Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Evolution: Education and Outreach







Publication Date


First Page


Last Page


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Background: This research builds on a previous study that looked at the effectiveness of a simulation-based module for teaching students about the process of evolution by natural selection. While the previous study showed that the module was successful in teaching how natural selection works, the research uncovered some weaknesses in the design. In this paper, we used design-based research to investigate how design changes to the module affected not only students’ understanding of the concepts but also their usage of misconceptions in the assessments. We present results from two studies. In study 1, we looked at gains in understanding on a pre and post-assessment for students who used the revised version of the module. We also examined misconception uses in their answer selections. In study 2, we compared the performance on a summative assessment between students who used the revised version and students who used the original version of the module. We also looked at misconception uses in their answer selections.

Results: In study 1, we saw a significant improvement in the pre-post assessment for students who used the revised version. In study 2, we did not find a significant difference on the overall performance outcome between students who used the revised and those that used the original version of the module. In both studies, however, we saw a lower use of misconceptions after students used the revised module. In particular, we saw less use of the adaptive mutation misconception, the belief that mutations are adaptive responses to the environment and are biased towards advantageous mutations. This is promising because in the previous study there was no evidence of decreased use of this misconception.

Conclusions: Students showed learning gains on all targeted key concepts, and reduced expression of all targeted misconceptions, which was not found previously for students using the older workbook version of the module. In particular, the revised version appears to help students overcome the adaptive mutation misconception. This article demonstrates how design-based research can contribute to the ongoing improvement of evidence-based instruction in undergraduate biology classrooms.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.