Gifted students' perceptions of their acceptance of evolution, changes in acceptance, and factors involved therein

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20 Scopus citations


Background: Few reports have tracked changes in the levels of acceptance of evolution among high school students, and there have apparently been no studies exploring the levels of acceptance of evolution among gifted high school students in transition to post-secondary education. And, although many have measured acceptance of evolution via various instruments, there has been little information regarding what students consider to be important factors affecting changes in their positions of acceptance or rejection of evolution. These were explored using open-ended questionnaires and interviews with students in a population previously documented to have shown significant changes in acceptance of evolution. Results: Qualitative data reveal a complex and individualized landscape of factors students perceive to influence their acceptance of evolution. The majority of participants who accepted evolution ranked factors related to evidence most highly among those leading to their acceptance. Participants who had become more accepting of evolution often cited evidence, but were more likely to list having become "more open-minded" as the primary influencing factor. Participants who rejected evolution were more likely to list "the Bible" or "religious beliefs" as the chief factor affecting their position regarding evolution, and the second most frequently and highly ranked factor cited by evolution rejecters was that they had been "taught" or "raised" not to believe in evolution. When discussing evidence, they were more likely to refer to their perceptions of its insufficiencies. Conclusions: Patterns and trends common among groups of participants emerged from the qualitative data. It appears that students who accept evolution appeal more strongly to evidence than those who are unsure about or reject evolution; that students often appeal to their religion as a factor influencing their level of acceptance of evolution whether they accept evolution, reject evolution, or are in transition; and that students may have difficulty with the evolution of human beings even if they accept all other aspects of evolution. Other trends suggest that students who become more accepting of evolution may go through "stages" of changed acceptance involving acceptance of increasingly ancient ages for Earth and universe and expanding limits within which they accept that evolution can occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalEvolution: Education and Outreach
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 5 2014


  • Acceptance of evolution
  • Arkansas
  • Evolution
  • Post-secondary education
  • Purposive sampling
  • Qualitative
  • Secondary education
  • Student perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Education


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