WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor, Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto

Curriculum Vitae

Bencze, J.L. (2009a). 'Polite directiveness' in science inquiry: A contradiction in terms? Cultural Studies in Science Education, 4(4), 855-864.

Student-directed, open-ended scientific investigations and invention projects may serve to deepen and broaden students’ scientific and technological literacy, and, in so doing, enable them to succeed in democracies greatly affected by processes and products of science and technology. Science fairs, events at which student-led projects are evaluated and celebrated, could contribute to such positive personal and social outcomes. Qualitative data drawn from a national science fair over succeeding years indicate (after analyses of largely qualitative data, using constant comparative methods) that, apart from positive outcomes regarding science literacy, there may be some significant issues about the fair that warrant critical review. It is apparent from these studies that there are issues of access, image, and recruitment associated with the fair. Qualification for participation in the fair appears to favour students from advantaged, resource-rich backgrounds. Although these students do benefit in a number of ways from the fair experience, it is apparent that science fairs also greatly benefit sponsors—who can, in a sense, use science fairs for promotional and recruitment purposes. These findings and claims raised, for us, some important questions possibly having implications for science education, and for society more generally.

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