Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

The Ohio State University

Cedarville University School or Department


First Advisor

David L. Haury

Second Advisor

Thomas O'Brien

Third Advisor

Terri Teal Bucci


Conceptual change, evolution, hermeneutics, metaphysics, ontological position, origins


In this study, the narratives from a hermeneutical dialectic cycle of three high school students were analyzed to understand the influences of ontological position on the learning of human origins. The interpretation of the narratives provides the reader an opportunity to consider the learning process from the perspective of worldview and conceptual change theories. Questions guiding this research include: Within a context of a worldview, what is the range of ontological positions among a high school AP biology class? To what extent does ontological position influence the learning of scientific concepts about human origins? If a student’s ontological position is contradictory to scientific explanation of human origins, how will learning strategies and motivations change?

All consenting students in an AP biology class were interviewed in order to select three students who represented three different ontological positions of a worldview: No Supernatural, Supernatural Without Impact, or Supernatural Impact. The issue of worldview is addressed at length in this work.

Consenting students had completed the graduation requirements in biology, but were taking an additional biology course in preparation for college. Enrollment in an AP biology course was assumed to indicate that the selected students have an understanding ii PREVIEW of the concept of human origins at a comprehensive level, but not necessarily at an apprehension level, both being needed for conceptual change.

Examination of the narratives reveals that students may alternate between two ontological positions in order to account for inconsistencies within a situation. This relativity enables the range of ontological positions to vary depending on concepts being considered.

Not all Supernatural Impact positions conflict with biological understanding of human origins due to the ability of some to create a dichotomy between religion and school. Any comprehended concepts within this dichotomy lead to plagiaristic knowledge rather than conceptual change. When conflicts occur, students employ alternate learning strategies for comprehension, but not apprehension, which result in plagiaristic knowledge.

These findings suggest that teachers consider the ontological positions of student worldviews because of the potential influence on knowledge construction and conceptual change, especially about topics involving the theory of evolution.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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