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MUSE | Natural Selection | Learning Outcomes


Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy

National Science Standards


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Learning Outcomes

Darwin's Model of Natural Selection:

  • Populations are made up of individual organisms whose traits (structural, behavioral, biochemical) exhibit variation from one individual to the next.

  • Many trait variations are inherited.

  • Some trait variations may be advantageous while others may not be.

  • Whether or not a variation is advantageous depends on the environment within which a population lives.

  • The frequency of particular trait variations in a population may change over time due to differential survival and reproduction.

  • Evolutionary changes occur in populations or species, not individuals.

  • Offspring are not exactly like their parents-they also vary, but the variations of their traits are likely to be similar to those of their

  • Variability in a population can be represented graphically.

  • Organisms produce more offspring than can survive.

  • There is competition between organisms for resources.

Models of Paley and Lamarck:

  • Paley's model invokes an intelligent designer to account for the apparent perfection of organisms' adaptations to their environments.

  • Paley believed species to be fixed and unchanging, each having an "essential" type that set it apart from all others.

  • Lamarck's model invokes the needs of organisms to account for species change.

  • Lamarck believed that inheritance could be affected by the use or disuse of particular body parts.

Throughout the Natural Selection unit, students will learn about the practice of science-building, critiquing, and using models that account for particular phenomena. Our intention is that students will learn about this process and also be able to engage in it. Thus, the nature of science learning outcomes include skills necessary for the practice of science (modeling) as well as concepts about such practice.

Learning outcomes related to scientific arguments:

  • Several inferences make up most scientific arguments.
  • Inferences are based on data (observations) and prior knowledge and beliefs.
  • It is possible to critique arguments based on observations or the prior knowledge and beliefs used.

Learning outcomes related to modeling:

  • Models are judged to be acceptable or not based on how well they explain the data, how consistent they are with other knowledge, and how well they can be used to predict new data.
  • Models are ideas that scientists use to explain patterns they see in the world.
  • A model is an idea that has predictive and explanatory power and is consistent with other ideas about how the world works.
  • Models can be compared based on data, the inferences made in the model, and the prior knowledge and beliefs upon which they are based.

Learning Outcomes related to historical reconstruction:

  • Not all scientific practice is based on experimental manipulation.
  • Evolutionary biology has as a central goal reconstructing past events.
  • Historical reconstruction involves making inferences about past events based on data available today.



  • recognize data patterns
  • create models to account for phenomena
  • identify components of model
  • design experiments to test models
  • assess models for data fit and consistency
  • revise models based on additional data (model extension) / effect to cause reasoning
  • use model to make prediction


  • use of classroom norms (basic interpersonal skills)
  • make observations
  • organize data
  • make diagrams
  • create graphs
  • analyze graphical data
  • use props or other representations to create or communicate explanations

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