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Malthus for kids: The impact of exploring Malthus’ principle on elementary school students’ understanding of evolution by natural selection
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  • Xana Sá-Pinto,
  • Alexandre Pinto,
  • Joana Ribeiro,
  • Inês Sarmento,
  • Patrícia Pessoa,
  • Leonor Rodrigues,
  • Lucía Vázquez-Ben,
  • Evangelia Mavrikaki,
  • Joaquim Bernardino Lopes
Xana Sá-Pinto
University of Aveiro Research Centre Didactics and Technology in Education of Trainers
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Alexandre Pinto
Polytechnic Institute of Porto School of Education
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Joana Ribeiro
Polytechnic Institute of Porto School of Education
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Inês Sarmento
Polytechnic Institute of Porto School of Education
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Patrícia Pessoa
University of Aveiro Research Centre Didactics and Technology in Education of Trainers
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Leonor Rodrigues
Centre for Ecology Evolution and Environmental Changes
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Lucía Vázquez-Ben
Faculty of Educational Studies, Universidade da Coruña
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Evangelia Mavrikaki
Faculty of Primary Education, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens
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Joaquim Bernardino Lopes
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro
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Abstract

While several researchers have suggested that evolution should be explored from the initial years of schooling, little information is available on effective resources to enhance elementary school students’ level of understanding of evolution by natural selection (LUENS). For the present study, we designed, implemented and evaluated an educational activity planned for fourth graders to explore concepts and conceptual fields that were historically important for the discovery of natural selection. Observation field notes and students’ productions were used to analyse how the students explored the proposed activity. Additionally, an evaluation framework consisting of a test, the evaluation criteria and the scoring process was applied in two fourth-grade classes to estimate elementary school students’ LUENS before and after engaging in the activity. Our results suggest that our activity allowed students to effectively link all of the key concepts in the classroom and produced a significant increase in their LUENS. These results indicate that our activity had a positive impact on students’ understanding of natural selection. They also reveal that additional activities and minor fine-tuning of the present activity are required to further support students’ learning about the concept of differential reproduction. We also observed a low level of teleological predictions for both pre- and post-tests.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

24 Feb 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
25 Feb 2021Submission Checks Completed
25 Feb 2021Assigned to Editor
27 Feb 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
26 Mar 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
16 Apr 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
31 May 20211st Revision Received
01 Jun 2021Submission Checks Completed
01 Jun 2021Assigned to Editor
01 Jun 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
06 Jun 2021Editorial Decision: Accept