Conceptions of Portuguese Prospective Teachers about Real-Life Evolution Situations

  • Bento Cavadas Polytechnic Institute of Santarém/School of Education; Lusófona University, CeiED – Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Education and Development, Portugal
  • Xana Sá-Pinto Research Centre on Didactics and Technology in the Education of Trainers, Department of Education and Psychology, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Keywords: evolution, evolution education, evolution key concepts, evolution misconceptions, prospective teachers


The importance of introducing evolution in primary schools has been highlighted in evolution education research, but few studies have approached the understanding of evolution of prospective teachers who are being prepared to teach at primary school level. The present exploratory study aims to answer three research questions about the ability of Portuguese prospective teachers to apply evolution to two real-life situations: 1) Are prospective teachers able to identify evolution misconceptions in online newspaper articles? 2) What misconceptions are expressed by prospective teachers when explaining real-life evolution situations? and 3) Which key evolution concepts do prospective teachers apply to make sense of real-life evolution situations? Twelve prospective teachers participated in the study. In the first situation, the prospective teachers were asked to identify statements from a newspaper article that would reveal evolution misconceptions and justify their choices. In the second situation, they were asked to read a text about SARS-CoV-2 and explain why scientists were worried about uncontrolled outbreaks of the virus. The prospective teachers’ answers were analysed through content analysis. Regarding the first research question, our results show that only half of the prospective teachers were able to identify teleological misconceptions in the newspaper article. Concerning the second research question, some of the prospective teachers either identified misconceptions in information in which there was no misconception, or revealed their own misconceptions in their explanations. Regarding the third research question, although more than half of the prospective teachers identified at least two key evolution concepts, some of them found it difficult to explain how evolution is related to the situation described. Although this is an exploratory study, it shows which key concepts of evolution the prospective teachers mobilised and identifies their misunderstandings, thus highlighting dimensions that should be addressed in their evolution education.


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How to Cite
Cavadas, B., & Sá-Pinto, X. (2023). Conceptions of Portuguese Prospective Teachers about Real-Life Evolution Situations. Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 13(1), 95-119.