Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Dana Zeidler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elaine Howes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Troy Sadler, Ph.D.


science education, scientific literacy, SSI-Q, socioscientific reasoning, argumentation


The purpose of this study was to explore the evolution science content used during college students' negotiation of biology-based socioscientific issues (SSI) and examine how it related to students' conceptual understanding and acceptance of biological evolution. Specific research questions were, (1a) what specific evolutionary science content do college students evoke during SSI negotiation, (1b) what is the depth of the evolutionary science content reflected in college students' SSI negotiation, and (2) what is the nature of the interaction between evolution understanding and evolution acceptance as they relate to depth of use of evolution content during SSI negotiation? The Socioscientific Issues Questionnaire (SSI-Q) was developed using inductive data analysis to examine science content use and to develop a rubric for measuring depth of evolutionary science content use during SSI negotiation. Sixty upper level undergraduate biology and non-biology majors completed the SSI-Q and also the Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (CINS: Anderson, Fisher, & Norman, 2002) to measure evolution understanding and the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (MATE: Rutledge & Warden, 1999) to measure evolution acceptance. A multiple regression analysis tested for interaction effects between the predictor variables, evolution understanding and evolution acceptance. Results indicate that college students primarily use science concepts related to evolution to negotiate biology-based SSI: variation in a population, inheritance of traits, differential success, and change through time. The hypothesis that the extent of one's acceptance of evolution is a mitigating factor in how evolution content is evoked during SSI negotiation was supported by the data. This was seen in that evolution was the predominant science content used by participants for each of the three SSI scenarios used in this study and used consistently throughout the three SSI scenarios. In addition to its potential to assess aspects of argumentation, a modification of the SSI-Q could be used for further study about students' misconceptions about evolution or scientific literacy, if it is defined as one's tendency to utilize science content during a decision-making process within an SSI context.