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Evolution, Natural Selection and Speciation

This page authored by Scott Cooper, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse based on a website developed by faculty at UW-Madison.
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In this out of class tutorial, students explore several examples of natural selection and speciation. Each example contains interactive simulations that force students to apply concepts to solve problems. Additional questions give students formative assessment and allow the students to see if they need to repeat any units.

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Learning Goals

  • Students completing this activity should be able to apply concepts on evolution, natural selection and speciation to specific biological examples.
  • Students should analyze data and apply it to their model of how natural selection and speciation work.
  • Context for Use

    This exercise is designed as an out of class tutorial that will require students 30 minutes to complete. It is broken into two sections, Natural Selection and Speciation. Students should have a good understanding of both concepts before beginning the exercise.

    Description and Teaching Materials

    This exercise incorporates two tutorials, one on Natural Selection and the other on Speciation. Each also contains a word file with specific questions the students should address, and a separate file with a multiple choice quiz. Assignments on Natural Selection (Microsoft Word 30kB Jul13 06) Assignments on Speciation (Microsoft Word 33kB Jul13 06) Natural Selection Quiz (Microsoft Word 26kB Jul13 06) Speciation Quiz (Microsoft Word 26kB Jul13 06)
    Click to view MERLOT descriptions of Natural Selection and Speciation resources.

    Teaching Notes and Tips

    This activity is designed to be used by students out of class after a lecture on evolution. There is a combination of text based questions and interactive simulations with formative assessment to give students feedback on their progress. Quiz questions are also available to either assess student understanding, or give them more feedback as they learn the material. We put the quizzes on-line and used them as a way to be sure the students had gone through the tutorial on their own time out of class.


    The tutorials contain formative assessment tools for the students to monitor and judge their own understanding of the material.

    Summative short answer questions are integrated into the exercise, and can be used by students to identify key concepts in the tutorial. They can als be turned into the instructor and used for formal short answer assessment of student understanding.

    Multiple choice quizzes are also attached which could be used by students for review, as a quiz, or integrated into an exam.

    References and Resources

    MERLOT description of the "Natural Selection" resource that is used in this activity.

    MERLOT description of the "Speciation" resource that is used in this activity.

    The two exercises are based upon web-based tutorials developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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