Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

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Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Political Science Department

First Advisor

Ben Berger

Second Advisor

K. Ann Renninger


This thesis explores the relationship between science education policies and students' attitudes towards science. I first conducted a content analysis of policy documents published between 1996 and 2014 in Brazil, Finland and the United States. Then, I used this information to inform my interpretation of students' attitudes towards science in each of these countries as reported by the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA). On the basis of these cross-national comparisons, I investigated how the adoption of certain policies could be related to the formation of particular attitudes towards science. Among other things, evidence from this study shows that a more process-oriented conception of the value of science tends to promote more positive attitudes towards science than policies focused on students' appropriation of science concepts. Additionally, it seems that teachers' knowledge of the subject matter might not be a defining factor in promoting student engagement, bringing to question emphasis given on teacher expertise in Finland and the United States. Finally, federal incentive to science out-of-school programs seems to be play an important role in determining student engagement in science outside of the school environment. This thesis contributes to the field of research on science interest and engagement by providing a framework for exploring the relationship between policy and student attitudes. It also contributes to the field of comparative and international education by creating pathways for international collaboration and questioning the use of international large-scale assessments as a measure of the quality of an education system. Keywords: science education policy, student attitudes, PISA, cross-national


science education policy, student attitudes, PISA, cross-national