Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mathematical Sciences

First Advisor

Samantha R. Fowler

Second Advisor

Kastro M. Hamed

Third Advisor

Kenyon C. Lindeman

Fourth Advisor

Saida M. Caballero-Nieves


The purpose of this mixed-method study was to explore the relationship between place attachment and socioscientific reasoning (SSR) of Puerto Rican high school students through debate and discourse of local and foreign socioscientific issues (SSI). The specific research questions were, (1) what is the extent of the participants’ place attachment to the island of Puerto Rico, (2) are there differences in SSR between groups working with local and foreign SSI, (3) is there a correlation between place attachment and SSR, (4) are there differences in SSR between scenarios after SSI negotiation, and (5) do negotiation and discourse improve after SSI negotiation with local and foreign SSI? The sample consisted of 124 high school students, granted parental consent, divided into one treatment group evaluating foreign SSI, and one comparison group working with local SSI. The Identification with Place scale (Burdge & Ludtke, 1972) measured place attachment of participants to their homeland, while the Quantitative Assessment of Socioscientific Reasoning (QuASSR) (Romine, Sadler, & Kinslow, 2017) addressed SSR through a pre-test and post-test method. Descriptive analyses provided the means and standard deviations to determine the levels of participants’ place attachment. Independent samples t-tests assessed differences between the pre-test and post-test for each group after SSI negotiation, while an analysis of covariance measured differences between scenarios controlling for pre-test scores. A Spearman ρ correlation analyzed a possible relationship between place attachment and SSR. Results indicated that participants shared a moderate to high place attachment to the island of Puerto Rico. Mean scores for SSR, though showing an increase in the posttest, did not display high SSR application nor revealed significant differences between groups or scenarios after SSI negotiation. However, the Spearman ρ analysis illustrated a negative correlation between SSR and place attachment from the treatment group translating into an inverse relationship between these two variables. The comparison group depicted no correlation. Audio transcriptions of the debate and the semi-structured interviews, and entries from a reflective journal comprised the qualitative data. A rubric based on Sadler and Fowler (2006), coded the number of evidence-based justifications used on the journal entries and the debates to evaluate changes in their lines of reasoning and decision-making skills. Both groups displayed improvement after SSI negotiation supporting the higher SSR mean scores from the QuASSR. However, findings depicted gains in the number of evidence-based justifications used after intervention in journal entries by the comparison group on local SSI versus the treatment group. Whereas in the debates, the treatment group showed a higher increase in the use of evidence-based justifications between scenarios than the comparison group. Finally, the semi-structured interviews supported results on place attachment to the island of Puerto Rico. Though quantitative data did not detect significant changes in SSR, qualitative data reflected SSI negotiation allowed participants to create emotional connections and environmental awareness of local and global scenarios affecting the planet, which are vital qualities needed in the formation of informed and environmentally-literate citizens.