In order to ascertain whether publishing a student's science fair project on the World Wide Web had any effect on the student's attitude toward his/her project, the subjects in this study were observed and interviewed by the researcher. The researcher's observations and interviews of students were recorded in a database for the purposes of evaluating the students' level of participation during the project. The students also kept journals where they responded to prompts so they could reflect on their work. Anecdotes from these journals were coded and entered into a spreadsheet for analysis of the students' attitudes. Finally, the students were surveyed with a questionnaire which assessed their attitudes and feelings. The responses to this questionnaire were analyzed by entering the responses into a spreadsheet and graphed. All of the data from the observations, interviews, students' journals and the questionnaire were compiled into student profiles. The student profiles are a compilation of data specific to each student. Each student reviewed his/her profile for accuracy (validity). The students commented on the accuracy of the student profiles by way of a final questionnaire at the end of the study which was entered into a spreadsheet and graphed for analysis.
It was observed that the initial response of students in this study to the science fair was negative. College preparatory juniors and seniors are generally more concerned with grades, college applications and graduation rather than having to complete a project. However, once the students began the publishing aspect of the project--making Web pages--it was clear that they were less reluctant to do the work. By the time the students were self-sufficient with the publishing software and working on their own, it was observed that the students enjoyed the project and felt pride in their accomplishments.
Approximately half of the students asked on a daily basis whether they could be let in to the Macintosh lab during their free tracks, lunch, and after school to work on their projects. Unfortunately, school policy prohibits students to work in the Macintosh lab while unattended by a faculty member; sometimes the Macintosh lab facilitator was unable to supervise the students so their only other option was the computer lab in the library which is often filled with other students on a first come, first served basis. All of the students were observed at one time or another in the library computer lab during the students' free time.
Most of the students were observed helping one another with Internet searching, file conversions, graphics, scanning and Web page composition. The researcher was always busy helping students, yet there was never a time when a student could not ask for help from another student to answer his/her question--it was very cooperative. Toward the project deadline, many students were rushing to complete web pages and it was during this time that other students, who finished early, were most willing to help their classmates.
Five of the students were advanced from the school's science fair to the county science fair--two won county medals and one was advanced to the state science fair. This was the best performance to date for non-honors students in the school's senior science fair division. The quality of many of the projects was not stellar due to the fact that these students were not honors students but rather were taking the class to fulfill the school's science requirements. In ten years of teaching science fair, the researcher has rarely seen such a high level of performance among non-honors students. It is usually the honors students who place at the county and state levels of science fair.
The students' projects were each given a 1 to 5 score (5 being best) on 16 different grading criteria. A score of 5 was best based on the researcher's ten years of experience with judging science fair projects. In Table 1, the averages of each criteria are given as well as the overall project average for all students. These projects were--by far--the best the researcher had seen in ten years of science teaching from non-honors level students.
Table 1: Mean for Grading Criteria
|Completion of assignments on or before due dates||4.25|
|Directions are followed||4.21|
|Literature review represents a complete study||3.89|
|Experiment is unique and original||3.68|
|Student has done his/her own work||4.86|
|Student pays careful attention to spelling and grammar||4.92|
|Student cites sources in the literature review||4.57|
|Discoveries are made that are not readily available to the student||3.25|
|Good use of charts and graphs||3.32|
|Data are interpreted correctly||3.36|
|Student constructs a clever experimental apparatus||2.86|
|Repetitions are made to verify experimental results||2.93|
|Student makes predictions based on analytical techniques||3.36|
|Experiment is applicable to the Real world||4.00|
|Report is written clearly||4.50|
|Overall average for all projects||3.90|