Big idea: Variation, adaptation and evolution

Differences between organisms cause species to evolve by natural selection of better adapted individuals. The great diversity of organisms is the result of evolution.

"Variation, adaptation and evolution" is one of 15 big ideas of science in the Best Evidence Science Teaching collection. Understanding of the big idea is built up by a series of key concepts at age 11-16, which have been organised into teaching topics.

The research-informed resources for each key concept make up a progression toolkit that provides:

  • appropriately-sequenced steps for learning progression
  • diagnostic questions to reveal preconceptions and common misunderstandings
  • response activities to challenge misunderstandings and encourage conceptual development

Download teacher guidance notes for this big idea





Resources for age 11-14

Topic 1: Variation

Topic 2: Classification

Topic 3: Adaptation and evolution


Resources for age 14-16

Topic 4: Classification systems

  • Key concept 1
    Kingdoms, domains and subcellular evidence

    Resources for this key concept will be uploaded in spring 2021.

Topic 5: Explaining evolution and speciation

  • Key concept 1
    Natural selection at the genetic level

    Resources for this key concept will be uploaded at the end of 2022.

Is there a recommended teaching order?

The Best Evidence Science Teaching resources can be incorporated into your existing scheme of work, if desired. 

However, we have used research evidence on learning pathways and on effective sequencing of ideas to develop maps that suggest how key concepts can be sequenced to build understanding of big ideas of science. These maps can help with curriculum planning.

View the key concept map for biology