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Science Teachers’ Views about the Science Fair at Primary Education Level (This article indexed by ERIC- Dear Authors please don't forget to cite this research).

Science Teachers’ Views about the Science Fair at Primary Education Level (This article indexed by ERIC- Dear Authors please don't forget to cite this research).
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  Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, April 2013, 4(2) 56 Science Teachers’ Views about the Science Fair at Primary Education Level Hasan Said Tortop Bülent Ecevit University ,  Abstract  Science fair is an environment where students present their scientific research projects. Opinionsof science teachers who participated as a mentor in science fair are important for determining of the science fair quality and its contribution of science education. The aim of study was to determine science teachers’ views about the science fair at primary education level in Turkey. In this qualitative study, seven science teachers who worked in A city in Turkey were interviewedregarding a national science f  air called “This is My Work Science and Mathematics Project Study forElementary School Students”. According to the interviews, the science teachers reported that students and their parents were indifferent to science fair; that they had difficulties developing aproject idea; that students do not prepare the projects themselves but their parents or teachersdo; and that science fair was important for developing certain skills of students. In developingcountries, certain arrangements should be made in science programs as well as in science fairorganizations to avoid transforming science fairs into a harmful tool. Keywords:  Science education; science fair; dishonesty; constructivist curriculum    Introduction Science fairs, claimed by a number of studies to be effective in developing different skills of students,have become traditional in many countries (Grote, 1995; Bunderson & Anderson, 1996; Abernathy &  Vineyard, 2001). Attempts to organize the national science fair  – which has been conducted for a longtime at secondary education level (high school level) in Turkey  – were also started at elementaryschool level in 2005. These attempts were especially initiated by the science education curriculumappropriate to the constructivist approach changed in 2005. In Turkey, the new science curriculumfor primary schools aimed to bring up individuals who can inquire, search, investigate and establishrelationships with their daily lives and science. Besides, they can use scientific methods in all fields of life t o solve problems, and they can see the world from scientists’ perspectives (Republic of Turkey Ministry of National Education, Board of Education, 2005). For this reason, science fair is a veryimportant tool for education. However, besides its positive contributions, there are also negative sidesof a science fair in terms of education (Grote, 1995; Bunderson & Anderson, 1996; Czerniak, 1996;Bellipanni & Lilly, 1999; Abernathy & Vineyard 2001; Balas, 2003; Wang & Yang, 2003; Kankelborg,2005; Gomez, 2007; Robertson, 2007; Yayla & Uzun, 2008).The national science fair, in which elementary school 6 th , 7 th and 8 th grade students participate with their projects in the fields of science and mathematics in Turkey, is known as “ This is My Work  Science and Mathematics Project Study for Elementary School Students” This is My Work (TMW) Science Fair has been conducted in 7 regions since 2006. In this competition, science andmathematics teachers act as mentors for students. The projects successful in the exhibitions in the  Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, April 2013, 4(2) 57 region participate in the final exhibition in Ankara (the capital city of Turkey). Different awards aregiven to the students participating in the final exhibition (Republic of Turkey Ministry of NationalEducation,Educational   Research and Development    Directorate, 2012).  Statement of the Problem Science fair organizations and scientific committee recommend that project idea must be just studentself-work (Ministry of Education, The Bureau of Research and Development of Education, 2011, TheScientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, 2011). Some researchers stated that students’ projects reflect their parents’ work  . Parental pressure affects this situation (Grobman, 1993;Shore, 2007). For this reason, science teachers have a critical role. Teacher’s attitudes towards science fair allow students to give importance to science fairs and to scientific research projects (Blenis, 2000; Van Eck, 2006). Fisanick (2010) stated that teacher’ attitudes towards an d views aboutscience fairs are shaped by some factors; teacher motivation regarding their participation in sciencefair; conducted projects in the curriculum, expectations of administrators for teacher or students inparticipating science fair and so on. For this reason, ideas of science teachers about national sciencefairs are important. So, more research should be carried to deal with the difficulties in science fairsand to increase effective participation in science fairs. Purpose of the Study This study aimed at investigating science teachers’ views about national science fairs at primary school level in Turkey. For this purpose, the following research questions were directed in the study:1.   