2020-08-30Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1186/s12052-020-00132-w
Towards common ground in measuring acceptance of evolution and knowledge about evolution across Europe: a systematic review of the state of research
Background Relatively little information is available regarding the level of acceptance of evolution and knowledge about evolution in different educational settings in Europe. The aim of the present study is to fill this gap and provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of research regarding evolutionary knowledge and acceptance of students and teachers across Europe, based on a systematic literature review. Results We identified 56 papers for the period 2010–2020, presenting results for 29 European countries. Both knowledge and acceptance of evolution were assessed in 17 studies. Out of 13 instruments most commonly used in the literature, five have been used in the European context so far: ACORNS, CINS, I-SEA, KEE and MATE. Thirty-one other instruments were identified of which 16 were used in studies on knowledge and 15 in studies on acceptance. The extent of knowledge was hard to compare even within groups of the same education level due to the application of different instruments and assessment of different key concepts. Our results illustrate the persistence of misconceptions through all education levels. Comparing acceptance among different education levels and countries revealed a high diversity. However, a lack of evolution in curricula tended to be associated with rejection of evolution in some countries. European studies that investigated both acceptance of evolution and knowledge about evolution varied highly concerning the existence and strength of the relationship between these factors. However, some trends are visible, such as an increase of strength of the relationship the higher the education level. Conclusions The present review highlights the lack of a standardized assessment of evolutionary knowledge and acceptance of evolution across Europe and, therefore, of reasonably comparable data. Moreover, the review revealed that only about one-third of all studies on acceptance and/or knowledge about evolution provided evidence for local validity and reliability. We suggest the use of assessment categories for both knowledge and acceptance instruments to allow for interpretation and comparison of sum scores among different sample groups. This, along with prospective comparative research based on similar samples, paves the way for future research aimed at overcoming current biases and inconsistencies in results.
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