Variation and evolution

Learners understanding of evolution and variation is often confused because they tend to refer to individuals rather than populations. Students will, for example, write about individuals needing to develop a particular characteristic in order to survive. It is important therefore in the delivery of this topic to consistently refer to populations.

Students need to appreciate that in any given population of a species there is usually extensive genetic variation. Within this topic area students will need to revisit the idea of mutations.  Often students struggle with this concept as they believe mutations to be something bad, whilst obviously this is not the always the case as is demonstrated in natural selection and evolution. 

Students need to be able to describe what evidence there is for evolution. This includes an understanding of the work of Darwin and Wallace. Often, through popular science and the media students have come across the term 'survival of the fittest' and have a misconception about the meaning of this, taking it to mean the literal sense when actually the 'fittest' refers to 'best adapted'.

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