Primary pupils' understanding of evolution and inheritance

In this project, researchers and primary teachers worked closely to develop practical guidance for teaching evolution and inheritance, and to suggest learning sequences across Key Stages 1 and 2. The project was carried out in response to the introduction of evolution and inheritance in the 2014 national curriculum.

Following a literature review of teaching and learning in this field, the researchers worked with 12 primary teachers to develop and trial 'concept probes'. These probes were used to find out what pupils initially thought about evolution and inheritance. The probes were then developed and refined following interviews with pupils (across the 5-11 age range) and teachers. More details can be found in the Formative assessment probes report.

The researchers also consulted Key Stage 3 and 4 teachers of evolution and inheritance, to establish expectations of 'secondary readiness' of primary pupils' learning. More details can be found in the Report on feedback from KS3-KS4 biology teachers.

The researchers also produced a final report, covering all aspects of the project.

Some aspects of this project are similar to a Nuffield primary science initiative from the 1980s, the Science Processes and Concept Exploration (SPACE) project

Project details


Professor Terry Russell and Dr Linda McGuigan, Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Liverpool

Funding programme:


Grant amount and duration:


16 December 2013 – 30 June 2015