Research in developmental psychology has shown that deeply-rooted, intuitive ways of thinking, such as design teleology and psychological essentialism, impact children’s scientific explanations about natural phenomena. Similarly, biology education researchers have found that students often hold inaccurate conceptions about natural phenomena, which often relate to these intuitions. In order to further investigate the relation between students’ conceptions and intuitions, we conducted a study with 93 first year undergraduate students in biology. They were asked to express their level of agreement or disagreement with six misconception statements and to explain their choices in a two-tier test. Results showed a tendency for students to agree with teleological and essentialist misconceptions. However, no association was found between students’ teleological and essentialist conceptions as expressed in their agreement or disagreement with the various misconception statements. Moreover, we found evidence of a variable consistency across students’ answers depending on the misconception considered, which indicates that item features and contexts may have an effect on students’ answers. All together, these findings provide evidence for considerable persistence of teleological and essentialist misconceptions among students. We suggest future directions for thinking, studying, and analyzing students’ conceptions about biological phenomena.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited