Ideas about Evolution

 What is this site for?

This site provides resources in the form of examples of pupils’ spoken ideas about evolution.

The audio clips are for teachers to use as starting points for a class discussion between pupils of their reactions to others’ ideas about evolution.

 ‘Argumentation’ and Working Scientifically’
‘Working Scientifically’ is an important part of learning science. Putting forward ideas with evidence, arguing the case for personal beliefs and listening carefully to alternative points of view is how science progresses at all levels.

 What is argumentation’?

Argumentation is class discussion, with beliefs treated as claims that must be supported by evidence. Others’ claims may be contested with counter-claims – alternative ideas – or rebuttals: refutations backed by evidence.

 Why not just tell them the science?

Young people are strongly engaged by their peers’ struggle to express understanding of difficult ideas. They identify and empathise with their peers as speakers, often more so than with an adult. The vocabulary, the tone, the uncertainty, all convey: ‘This is someone like me, struggling to understand’. 

How can teachers make use of these materials?

Acting as chairperson for any meeting poses challenges. There must be ‘rules of engagement’: respect and sensitivity; keeping to the subject; identifying claims and supporting evidence; speaking clearly and succinctly. The audio clips provide a focus and an agenda. Exchanges of ideas will enhance pupils’ conceptual understanding as well as their appreciation of how to engage and maintain the thread in a discussion. Pupils new to argumentation in science may feel uncomfortable criticizing each other’s ideas and may find expressing their own ideas daunting. Listening to some of these clips will help your pupils to think about the ideas expressed as well as their own ideas about evolution and will encourage pupils to exchange ideas with evidence.

Helping pupils to develop their argumentation skills

These materials will help to improve and reinforce argumentation by encouraging:

Listening carefully and analytically

Identifying exactly what claims a speaker is making

Considering what questions need to posed for clarification

Constructing counter-claims or rebuttals

 The spoken utterances in pupils’ own words give the claims authenticity. The transcriptions lay out a record of the case being made.

 Linked PDFs for teachers help to support the choice of clips and preparation for use:

i. a transcription of the audio

ii. suggestions as to the claim(s) being made

iii. a reminder to invite pupils to suggest queries arising

iv. ideas for questions that might promote further discussion

v. interpretative notes with occasional background science.

 Some links to published materials in the ASE’s Primary Science are provided. Those unfamiliar with classroom science discussion could start by looking at Argumentation. Others referenced are DeepTime, RepresentingEvolution, Variation and Inheritance. An excellent on-line source of background science of evolution for teachers is


Quick User Guide



Review transcripts and PDF notes in preparation for class discussion.


Explain that ideas about evolution will be played & pupils will consider their view of its accuracy and their own agreement or challenges.


Explain that a class science discussion session will begin.

Ask pupils to recall class discussion ‘rules of engagement’:

need for careful listening, respect for others’ views and sensitivity in their contributions.

Pupils volunteer class discussion criteria

 Select audio clip by Gender, Year and subject matter


Direct pupils to listen and read very carefully


Play audio to pupils via IWB and pose challenge:

Listen to audio & read transcript

What does this pupil believe?

What ‘claims’ are being made?

Pupils individually suggest ‘claims’ made in the audio and its transcript

Ask pupils:

Anything you wish to challenge in the claim?

Anything you disagree with?

Individually, suggest challenges or disagreement.

Open discussion to class, keeping transcript on IWB referring discussion to the claims made.

 Pupils make counterclaims, question evidence or offer rebuttals of claims

Review Questions in PDF; select & pose any that would help to promote argumentation.

Reflections on what has been learned and how ideas have changed

Encourage peer-to-peer exchanges rather than all via teacher.


Teacher and pupils sum up what has been learned from the discussion and any need to locate more information

The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More information is available at