Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Education Reform


William McComas

Committee Member

Jay Greene

Second Committee Member

Gary Ritter


Affective Impacts, Cognitive Impacts, Informal Learning, School Field Trips, Science Centers, Systematic Review


With the pressures of budget cuts, many schools--particularly schools serving low-income students--are eliminating school field trips to museums, zoos, and other cultural institutions despite their widely reported utility. First, through a systematic review of the literature, I examine the findings from 17 international studies on the benefits of visiting an informal science education institution during a K-12 school field trip. Almost all pre-post studies reported a positive change in both cognitive and affective outcomes after visiting an ISEI. However, studies that also included a control group to compare students who visited the ISEI with students who had yet to visit the ISEI reported mixed findings, and only three of those studies used randomization in placing students into the control and treatment groups. Second, I use a random assignment experimental design to study the impacts of visiting a science center during a school field trip on student interest in studying science, interest in visiting science centers, and knowledge obtained from attending an educational program as part of the science center experience. Survey data from 1,830 third through eighth graders showed small positive results suggesting that science museums encourage students to become connoisseurs of science, and this effect was slightly greater for minority students, boys, and first time visitors. Also, short science center educational programs increased boys’, first time visitors’, and minority students’ knowledge of science concepts found on state standards but did not benefit the average student visitor.