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  1. Alvares, Stacy M. (Ed.)
    Learning about evolution is a foundational part of biology education, but most current studies that explore college student evolution education are conducted at universities. However, community college students tend to be more diverse in characteristics shown to be related to evolution education outcomes. To explore how studies involving university students may generalize to community college students, we surveyed students from seven community college ( n = 202) and nine university ( n = 2288) classes. We measured students’ evolution interest, acceptance, and understanding, and for religious students, we measured their perceived conflict between their religions and evolution. Controlling for state and major, we found that community college students had similar levels of evolution interest as university students but perceived greater conflict between their religions and evolution. Further, community college students had lower evolution understanding and acceptance compared with university students. Religiosity was a strong factor predicting community college and university students’ evolution acceptance. However, unique to community college students, evolution understanding was not related to their macroevolution or human evolution acceptance. This indicates that, although some results between community college and university students are similar, there are differences that have implications for evolution instruction that warrant the need for moremore »evolution education research at community colleges.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. Anderson, Deborah K. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Evolution is one of the most important concepts in biology, but it is rejected by a substantial percentage of religious students due to a perceived conflict with their religious beliefs. The use of religious cultural competence in evolution education (ReCCEE) has been shown to effectively increase evolution acceptance among religious students during in-person instruction, but there is no research that we know of that indicates the effectiveness of these practices during online instruction. In this study, we explored the efficacy of online culturally competent practices for religious students on students’ evolution understanding, evolution acceptance, and comfort learning evolution at a religious university. Before and after evolution instruction, we surveyed 178 students in online introductory biology courses and compared these student outcomes to 201 students in the same instructor’s in-person introductory biology courses. We found that evolution acceptance and understanding increased in online classes with culturally competent practices, and these gains were similar to those observed in the in-person courses. Despite these similarities, we found that students were more comfortable learning evolution in person than online, but this difference was small. Our findings suggest that the use of culturally competent practices online can be as effective as their use formore »in-person instruction for improving students' attitudes toward evolution, but in-person instruction may be more effective for cultivating students’ comfort while learning evolution.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  3. Bioethics is an important aspect of understanding the relationship between science and society, but studies have not yet examined undergraduate student experiences and comfort in bioethics courses. In this study, we investigated undergraduate bioethics students’ support of and comfort when learning three controversial bioethics topics: gene editing, abortion, and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Furthermore, student identity has been shown to influence how students perceive and learn about controversial topics at the intersection of science and society. So, we explored how students’ religious affiliation, gender, or political affiliation was associated with their support of and comfort when learning about gene editing, abortion, and PAS. We found that most students entered bioethics with moderated viewpoints on controversial topics but that there were differences in students’ tendency to support each topic based on their gender, religion, and political affiliation. We also saw differences in student comfort levels based on identity: women reported lower comfort than men when learning about gene editing, religious students were less comfortable than nonreligious students when learning about abortion and PAS, and nonliberal students were less comfortable than liberal students when learning about abortion. Students cited that the controversy surrounding these topics and a personal hesitancy to discuss them causedmore »discomfort. These findings indicate that identity impacts comfort and support in a way similar to that previously shown in the public. Thus, it may be important for instructors to consider student identity when teaching bioethics topics to maximize student comfort, ultimately encouraging thoughtful consideration and engagement with these topics.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  4. ABSTRACT The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in nearly all universities transitioning their in-person courses to online instruction. Recent work from our research team conducted in Spring 2020 established that the immediate transition to online learning presented novel challenges for students with disabilities: students were unable to access previously established accommodations and there was a lack of information from Disability Resource Centers (DRCs) about adapting accommodations to online environments. In this study, we aimed to determine the extent to which these issues still were present 1 year later. In Spring 2021, we conducted a survey of 114 students with disabilities who were registered with the DRC and taking online science courses at a public research-intensive institution. We used our previous interviews with students to develop closed- and open-ended questions to assess the extent to which students with disabilities were being properly accommodated in their courses, document any new accommodations they were using, and elicit any recommendations they had for improving their experiences in online science courses. We used logistic regression to analyze the closed-ended data and inductive coding to analyze the open-ended data. We found that more than half of students with disabilities reported not being properly accommodated, and this was moremore »likely to be reported by students who experienced new challenges related to online learning. When students were asked what accommodations they would have wanted, students often described accommodations that were being offered to some students but were not universally implemented. This study summarizes recommendations for making online science learning environments more inclusive for students with disabilities.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 29, 2023
