Benchmarks for Science Literacy: Chapter 15 THE RESEARCH BASE



By the end of 2nd grade, students know that children resemble their parents and realize that reproduction underlies this resemblance. Students at this age can also begin to understand the difference between learned resemblance and inherited resemblance (Carey, 1985).

When asked to explain how physical traits are passed from parents to offspring, elementary-school, middle-school, and some high-school students express the following misconceptions: Some students believe that traits are inherited from only one of the parents (for example, the traits are inherited from the mother, because she gives birth or has most contact as children grow up; or the same-sex parent will be the determiner). Other students believe that certain characteristics are always inherited from the mother and others come from the father. Some students believe in a "blending of characteristics." It may not be until the end of 5th grade that some students can use arguments based on chance to predict the outcome of inherited characteristics from observing those characteristics in the parents (Deadman & Kelly, 1978; Kargbo, Hobbs, & Erickson, 1980; Clough & Wood-Robinson, 1985b).

Early middle-school students explain inheritance only in observable features, but upper middle-school and high-school students have some understanding that characteristics are determined by a particular genetic entity which carries information translatable by the cell. Students of all ages believe that some environmentally produced characteristics can be inherited, especially over several generations (Clough & Wood-Robinson, 1985b).