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A paradigm shift away from viewing evolution primarily in terms of adaptation - the "adaptationist programme" of Gould and Lewontin - began in evolutionary research more than 35 years ago, but that shift has yet to occur within evolutionary education research or within teaching standards. We review three instruments that can help education researchers and educators undertake this paradigm shift. The instruments assess how biology undergraduates understand three evolutionary processes other than natural selection: genetic drift, dominance relationships among allelic pairs, and evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). Testing with these instruments reveals that students often explain a diversity of evolutionary mechanisms incorrectly by invoking misconceptions about natural selection. We propose that increasing the emphasis on teaching evolutionary processes other than natural selection could result in a better understanding of natural selection and a better understanding of all evolutionary processes. Finally, we propose two strategies for accomplishing this goal, interleaving natural selection with other evolutionary processes and the development of bridging analogies to describe evolutionary concepts.


© 2016 by the Regents of the University of California. Original published version available at

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The American Biology Teacher





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