  5. Romine, William (Ed.)
    Hundreds of articles have explored the extent to which individuals accept evolution, and the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (MATE) is the most often used survey. However, research indicates the MATE has limitations, and it has not been updated since its creation more than 20 years ago. In this study, we revised the MATE using information from cognitive interviews with 62 students that revealed response process errors with the original instrument. We found that students answered items on the MATE based on constructs other than their acceptance of evolution, which led to answer choices that did not fully align with their actual acceptance. Students answered items based on their understanding of evolution and the nature of science and different definitions of evolution. We revised items on the MATE, conducted 29 cognitive interviews on the revised version, and administered it to 2881 students in 22 classes. We provide response process validity evidence for the new measure through cognitive interviews with students, structural validity through a Rasch dimensionality analysis, and concurrent validity evidence through correlations with other measures of evolution acceptance. Researchers can now measure student evolution acceptance using this new version of the survey, which we have calledmore »the MATE 2.0.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  6. Abstract Background Instructors can teach evolution using any number of species contexts. However, not all species contexts are equal, and taxa choice can alter both cognitive and affective elements of learning. This is particularly true when teaching evolution using human examples, a promising method for evolution instruction that nevertheless comes with unique challenges. In this study, we tested how an evolution lesson focused on a human example may impact students’ engagement, perceived content relevance, learning gains, and level of discomfort, when compared to the same lesson using a non-human mammal example. We use this isomorphic lesson and a pre-post study design administered in a split-section introductory biology classroom to isolate the importance of the species context. Results For two of the four measurements of interest, the effect of using human examples could not be understood without accounting for student background. For learning gains, students with greater pre-class content knowledge benefited more from the human examples, while those with low levels of knowledge benefited from the non-human example. For perceived relevance, students who were more accepting of human evolution indicated greater content relevance from the human example. Regardless of condition, students with lower evolution acceptance reported greater levels of discomfort withmore »the lesson. Conclusions Our results illustrate the complexities of using human examples to teach evolution. While these examples were beneficial for many students, they resulted in worse outcomes for students that were less accepting of evolution and those who entered the course with less content knowledge. These findings demonstrate the need to consider diverse student backgrounds when establishing best practices for using human examples to teach evolution.« less
  7. Momsen, Jennifer (Ed.)
    The COVID-19 pandemic caused nearly all colleges and universities to transition in-person courses to an online format. In this study, we explored how the rapid transition to online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic affected students with disabilities. We interviewed 66 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) undergraduates with disabilities at seven large-enrollment institutions during Spring 2020. We probed to what extent students were able to access their existing accommodations, to what extent the online environment required novel accommodations, and what factors prevented students from being properly accommodated in STEM courses. Using inductive coding, we identified that students were unable to access previously established accommodations, such as reduced-distraction testing and note-takers. We also found that the online learning environment presented novel challenges for students with disabilities that may have been lessened with the implementation of accommodations. Finally, we found that instructors making decisions about what accommodations were appropriate for students and disability resource centers neglecting to contact students after the transition to online instruction prevented students from receiving the accommodations that they required in STEM courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study illuminates current gaps in the support of students with disabilities and pinpoints ways to make online STEM learning environmentsmore »more inclusive for students with disabilities.« less
  8. Jensen, Jamie L. (Ed.)
    Evolution is a prominent component of biology education and remains controversial among college biology students in the United States who are mostly Christian, but science education researchers have not explored the attitudes of Muslim biology students in the United States. To explore perceptions of evolution among Muslim students in the United States, we surveyed 7,909 college students in 52 biology classes in 13 states about their acceptance of evolution, interest in evolution, and understanding of evolution. Muslim students in our sample, on average, did not agree with items that measured acceptance of macroevolution and human evolution. Further, on average, Muslim students agreed, but did not strongly agree with items measuring microevolution acceptance. Controlling for gender, major, race/ethnicity, and international status, we found that the evolution acceptance and interest levels of Muslim students were slightly higher than Protestant students and students who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Muslim student evolution acceptance levels were significantly lower than Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu students as well as students who did not identify with a religion (agnostic and atheists). Muslim student understanding of evolution was similar to students from other affiliations, but was lower than agnostic andmore »atheist students. We also examined which variables are associated with Muslim student acceptance of evolution and found that higher understanding of evolution and lower religiosity are positive predictors of evolution acceptance among Muslim students, which is similar to the broader population of biology students. These data are the first to document that Muslim students have lower acceptance of evolution compared to students from other affiliations in undergraduate biology classrooms in the United States.« less
  9. Prunuske, Amy (Ed.)
    Online education has grown rapidly in recent years with many universities now offering fully online degree programs even in STEM disciplines. These programs have the potential to broaden access to STEM degrees for people with social identities currently underrepresented in STEM. Here, we ask to what extent is that potential realized in terms of student enrollment and grades for a fully online degree program. Our analysis of data from more than 10,000 course-enrollments compares student demographics and course grades in a fully online biology degree program to demographics and grades in an equivalent in-person biology degree program at the same university. We find that women, first-generation to college students and students eligible for federal Pell grants constitute a larger proportion of students in the online program compared to the in-person mode. However, the online mode of instruction is associated with lower course grades relative to the in-person mode. Moreover, African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, and Pacific Islander students as well as federal Pell grant eligible students earned lower grades than white students and non-Pell grant eligible students, respectively, but the grade disparities were similar among both in-person and online student groups. Finally, we find that grade disparities between men andmore »women are larger online compared to in-person, but that for first-generation to college women, the online mode of instruction is associated with little to no grade gap compared to continuing generation women. Our findings indicate that although this online degree program broadens access for some student populations, inequities in the experience remain and need to be addressed in order for online education to achieve its inclusive mission.« less