Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Brenner, Devon G.

Committee Member

Walker, Ryan M.

Committee Member

Ivy, Jessica T.

Committee Member

Clary, Renee M.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education


It has long been accepted by science education research that science inquiry in the classroom is essential to the development of a deep understanding of the nature of science and the world around us. In an effort to understand the relationship between science inquiry, science process skills, the nature of science and science and engineering fairs, this mixed methods study qualitatively explores teaching strategies of exemplary science and engineering teachers (N=6) who mentored several International Science and Engineering Fair finalists within a 10 year period (2004-2014). The quantitative portion of this research explored the relationship between science fair participation and academic achievement. Using the theoretical framework of modern expectancy-value theory, 5 themes emerged. All believed: 1) there is intrinsic value in science inquiry and science fair; 2) all included strategic engagement opportunities for students; 3) intrinsic value and motivation potentially lead to increased academic aptitude; 4) the benefits of science inquiry and science fair outweigh costs; and 5) there is a link between intrinsic value in science and engineering fair and utility value. Of the schools (N=31) identified for the quantitative study, demographic analysis (gender, ethnicity, socio-economic statics, and size of school) narrowed to 8 treatment schools with one control school indicated no statistical relationship between academic performance on a standardized state science examination and science fair participation. An ad hoc study indicated the standardized testing instrument was not an adequate measurement of the level of inquiry included in a science and engineering fair project. In conclusion, a list comprised of exemplary science and engineering fair suggestions was formulated to include descriptions of similar teaching strategies or issues among the exemplary science and engineering fair teachers with intentions of increasing science inquiry or the nature of science in the classroom through the science and engineering fair framework.