Central Concepts of Evolutionary
We built the concept map as follows:
(1) We identified three focus questions according to the current
knowledge in evolution (Futuyma & Kirkpatrick, 2017) and
the idea of meaningful learning (Ausubel et al., 1978;
Novak, 2002). We established as our first question, How
should students understand evolutionary biology to foster mean-
ingful learning? There is sound evidence that evolution has
occurred and occurs now in the history of life. Among that
evidence are the fossil record, the unity of life, observed evo-
lution, vestigial structures, studies of comparative anatomy,
and the spatial distribution of organisms. The evidence led
us to the following two questions: What is the history of life?
and What processes, in mutual influence with the interaction
among organisms and their environment, generated the history
of life? Most important, we wondered how students can
incorporate the answers to these three questions into well-
organized and relevant knowledge.
(2) Guided by these questions, we identified what we consider
the most pertinent concepts in evolution.
(3) We established a top-down hierarchical structure, giving the
concepts at the top a more inclusive category (e.g., evolution-
ary biology studies biological evolution, biological evolution
generates biodiversity, biological evolution is a consequence
of interactions and processes) and following a sequential flow
of events, as it happens in nature.
(4) Each concept appears only once in the concept map.
(5) We connected the concepts with a few linking words.
(6) Although some cross-links could be specified among several
concepts, for the purpose of clarity we established only the
most relevant cross-links to maintain the hierarchical structure.
(7) For learning purposes, an activity subsequent to the presentation of this concept map could include identification of
cross-links among concepts to reveal a structure that is more
a net than a hierarchy.
How Should Students Understand Evolutionary
Biology to Foster Meaningful Learning?
Biological evolution generates biodiversity throughout the course of
life’s history (including the present) and as a consequence of processes at the population level in interaction with the environment
What Is the History of Life?
The second question (Figure 3) is answered by reconstructing the
genealogy of life (= phylogeny)2. Charles Darwin was one of the
first naturalists to suggest, in his notebooks in 1837 (Notebook B,
Figure 1. Life science core ideas of the NGSS that are addressed in the concept map.