The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes


open educational resources, open textbooks, science education, secondary education, propensity score matching


Given the increasing costs associated with commercial textbooks and decreasing financial support of public schools, it is important to better understand the impacts of open educational resources on student outcomes. The purpose of this quantitative study is to analyze whether the adoption of open science textbooks significantly affects science learning outcomes for secondary students in earth systems, chemistry, and physics.

This study uses a quantitative quasi-experimental design with propensity score matched groups and multiple regression to examine whether student learning was influenced by the adoption of open textbooks instead of traditional publisher-produced textbooks. Students who used open textbooks scored .65 points higher on end-of-year state standardized science tests than students using traditional textbooks when controlling for the effects of 10 student and teacher covariates. Further analysis revealed statistically significant positive gains for students using the open chemistry textbooks, with no significant difference in student scores for earth systems of physics courses. Although the effect size of the gains were relatively small, and not consistent across all textbooks, the finding that open textbooks can be as effective or even slightly more effective than their traditional counterparts has important considerations in terms of school district policy in a climate of finite educational funding.

Original Publication Citation

T.J. Robinson, Lane Fischer, David Wiley & John Hilton III. The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes. Educational Researcher, 43(7): 341-351 (2014).

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Educational Researcher




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor