Does publishing a student's science fair project on the World Wide Web have any consequence on a student's attitude toward his/her project? Is there a motivational effect? This study sought to discover if there is a motivational effect if the student knows that his/her science fair project will be published on the World Wide Web. Literature suggested that there is a motivational effect due to the wider audience that a student's work will receive when it is published and that the effect can be observed in the student's work and behavior. Namely, the student's work will more likely be better written (content, grammar and spelling). The student will also be more likely to work on his/her project outside of class during free time and will be more likely to work cooperatively with other students.
The subjects of this study were thirty-two junior and senior high school physics students at a private college preparatory school in Los Angeles, California. The role of the researcher was that of a participant-observer while teaching physics to the students and facilitating the students' research projects in anticipation of competing in a science fair. A questionnaire, the researcher's observations, interviews with the students and the students' journal entries were used to triangulate the data. For the purpose of validity, individual student profiles were created from the data for each student to scrutinize for accuracy. A final questionnaire was administered to the students to gauge the accuracy of the profiles and to express, in retrospect, their feelings and attitudes toward the project.
The operational definitions for motivational effect were questions which could be answered through the questionnaires, observations, interviews and the students' journal entries:
How often did you make use of the computer lab outside of class?
Compare and contrast your behavior between working in the computer lab during class and doing regular physics work in the classroom. In what ways has using the computer lab affected your project? How did you help others on their projects? What help did you receive on your project from your classmates? What are some of the science fair activities you enjoyed doing? What are some of the science fair activities you did not enjoy doing? How did you feel about including your email address on your Web pages? Do you feel that you have become an expert in the topic you chose? Do you think the projects in your science class have helped you to understand science better?
Once the data from the questionnaires, observations, interviews and the students' journal entries were compiled into the student profiles, the students were surveyed about the accuracy of the data. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of the students agreed that their feelings were accurately reflected and ninety-two percent (92%) of the students agreed that their attitudes were accurately reflected in their student profiles. This level of agreement between the triangulated data and the students confirms with a high degree of validity that the students were indeed motivated in a manner consistent with the literature.