Boost your evolution IQ: An evolution misconceptions game

A guest post by Matt Taylor

Last Spring, Mariëlle and I spent some time reading education articles about student struggles learning evolution. In particular, we were interested in which misconceptions about evolution students might bring to introductory biology classes. We identified the following misconceptions:

  • Evolution explains the origin of life.
  • Evolutionary processes serve a purpose or strive for perfection.
  • Traits arise when needed.
  • Individuals can evolve.
  • All members of a population develop new traits simultaneously.
  • All mutations are harmful.
  • Evolution and natural selection are the same thing.
  • Evolution only happens when conditions change dramatically.
  • “Adaptation” means adjustment within a lifetime.
  • “Fitness” describes how strong or fast an organism is.

2016-04-06 01.07.50 pmTo target these misconceptions, we developed a collaborative, rapid-fire quiz game for use in class (the activity is based on an idea presented in Nehm and Reilly, 2007). Students work together in teams to answer evolution questions, which are each displayed for 30 or 60 seconds on a PowerPoint slide. Each correct answer scores points for the team. If you’d like, you can award a prize to the team with the most points at the end of the quiz. The fast pace and the gaming aspect of the activity keep students engaged and focused. So far we’ve had great success!

We wrote a full description of the activity and published it on, a great site for educational resources (we introduced CourseSource in a previous post). All of the details and materials that you need to implement the evolution misconceptions activity can be found at the following link. Please check it out!

“Boost your evolution IQ: An evolution misconceptions game”


Nehm, R.H., and Reilly, L., (2007). Biology majors’ knowledge and misconceptions of natural selection. BioScience, 57, 263–272.

This entry was posted in Active learning, Assignments, Engaging students, Evolution, Instructional technology, Laboratory activities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Boost your evolution IQ: An evolution misconceptions game

  1. Pingback: Recognizing purposeful evolution: A treasure trove of prompts | Teaching nonmajors biology

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