Date of Award

Summer 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Center for Science and Math Education


Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Chair

Sherry S. Herron

Committee Chair Department

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Member 2

Renee Clary

Committee Member 3

Mark Puckett

Committee Member 3 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 4

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 5

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 5 Department

Educational Research and Administration


In America there exists a conflict between a small group of its citizens and the concept of evolution. Researchers have studied this conflict and the ways in which teachers might approach educational methodologies that not only address evolution in a sensitive manner, but also remain legally acceptable.

This research was designed to address teaching evolution in the context of deep time – the concept that time is vast and that geology and biology operate in a timescale of hundreds of millions to billions of years. In previous peer-reviewed works, it has been stated that deep time acts as a threshold concept, preventing students from making the proximal leap to fully learning evolution except through the context of deep time. Students in Principles of Biology II (n = 100) were compared to those in Historical Geology(n=51). These students were scored on their responses to a pre-test/post-test research instrument which combined selected items from previously validated instruments – the Scientific Attitude Inventory II (40 items), the Geoscience Concept Inventory (15 items), the Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (10 items), and the Measure of Understanding of Macroevolution (10 items) – to address concepts of attitudes towards science, deep time, and evolution. A selection of open-ended questions (4 items in the pre-test, and 5 items in the post-test) at the end attempted to probe students’ views of evolution and deep time, as well as their methods of conflict avoidance if there were any conflicts between their own personal beliefs and the content being taught in the class.

Statistical analysis of the data was conducted using 2-way mixed ANOVAs to account for differences in means as well as any statistical differences between groups during the pre-test, multiple linear regressions to determine any correlations between the attitude and deep time scores with the participants’ evolution scores, a path model analysis to determine relationships between the various components of the Historical Geologyinstrument, and convergent parallel coding of open-ended responses using a data validation design to determine any changes in religious and/or evolution perceptions between pre- and post-tests.

These analyses indicated that knowledge of deep time did not act as a threshold to learning evolution, as indicated by non-significant (p = .077) differences between evolution scores in both the pre-test and post-test scores for both courses, despite Historical Geology students scoring significantly higher (p <.001) on their post-test deep time scores than their Principles of Biology II counterparts. This would imply that knowledge of evolution may not necessarily require prior knowledge of deep time.