1. Abigail Levy
  2. http://www.ltd.edc.org/people/abigail-levy
  3. Co-Director
  4. Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
  5. http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org
  6. Education Development Center (EDC)
  1. Jackie DeLisi
  2. Research Scientist
  3. Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
  4. http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org
  5. Education Development Center (EDC)
  1. Leana Nordstrom
  2. Project Associate
  3. Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
  4. http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org
  5. Education Development Center (EDC)
  1. Marian Pasquale
  2. Senior Research Scientist
  3. Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
  4. http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org
  5. Education Development Center (EDC)
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Abigail Levy

    Abigail Levy

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 09:27 p.m.

    Welcome to the Science Fairs Under the Scope video! We're interested in hearing about your science fair experiences, and particularly your thoughts about whether and in what ways participating in a science fair can be a learning experience.  

  • Icon for: Sally Crissman

    Sally Crissman

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 12:34 p.m.

    Hi Abigail,

    Science Fairs were always a hot button topic for me during my 40+ years of middle school science teaching. I taught in some schools where science fair projects were required and some where they were not. My major concern was always equity (who's doing the work and who has access to materials of all kinds) and this shaped decisions about whether project work happened in school to level the playing field or outside. And the value of time spent on science fair projects vs time spent otherwise. I clearly remember my own middle school project which involved hatching chicken eggs in a brooder in my bedroom and the transformation of the family bathroom into a lab for making slides of developing chicken embryos. Definitely a learning experience. However, it was not competitive (no blue ribbons) but our work was valued by having adult professionals come to school to discuss our work -  a mini-colloquium - everyone a winner! 

    What were your findings about judging, learning, and motivation? I am eager to follow the conversation this week as well as learning from your project!

    Sally

     
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    K. Renae Pullen
  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:07 p.m.

    Hi Sally,

    Thanks for your comment. Regarding judging, qualitatively we saw that judging was structured differently at every science fair. Some fairs did not include judges, some had a peer review process or brought in high school students, while others brought in scientists and community members. Also, some schools trained judges while others provided a rubric or criteria with no training. In some schools judging was based on a student presentation, and others judging occurred without students present. From the students' perspectives, the opportunities to present their projects and showcase their work was important to them. Quantitatively we found an association between the level of support teachers provided for communicating, critiquing, and evaluating and students' understandings of science practices such as carrying out an investigation. We also found that students' agency in choosing a question or topic to investigate was associated with increases in their science self-concept.

  • Icon for: Jake Foster

    Jake Foster

    Founder
    May 16, 2019 | 10:02 a.m.

    Thanks, Sally, for raising the point and asking the question. I too been ambivalent of science fairs as a teacher and leader for many of the same reasons that your note. I found it interesting to consider the GLOBE symposium format, which is designed to reflect more of a scientific conference without the competition or judging aspect. But while judging may not be as central in the GLOBE model (or as prevalent at the event itself), as the comments to their video suggest, there is still a review process that happens leading up to the symposium. So in the end, the narrowing of participants happens at a different point in the process. Over time I've come to view science fairs as a potentially valuable opportunity for students to engage, present, and lead (the devil is in the details of a particular enactment of a science fair). But that can only be if it is one opportunity among many that students have access to; if it is the only, or main, science opportunity a school offers for students to engage in projects or share their work, then to me the equity issues Sally raises are a significant consideration.

     

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 04:19 a.m.

    I love this study and I love science fairs.  This video really speaks to the many considerations within a science fair. As a school-wide science specialist, I have guided students from 1st grade through 5th to develop a science fair project.  I strongly believe in the benefits and loved how the video brought to light many aspects.  We need more studies like this!!  My feelings are, no matter the approach, students gain so much from participating in a science fair. The biggest reason... they feel like a scientist! Excellent, thought provoking video! Thank you for your work!

    What are viewers thoughts about science fairs? 

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:13 p.m.

    Thanks DeLene! One thing we heard over and over from students and teachers is that the science fair provides and opportunity for students to take ownership of a science project from start to finish. In focus groups students often conveyed a sense of pride and ownership. 

  • Icon for: Acacia McKenna

    Acacia McKenna

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 12:07 p.m.

    This study is very near and dear to my heart. As a scientist specializing in molecular biology and genetics and microbiology, I always enjoy my time serving as a judge in science fairs. I am an advocate for science fairs and the use of taking it a step further. Have heard from educators that have utilized technology and implemented virtual science fairs? In my role as Director, Science Education Competitions at the National Science Teachers Association, I partner with corporate and not-for-profit sponsors, volunteers and educators to use real world projects/solutions from intellectual gains via STEM competitions as the basis for the science fair project. I look forward to the results realized from this study and understanding more about the various models that exist.

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:21 p.m.

    We have heard from some schools about virtual fairs, but our study focused on fairs that were happening within middle schools. An interesting next step could be to look more closely at virtual fairs. 

    We also examined the resources needed to carry out a science fair, including cost. We heard from teachers that were challenged to find resources (including time and materials) needed to support students' projects and carry out the fair. Schools that obtained outside partnerships typically used partners for judging. However, partners, including scientists, corporations, and non-profit organizations could support students' projects before the event occurs. 

  • Icon for: Dina Drits-Esser

    Dina Drits-Esser

    Researcher
    May 14, 2019 | 04:30 p.m.

    This is a very useful study that has real-world applications.  The quality of student work and the attitude of teachers and administrators toward science fairs seems to vary widely.  It seems that the more teachers invest class time and think deeply about the benefits of science fairs, the more students want to participate and the quality of their projects go up. 

