Teaching Evolution with Austrian Biology Textbooks

Martin Scheuch, Simon Rachbauer

Evolution is the central theory of biology; therefore it should be used as a guiding idea in biology school textbooks to construct meaningful learning progressions for the students. This study is a qualitative follow up study with the focus on two widely used biology textbook series in lower and upper secondary schools in Austria. In the previous study 63 biology textbooks of 17 available textbook series were analyzed. Two exemplary results there were the sloppy use of "adaptation" as one of the most common terms with and without evolutionary context. The other one is the nearly complete absence of the term and the concept of 'population". The main research interest in the present study was the following: how are the evolutionary concepts in the textbooks linked to each other horizontally (within one textbook) and vertically (between textbooks of different grades of the same series). The coding was guided by a concept map which linked the core evolutionary concepts (like variation, selection, population etc.). We started with the NGSS strandmaps as potentially meaningful learning pathways to construct the concept map. This concept map was then the guideline for analyzing first and then depicting the results from grade 5 to 12. One exemplary result is the prevalent fragmentation of the concepts during the compulsory school years. Especially in lower secondary grades only artificial selection is presented in a satisfying manner, all other concepts occur occasionally but not linked to each other or are totally left out (e.g., population). Another result is the misleading presentation of natural selection. The fact that natural selection selects at the individual level but the results can only be seen at the level of populations over the generations is not represented; the causes and effects are mixed up. This is problematic, because adaptation is very often seen at an individual level - this is a prevalent teleological and anthropomorphic student's concept and the textbooks even strengthen this concept instead of opposing it.

Center for Science Education Research (AECCs)
External organisation(s)
Hochschule für Agrar- und Umweltpädagogik
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
Subject didactics of natural sciences
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