High school science fair: Positive and negative outcomes

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9 Scopus citations


The goal of our ongoing research is to identify strengths and weaknesses of high school level science fair and improvements that can help science educators make science fair a more effective, inclusive and equitable learning experience. In this paper, we confirm and extend our previous findings in several important ways. We added new questions to our anonymous and voluntary surveys to learn the extent to which students had an interest in science or engineering careers and if science fair participation increased their interest in science or engineering. And we surveyed a national rather than regional high school student group by incorporating our survey into the Scienteer online portal now used by Texas and some other states for science fair registration, parental consent, and project management. We learned that about ∼60% of the more than 300 students in the national cohorts completing surveys in 2017 and 2018 said that they were interested in a career in science or engineering, and ∼60% said that participating in science fair increased their interest in science or engineering. About two-thirds of the students were required to participate in science fair, and that requirement reduced the frequency of students who said that science fair increased their interest. In the worst case, ∼10% of the students who said that they were not interested in a career in science or engineering and who were required to participate in science fair engaged in research misconduct (i.e., plagiarism and making up their results). Students' positive comments about competition in science fair focused on the competition incentive, whereas their positive comments about science fair that was non-competitive focused on learning about the scientific process and learning in general. We discuss the findings in the context of National Science Teaching Association guidance about voluntary science fair participation and begin to identify features of science fair practice consistent with increased student interest in the sciences or engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0229237
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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