Assessing, Operationalizing, Profiling Evolution Acceptance in College Students

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We validate the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (MATE) on undergraduate students using the Rasch model and utilize the MATE to explore qualitatively how students express their acceptance of evolution. Previous validation studies suggest the MATE is 1-dimensional, and it has been used as such in over 19 peer-reviewed studies since 2001. We found, however, that the MATE is best used 2-dimensionally. When used in this way, the MATE produces reliable (above 0.85) measures for acceptance of facts and supporting data around evolution and acceptance of the credibility of evolution and rejection of non-scientific ideas. Using k-means clustering, we found students express their acceptance of evolution within 5 distinct categories: (1) uniform high acceptance, (2) neutral acceptance, (3) uniform moderate acceptance, (4) acceptance of the facts, but rejection of the credibility, and (5) rejection of both the facts and the credibility. Further, we found that knowledge of macroevolution moderately explains students’ acceptance profiles corroborating previous claims that teaching macroevolution may be one way to improve students’ acceptance. We use these findings to express the first set of operational definitions of evolution acceptance and propose that educators continue to explore additional ways to operationalize acceptance of evolution.


This was presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD in April of 2016.