New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Pre-College Engineering Education Division
Science and Engineering (S&E) Fairs are a valuable educational activity that are believed to increase students’ engagement and learning in science and engineering by emphasizing creativity and inquiry-focused learning. However, S&E Fairs put demands on teachers, parents, and students for time and resources. Organizing such an event is especially demanding in the first few years of implementation. As a result, poor and low-achieving schools are less likely to implement such a program for their students, despite the potential benefits. Our study is based on data from teachers from low-achieving schools who engaged in a program focused on introducing S&E Fairs at their schools. Our research questions included: (a) Do teachers perceive S&E Fairs as effective educational tools? (2) What perceived benefits do teachers perceive from introducing S&E Fairs to their school? (3) What challenges do teacher face in introducing S&E Fairs to their school?
Data was collected from 20 teachers involved in a program focused on introducing S&E Fairs to high-needs and low-achieving schools. Future years of the program will include additional schools, increasing our sample of teachers. These schools are located in the Alabama Black Belt, an agricultural region that is historically poor and with a large African American population. Our data collection methods included quantitative surveys related to perceptions of S&E Fairs as well as focus groups to gather qualitative evidence from teachers about the challenges they experienced in the first two years of implementing a S&E fair. In their surveys, teachers reported beliefs that S&E Fairs can benefit all students, including those with limited resources or who don't already show enthusiasm for science. However, they also were generally not supportive of S&E Fairs as a classroom activity for all students--they indicated that S&E Fairs were better as optional, outside projects rather than an activity that requires in-class time. After completing projects with their students, teachers reported strong beliefs that their students learned important things and became more interested in science as a result of their S&E Fair projects. They also expressed belief that S&E Fairs would especially benefit their female, low-income, and minority students’ interest and achievement in science.
From the focus groups, challenges faced by teachers included recruiting enough judges for the fair, finding space for the fair, and following the guidelines required to advance to the regional and state fairs. Teachers also reported changes in helping students find original and effective project topics and promoting engagement among students who would benefit from the projects, but who were not already interested in science. Many teachers reported that working in supportive teams was critical to successful fairs at their school. An unexpected finding was the important role that English teachers played in success. Teachers reported that collaborating with the English department to develop research statements helped both science and English faculty address important curriculum standards and increased the quality of the S&E projects. Implications for establishing similar training programs for teachers will be discussed.
Lakin, J. M., & Ewald, M. L., & Davis, V. A., & Cobine, P. A., & Landers, A. L. (2016, June), Challenges and Benefits of Introducing a Science and Engineering Fair in High-Needs Schools (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26464
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