Which stage is the most difficult for teachers in guiding the project competition process?2.   In what ways do students determine the project idea?3.   What ways do teachers follow in the development of the project ideas?4.   What are parents’ perspectives regarding the science fair? 5.   What do teachers think about dishonesty at science fairs? MethodsResearch Model Case study design was selected as the research design. Case study, which is one of the qualitative research methods (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2003). The single case was “ This is My Work Science and Mathematics Project Study for Elementary School Students” science fair. The single case, which was studied in this research, covered the views about the science teachers at the national science fair, which was called “This is My   Work” (Bu Benim Eserim) in Turkey. Participants The purposeful sampling method was used to determine the selection of the participants (Miles &  Huberman, 1994; Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2003) . The objective of purposeful sampling is to selectinformation-rich cases, because it will clarify the research questions. Besides, criterion sampling andsnowballing sampling technique was implemented, whereby all cases have to meet somepredetermined criterion of importance (Patton, 2002). The criteria for the selection of the sevenparticipants (teachers) were as follows: They had a science fair mentorship experience before, andthey previously joined a science fair as mentor in the current academic term in their district. In thisrespect, seven volunteering science teachers, who took part in the National Science Fair in A city as amentor in the academic year of 2011-2012, were determined as the participants in this study. Thedemographic data regarding the participants in the study is presented in Table 1.  Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, April 2013, 4(2) 58 Table 1. The Demographic Background of the Science TeachersGender Age Faculty or schoolgraduated fromThe type of theschool they work atScience Teacher 1 Male 36-40 years Faculty of Education Public schoolScience Teacher 2 Female 31-35 years Faculty of Education Public schoolScience Teacher 3 Male 36-40 years Faculty of Education Public schoolScience Teacher 4 Female 41-45 years Faculty of Education Public schoolScience Teacher 5 Male 41-45 years Faculty of Education Public schoolScience Teacher 6 Female 36-40 years Faculty of Education Private schoolScience Teacher 7 Female 31-35 years Faculty of Education Public schoolTable 1 demonstrates the profile of the study group. Four of the science teachers were male, andthree of them were female. All of them were medium-aged, and all graduated from an educationfaculty. Six of the science teachers worked at a public school, and one of them worked at a privateschool. Data Collection Instrument The data in this study were collected via a semi-structured interview. The related literature wasreviewed to prepare the interview form (Grote, 1995; Bunderson & Anderson, 1996; Czerniak, 1996;Blenis, 2000; Syer & Shore, 2001; Yayla & Uzun, 2008; Fisanick, 2010). The interviews with the sevenparticipants constituted the main source of the data collected in this study. The in-depth interviews,conducted with participants, reflect on their experiences in the science fair mentorship. Thanks to thesemi-structured interview, it became flexible and conversational. This situation allowed theparticipants to express their views by expanding the subject without being bored (Payne, 1999).Thisform was also reviewed by three experts in the field of science education. According to this review,the form was revised, and eight open-ended questions were determined. The interview guide used inthe study. Period of one interview ranging in length from 20 to 30 minutes was conducted with eachof the science teachers. Data Analysis Inductive analysis was used as the strategy for analyzing and interpreting the data in this study. Thisapproach involved examining the data in detail. And the categories or themes constituted whileconsidering relationships among the categories (Glaser & Strauss, 1967;  Yıldırım & Şim sek 2003). Theone of process of content analysis stage is coding. In coding, the obtained data were examined indetail to identify similar categories and themes. Unifying the data coded and identifying them allowedus to look at the data from different perspectives (Huberman & Miles, 1994; McMillan, 2000). Thisconstruction helped us better analyze the data. Obtained   themes or categories were searched for anyconsistency between two or more themes within the data. Afterwards, some generalizations werefoun d at explained consistencies in the data. These generalizations about the participants’ science fairmentorship experiences were discussed with literature on teachers’ views about science fair.  Validity of Study Some precautions were taken to ensure the validity and reliability of the study. While preparing theinterview form, the related literature was examined to create a contextual framework in order toincrease the internal validity of the research. Member checking was also done. Moreover, theparticipants were able to express their opinions freely and sincerely. The research process wasexplained clearly to increase external validity. The design of the research, study group, data collectioninstrument and process as well as analysis and interpretation of the data were explained in detail. Allof the data were written without any interpretation to ensure internal reliability (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2003). In addition, another researcher who had experience in qualitative research and science education coded the information obtained from the interviews. This code wascompared with that of the researcher, and the consistency was calculated (92%).  Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, April 2013, 4(2) 59 Results and Discussion The findings of the research obtained from the interviews are as follows; the science teachers’  quotations are presented below in the table, which includes content analysis of the interviews.Table 2. Content Analysis of the Data Obtained from the InterviewsCategories ST1 ST2 ST3 ST4 ST5 ST6 ST7 Category 1. The most difficult stage of mentorship  Getting the project idea + + + + + +Writing the project report + Category 2. Students’ ways of getting the project  idea  From the Internet + +Getting help from parents +Reading science fair guide + +Examining the previous project + + + + Category 3. Teachers’ approaches to getting the  project idea  Showing the daily-life problems + +Examining the previous projects + + + +Making students free + Category 4. Development of students skills  Science literacy skills +Creative thinking skills + +Scientific research skills + +Scientific process skills + +Problem solving skills +Drawing picture skills + Category 5. Teachers’ self  -efficacy in mentorship  Feeling oneself efficient + + +Feeling oneself inefficient + + + + Category 6. Parents’ perspectives of science fairs  PositiveNeutral + +Negative + + + + + Category 7. Collaboration with related associations   Yes, I did + +No, I did not collaborate + + + + + Category 8. Dishonesty at science fairs   Admitting dishonesty + + + + + +Rejecting dishonesty +ST:   Science Teacher  Category 1: The Most Difficult Stage in Mentorship Six science teachers stated that the stage of getting the project idea at science fair was the mostdifficult stage of mentorship. One of them reported that the most difficulty stage in mentorship wasthe writing of project report. Some quotations of the science teachers are as follows: “  Especially, when getting projects idea, trouble gives rise to  ”  [Science Teacher 1]    Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, April 2013, 4(2) 60 “Because of getting intensively exams and courses, students don’t ignore scientific  project process especially getting project idea stage  ”  [Science Teacher 2]  We get trouble in determining project topic, teachers undertake all of issue for preparing project report because of inadequacy of students these skills  ”  [Science Teacher 3]   “  Students were educated exam based educational system. When they have learned letters, they started solving multiple-choice test, and then we expect to students that getting projects. However, inquisitive students ask question. Because, project starts with question. This related with curiosity. Scientific projects must not get compulsively to unconcern students. We live big problem at getting project ideas stage. If students like getting projects and searching, they spare the time and get project with pleasure  ”  [Science Teacher 4]Most of the teachers reported that they experienced difficulty in determining the subject of theproject at the science fair. In this respect, the reasons for this difficulty could be exam-based education system and students’  inefficiency in these fields. Category 2: Students’ Ways of Getting the Project Idea Science teachers reported their views about students’ ways of getting the project idea as follows: examination of the previous projects (four Science Teachers), reading the project guide (two ScienceTeachers), searching from the internet (two Science Teachers), and help from parents (one ScienceTeacher).   Some quotations of the science teachers are as follows: “  They are getting help from parents  ”    [Science Teacher 2]   “S  tudents mostly do things which they saw. So, projects are not authentic  ”  [ScienceTeacher 3]   “S  tudents examine other projects  ”  [Science Teacher 6]   “S  tudents examine science fair guide  ”    [Science Teacher 7]   The ways that teachers follow in determining the subject of the project in TMW are presented in this category. Teachers generally agree that students “examine other projects”.   Category 3: Teachers’ Approaches to Getting the Project Idea   One sub-category regarding the ways the teachers followed in determining the subject of the project was ‘I make them free’. Guidance via making them face the daily life problems was reported by two teachers. The teachers had also reported previously that the most difficult stage for them wasdetermining the subject of the project. The findings in this sub-category could, to some extent,explain the reasons for such difficulty.Some quotations of the science teachers are as follows:  “ I try to find the subject of the project considering the problems experienced in dailylife. ”  [Science Teacher 1]  “F irst of all, we make effort to make them love science. I ask them about the problemsin their lives. Then I struggle to make them think how to solve these problems ”  [ScienceTeacher 3]  “… and how to make our lives better. I make students free in determining their projects ”   [Science Teacher 5]
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