Here’s the initial version, before edits by the committee. A real signal that I am almost done!
Problem finding is a creative process whereby individuals develop original ideas for study. Secondary science students who successfully participate in authentic, novel, open inquiry studies must engage in problem finding to determine a viable and suitable topic. This study examined problem finding strategies employed by students who successfully completed and presented the results of their open inquiry research at the 2007 Connecticut Science Fair and the 2007 International Science and Engineering Fair. A multicase qualitative study was framed through the lenses of creativity, inquiry strategies, and situated cognition learning theory. Data was triangulated by methods (interviews, document analysis, surveys) and sources (students, teachers, mentors, fair directors, documents). The data demonstrated that the quality of student projects was directly impacted by the quality of their problem finding. The students participating in the study found their problems using resources from previous, specialized experiences. They had a positive self-concept and a temperament towards the both the creative and logical perspectives of science research. Successful problem finding was derived from an idiosyncratic, nonlinear, flexible use and understanding of inquiry. Finally, problem finding was influenced and assisted by the community of practicing scientists, to whom the students have an exceptional ability to communicate with effectively. Therefore, there appears to be a juxtaposition of creative and logical/analytical thought for open inquiry that may not be present in other forms of inquiry. Instructional strategies are suggested for teachers of science research students to improve the quality of problem finding for their students and their subsequent research projects.