4 22.9 2.9 0.0
14.0 22.2 19.2 23.9 20.3 0.4
14.6 28.4 21.8 26.5 8.6 0.2
21 ESE2 According to the theory of evolution, humans evolved from monkeys, gorillas, or apes. 17.1 14.3 1.4 54.3 2.9 0.0
25.9 25.0 10.6 30.2 8.2 0.0
23.9 23.5 12.1 34.1 6.3 0.0
22 ESE3 Scientific evidence indicates that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time in the past.b 8.6 14.3 5.7 62.9 8.6 0.0
13.6 20.7 17.7 28.2 19.0 0.7
12.7 20.5 21.6 32.5 12.3 0.4
23 ESE4 The majority of scientists favor evolution over other explanations for life. 42.9 34.3 17.1 5.7 0.0 0.0
16.4 28.4 21.8 10.6 22.2 0.6
20.0 34.7 20.5 12.1 12.3 0.4
  1. Percent response is identified as follows: first row, teacher participants (N = 35); second row, pre-instruction student participants (N = 536); third row, post-instruction student participants (N = 536). Bold areas indicate percentage of participants accepting the statement-related misconception. aPercentages may not total 100 due to rounding; bstatement adapted from Cunningham and Wescott (2009); cstatement taken directly from Cunningham and Wescott (2009). 1 = strongly agree; 2 = somewhat agree; 3 = somewhat disagree; 4 = strongly disagree; 5 = undecided/never heard of it; 6 = no response. ESE, evidence supporting evolution; IE, intentionality of evolution; ME; mechanisms of evolution; NE, nature of evolution; SSMT, science, scientific methodology, and terminology.