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 04:36 p.m.

    Interesting point, Dina. One thing we have wondered about is what the goals are for implementing science fairs in schools and whether the schools with clear goals related to student learning resulted in deeper thinking. Our sample of schools was too small to really examine this relationship, but we did note that the goals of the fairs and the ways they were implemented varied widely, and often the goals and features of the fair did not align. 

  • Icon for: Peter Tierney-Fife

    Peter Tierney-Fife

    Curriculum/Instructional Design Associate
    May 14, 2019 | 06:29 p.m.

    Thank you for presenting this important and interesting study! I am wondering if there are additional things you can share about what you have learned related to bridging formal and informal learning, especially related to broadening participation and supporting success for students traditionally underrepresented in STEM?

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 04:45 p.m.

    Hi Peter,

    Good question. We were surprised to find that science fairs within middle schools were much more of a formal education endeavor. In some cases projects were completed as part of an after school club, and some fairs partnered with local organizations such as a museum or wildlife preserve to provide either space or judges. However, the partnerships beyond the walls of the school were few. We also interviewed a set of informal science leaders. One takeaway from these interviews is that the gap we noted might be due to differing goals-- the goals of informal science education is often about engaging and fostering that spark of interest among a wide audience. Science fairs, however, are more limited in reach and, when conducted in schools, are focused on sustained engagement and learning. However, we still see this as a potential gap-- it takes a lot of work to carry out a science fair, and there may be real practical ways for schools to partner with informal institutions to deepen the learning that can occur.

  • Icon for: Joanne Figueiredo

    Joanne Figueiredo

    K-12 Teacher
    May 15, 2019 | 10:36 a.m.

    Very interesting video linking the value that students get from participating in science fairs with the goals of the fair itself. As a science research teacher at the high school level I see that we need more places where students are encouraged to wonder, to explore and to be curious. Your video brought to light the important idea that we need to provide time during the school day and/or a supportive and inviting space after school for these studies.

  • Icon for: Abigail Levy

    Abigail Levy

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 10:49 a.m.

    Another finding that emerged from the cost analysis was the amount of time - during and outside of paid work hours - that some teachers in some fairs spent on the fair. In particular, the teachers we studied invested this time in supporting their students investigation work in an effort to make sure that they all had an equal chance for a meaningful experience. It raises a good question for a future study: could some of the more meaningful aspects of the science fair experience be adapted to the "regular" science classroom? If so, would students be better prepared for their fair experience and therefore need less support from their teachers? Would it make a science fair less relevant or necessary? Or is there something unique to a science fair that cannot be matched in any other way, and if so - what do you think those features are? I'm curious what you all think!

  • Icon for: Sally Crissman

    Sally Crissman

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 12:47 p.m.

    As revealed above, I am ambivalent about science fairs but unambivalent about taking the best parts and asking Why can't science class experience be more like the best aspects of the fair experience. That would include the kinds of questions students explore, figuring out how to communicate the process and results to an outside audience (assembling an outside audience), etc. For reasons of equity, I had science fair work done during school so always had to ask If we weren't engaged in science fair projects, what else would we be doing? As you state so clearly, there are many trade offs! Some schools insist on Fairs because count on the products for publicity purposes. I hope your results can help schools and teachers think critically about the purposes of science fairs and subsequent design. Your work makes the case that that there are many, many variations on the Science Fair experience.

    Sally

  • Icon for: Abigail Levy

    Abigail Levy

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 05:34 p.m.

    Thanks, Sally. We were surprised ourselves about the extent of variation in science fair models that we found, as well as reasons to have a science fair in the first place. And although research shows that teaching as a profession typically takes more time than teachers are paid for, documenting the time teachers give to their science fair draws attention to the effort that fairs require, and begs the question you asked, "If we weren't engaged in science fair projects, what else would we be doing?"  It's a really good question, and we're working on sharing our results so that teachers and principals will take a moment to explore that question together. 

    Best,

    Abigail

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2019 | 01:30 a.m.

     In your project, what have you learned the "hard way" that you may want to forewarn others about?  We all learn by doing and can improve the next time.  What would you do differently the next time or perhaps have changed along the way?  

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 05:39 p.m.

    Good question! One thing I would have liked to have more information on is what it actually looked like for the students to work on their projects, and what it looked like for the teachers to support them. Our data collection focused on interviewing and surveying a wide audience about the full science fair experience. We also observed the science fair events, and got a lot of great information about the roles of all the participants and the interactions between students and judges. However, when analyzing our data and writing up our findings we began to understand the importance of the full experience of working on the project. We're hoping for a next study where we can gather more information through observations about the interactions between students and teachers while projects were being completed.

  • Icon for: Marian Pasquale

    Marian Pasquale

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2019 | 04:27 p.m.

    I would do at least one or two classroom observations of a science lesson to see if there is a connection between the day to day instruction and the kinds of skills students need to engage with a science fair project. I think seeing what kids do in class would have been a help rather than only interviewing the teacher.

  • Icon for: Abigail Levy

    Abigail Levy

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 12:30 a.m.

    Great question DeLene. I wish we understood more about how the science fair fit into each school's larger context. Our interviews revealed the goals of the different science fairs, but they didn't necessarily shed light on why schools chose the particular goals they did, why/how their interest in science fairs came to be, and how it evolved over time. So, like Marian and Jackie, I wish we could have seen more science teaching and learning, both in relation to students' science fair investigation work, and their "regular" science class work. And I wish we could have learned more about the "place of science" in the schools, and how that has changed over the last 10-15 years. Best,

    Abigail

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.