This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.
Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
While there is no one correct choice to what happened to the divos on the island as the climate changed drastically, the best explanation is that most of the divos died. This probe elicits students’ understanding of the meaning of the word “adapt” as a change over many generations, not as something that individuals intentionally do in response to changes in their environment. Because most of the divos have inherited physical structures and behaviors that no longer help them survive in the altered environment, the best answer is that most of the divos will die. Students’ explanations might address that the distribution of traits in a population can change when conditions change, that changes in the physical environment can contribute to the decline–and sometimes the extinction–of some species, and that species can become extinct because they can no longer survive and reproduce in their altered environment.
This assessment probe is useful for high school students, as students start to transition from learning that individuals with certain traits are better equipped to survive in a given environment, to thinking about changing of proportion of traits in a population of organisms in a given environment. While many students may come to high school already understanding that individuals cannot change their inherited traits based on changes in the environment, other students may still believe that organisms can intentionally change inherited body structures or behaviors. If such misconceptions are not revealed at the beginning of instruction and addressed throughout instruction they interfere with learning about adaptation and evolution. This assessment probe can start formal concept development and transfer.
As a result of the student responses to the assessment probe, teachers may help students further develop existing ideas. Some students may correctly predict that most divos will die, but they may be unsure about how this specific phenomenon is related to adaptation of populations over time, and evolution in general. Teacher may also help students to differentiate among existing ideas. In this instance teachers can help students clarify the difference between inherited traits that an individual cannot change and traits and behavior that can change during an individual’s lifetime. The probe can also provide an opportunity for the teacher to help students make connections among different disciplinary core ideas and tie the fate of the divo’s to science concepts in genetics and ecology. If teachers notice that many students still hold on to the idea that animals can change inherited behavior in response to environmental changes, teachers can design activities to address these misconceptions. If students are demonstrating that they already understand that animals cannot change their inherited behavior or structures in response to a change in the environment, instruction can move to unpacking the mechanism by which the ratio of traits within populations can change in response to changes in the environment.
Prediction probes like the Habitat Change probe can lead into inquiry of real data or simulations, where students test their predictions and revise their explanations if their observations do not match their prediction.