Communicating Evolution: An Exploration of Students’ Skills in an Essential Practice of Science

Kristin L. Cook, Alandeom W. Oliveira


The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize the importance of developing students’ abilities to effectively communicate science, including topics that are highly scrutinized in the American public sphere such as evolution.  However, student attainment of controversial communicative competence (the ability to competently communicate about controversial science topics) has received little attention from educational researchers. The present paper addresses this issue by examining student communication of evolution (their choices when creating a public website) at the end of an instructional unit. Our exploratory analysis indicated students’ efforts to communicate evolution are characterized by varied levels of openness to dialogue (dialogic expansion and contraction). Further, our findings suggest a parallel between dialogically imbalanced communicative approaches (i.e., excessive use of dialogic contraction or expansion) and reduced levels of conceptual and NOS competence. Implications for science education are discussed; including the need for explicitly guiding students in critically analyzing varied forms of science communication. 


evolution education, evolution communication, dialogism, high school, nature of science

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