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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Conceptions of experimentation during a science fair : a case of four science nine/ten honour students Lau, Wayne


This exploratory case study documented the conceptions of experimentation of four Science 9/10 honour students prior to, during, and after their participation in a science fair that took place in a high school setting. The four student participants consisted of: a male and a female student with experience in a science fair, and a male and a female student with no experience in a science fair. The data for this study were the students'journals and responses to a questionnaire, and in-depth phenomenological interviews. At the start of the science fair, all four students had an everyday sense of experimentation: trying or carrying out a procedure and learning from the experience. One of the four students also had a scientific sense of experimentation: identifying variables and figuring out the procedure to solve a problem. As the students worked on their science fair projects, they reiterated their initial conceptions of experimentation. The students also elaborated on their conceptions by adding that experiments: can be "formal" or "informal," answer questions, involve "creativity," and are a part of a learning process. By the end of the science fair, all but one of the students kept their initial conceptions of experimentation. Documenting the above students' conceptions of typical science classroom activities, such as structured laboratory activities and demonstration, was also an integral part of this study. In general the students' thoughts on the above activities were similar to their conceptions of experimentations. The greater the amount of hands-on involvement and input to the procedure from the student, the more likely the students considered the activity an experiment. An examination of the type of investigation the students' conducted for their projects showed that three of the projects could be classified as the engineering model of experimentation while the fourth project could be classified as the science model of experimentation. The above classification provided insight on the rationales behind the students' conceptions of experimentation. This study has implications for both teachers and researchers. Specifically, it implies that students have ideas about experimentation and these ideas need to be incorporated in science classroom activities and the students' own investigations. By deliberately engaging students to think about the nature of science and scientific inquiry, students can move towards scientific experimentation.

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