Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Corwin

Second Advisor

Dr. Barbara Demmig-Adams

Third Advisor

Dr. Andrew Martin

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Joanna Lambert

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.


Evolutionary theory is a national learning priority in the United States. However, evolution is differentially taught and accepted by individuals across the nation depending on a variety of factors. Many studies have been conducted on academic populations and their acceptance and understanding or lack thereof of concepts of evolution. However, many of these studies were conducted on generalized populations. The University of Colorado at Boulder has a unique population of biology students with varying backgrounds, and we were curious as to how their perceptions of the impacts of teaching evolution might differ from other groups. In the research for this thesis, students from a population of introductory biology students and a population of an upper division evolution class were asked the question “If all individuals were required to learn evolution, how would it change the way society functioned?” Their responses were transcribed and coded using NVivo 11 software. Overall, students in both populations similarly reported positive implications of learning evolution in the cognitive, or knowledge-gain, domain. Students from both populations also related learning evolutionary theory to affective and behavioral gains. Responses from both populations were mostly positive, contrary to previous research. Students in the upper-division class also tended to address the concept of human evolution, whereas the general biology students did not cite human evolution in their responses.