Are there educationally critical aspects in the concept of evolution?


  • Charlotte Taylor
  • Chris Cope


This paper describes a preliminary investigation into the concepts of troublesome knowledge and thresholds in student understanding within the biology discipline. We propose that evolution represents a threshold concept in the discipline and, consequently, constitutes troublesome knowledge. We sought to explore evolution as a threshold concept in biology using a phenomenographic approach to identify the educationally critical aspects of an understanding of evolution appropriate for undergraduate students. Here we describe the steps in the process whereby we developed the educationally critical aspects from a series of responses to a question about evolution, provided by students entering first year biology at The University of Sydney. The aspects of evolution we identified provide a framework for designing more effective learning activities.