A Comparison of Online and In-Person Evolution Instruction That Includes Religious Cultural Competence

Chloe D. Bowen, Alexa R. Summersill, Jamie L. Jensen, Sara E. Brownell, M. Elizabeth Barnesa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evolution is one of the most important concepts in biology, but it is rejected by a substantial percentage of religious students due to a perceived conflict with their religious beliefs. The use of religious cultural competence in evolution education (ReCCEE) has been shown to effectively increase evolution acceptance among religious students during in-person instruction, but there is no research that we know of that indicates the effectiveness of these practices during online instruction. In this study, we explored the efficacy of online culturally competent practices for religious students on students’ evolution understanding, evolution acceptance, and comfort learning evolution at a religious university. Before and after evolution instruction, we surveyed 178 students in online introductory biology courses and compared these student outcomes to 201 students in the same instructor’s in-person introductory biology courses. We found that evolution acceptance and understanding increased in online classes with culturally competent practices, and these gains were similar to those observed in the in-person courses. Despite these similarities, we found that students were more comfortable learning evolution in person than online, but this difference was small. Our findings suggest that the use of culturally competent practices online can be as effective as their use for in-person instruction for improving students’ attitudes toward evolution, but in-person instruction may be more effective for cultivating students’ comfort while learning evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Microbiology and Biology Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • evolution
  • religion
  • remote learning
  • undergraduate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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