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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: Learner motivations for evolution education

   Department of Life Sciences

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  Dr Alex Jeffries, Prof Laurence Hurst  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for this funded PhD opportunity supervised by Dr Alex Jeffries and Prof Laurence Hurst at the Milner Centre for Evolution (Department of Life Sciences, University of Bath).

The Milner Centre for Evolution is a unique, cross-faculty research centre bridging biology, health and education. The Centre is dedicated to a broad range of fundamental research questions relating to evolutionary biology; from in deep time to the micro-evolutionary dynamics of a disease outbreak. We have a strong focus on public engagement and outreach. We are located in a dedicated multi-million-pound building that opened on the University campus in September 2018.

Start Date:

Monday 2 October 2023

Overview of the Research:

What motivates someone to learn about biological evolution and its component concepts? What value do people see in the topic that would lead them to spend time and effort in learning more about it? How do people perceive knowledge and understanding about evolution intersecting with their everyday lives? The risk for educators (in both formal and informal settings) is that their motivation for teaching about evolution may be at odds with those of their learners, leading to less effective education.

This PhD project will investigate the hypothesis that better aligning evolution education to the motivations of the learner will significantly improve their understanding and retention of knowledge about evolution.

The possible tensions between educator and learner will be investigated using survey and focus group data from different educational contexts (educators and learners, formal and informal, tertiary, secondary and primary). Stakeholder views will be compared to those given in the education research literature to evaluate their alignment. These empirical data will then be used to devise stakeholder-informed educational interventions that better engage learners with the subject of evolution. For instance, using socioscientific issues (SSI) relevant to evolution to scaffold evolution concepts. Trials of these educational interventions (variously administered and with controls) will be carried out with various groups and at various venues, and then analysed and evaluated for their effects in reference to the hypothesis; the understanding of evolution and retention of that knowledge. The conclusions of this research will be published and the educational activities and best practice advice disseminated through the evolution outreach community.

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent) in a relevant discipline. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Candidates are encouraged to discuss the project directly with Dr Alex Jeffries before applying (email address: [Email Address Removed]).

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biology

On the application form, quote ‘Evolution Education Trust’ in the Finance section and the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section. If applying for more than one project, quote the projects in order of preference and upload a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

Your application must be complete when you submit it to us. Incomplete applications cannot be considered. Please ensure you have completed all fields on the application form and supplied the contact details of TWO referees willing to provide us with a reference when requested (one must be from your most recent place of study). Also, you should ensure that you have uploaded all the required documents. See our website for more information.

Funding Eligibility:

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements: UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland), Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland), those with Indefinite Leave to Remain and EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme). This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Exceptional Overseas students (e.g. with a UK Master’s Distinction or international equivalent and relevant research experience), who are interested in this project, should contact the lead supervisor in the first instance to discuss the possibility of applying for supplementary funding.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We welcome and encourage applications from diverse backgrounds and under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be considered for a 3.5-year fully-funded Evolution Education Trust Studentship which will cover tuition fees at the Home rate, a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£17,668 for 2022/23) and a generous budget for research, training and outreach expenses. Eligibility criteria apply – see Funding Eligibility section above.

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