Date of Award

4-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Brian Alters

Second Advisor

Randy Busse

Third Advisor

Dawn Hunter

Fourth Advisor

Philip Sadler

Abstract

There is great disagreement in the United States about with how evolution education should be dealt, as the acceptance of evolution is controversial among the general public of the United States. Furthermore, although a plethora of research has been conducted to understand which factors influence the understanding and acceptance of evolution among high school and university students -- and the general public -- there are few studies focusing on community college students. In an effort to help fill this gap in the literature, this dissertation investigates the relationship between the acceptance of evolution and academic factors among community college students. Specifically, 867 community college students were surveyed using aspects of validated instruments regarding their attitudes towards evolution and human evolution, understanding of evolution and the nature of science, previous science experience, career goals, and demographic information. The results indicated that the community college students accepted evolution at a higher level than the general public and they accepted human evolution relatively less than evolution in general. Acceptance of evolution and human evolution were highly correlated, and regression analysis revealed they were the best predictors for each other after controlling for all of the factors measured. Understanding of evolution and the nature of science were also highly correlated with the acceptance of evolution and moderately correlated with the acceptance of human evolution. The data also indicate that these community college students did not have a solid understanding of evolution. These findings have implications for the teaching of evolution as they serve to reinforce the importance of understanding both evolution and the nature of science and their relationship to the acceptance of evolution.