Fox, J., & Cater, M. (2015). An Analysis of Adolescents' Science Interest and Competence in Programs with and without a Competitive Component. Journal of Agricultural Education. 56(4). 90 - 106. doi: 10.5032/jae.2015.04090
The exploratory study examined science interest and perceived science competency in middle and high school youth (N=116) who took part in science-related contests (n=49) and non-competitive special interest science programs (n=67). Study participants were dispersed between females (48.3%) and males (51.7%). Three-fourths (75.1%) of the participants belonged to the racial category, white. The majority of youth attracted to science-related professions selected medicine and science and engineering as the top choices. Both science interest and science competence were high among youth in the study. Analysis of science competency indicated a statistically significant difference between girls and boys, with girls scoring higher than boys. The difference in scores between youth participating in competitive programs and non-competitive programs was also statistically significant. As a result of this study, it is recommended that high-quality, cutting edge, hands-on programs are offered to youth in both middle school and high school that emphasize science and provide opportunities for self-challenge as well as challenge against others.