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The focus of this study was student teachers at a South African university enrolled in a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) programme and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), respectively. The purpose of this study was to explore students’ understanding and acceptance of evolution and beliefs about the nature of science (NOS), and to discover if these understandings and acceptances changed with the level of their studies. In so doing, we wished to determine if there is a relationship between their understanding of evolution and the NOS, and their level of acceptance of evolution. The study is located within a quantitative framework. Questionnaires were administered to pre-service teachers, who were enrolled in the School of Education. All participants had chosen Biology as their teaching specialisation. Three instruments were included in the questionnaires. The findings revealed that students in the B.Ed. programme have a poorer understanding of evolution and NOS than the graduate group (PGCE), and that there is no significant difference in understanding between different levels within the B.Ed. group. A further significant finding was that acceptance of evolution is independent of changes in conceptual understanding of evolution and independent of changes in beliefs about the NOS.
Keywords: acceptance; beliefs; evolution; nature of science; understanding