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NSF DRK-12: Supporting Students’ Science Content Knowledge through Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global


Supporting Students’ Science Content Knowledge through Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global


The grant will expand Project Based Inquiry (PBI) Global, an inquiry-based instructional process, to address STEM learning through a rural/urban classroom collaboration at two schools in North Carolina: Wake STEM Early College High School and Person County Early College for Innovation and Leadership. The schools were chosen to be a part of this project because of their culturally diverse student populations and their early college model, which prepares diverse students from populations underrepresented in STEM fields, including first-generation college students.

PBI Global connects students around the world to solve global problems through interdisciplinary projects. Projects always start with a compelling question based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and then they connect students across cultures and locations to ask compelling questions; gather and analyze sources; creatively synthesize claims and evidences; critically evaluate and revise; and share, publish and act.

This grant will provide the opportunity to quantitatively measure the impact of PBI Global on students for the first time by assessing through pre- and post-tests what impact this process has on students’ science content learning. A design-based research (DBR) approach will be used to develop and refine instructional materials, and teacher professional development for the existing interdisciplinary PBI Global initiative. They will also investigate factors influencing student motivation and engagement as well as teacher attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogy.

The project will focus on 9th grade physical, biological and environmental science content knowledge and science and engineering practices. Students from both schools will have the opportunity to work together across time, space and cultures while being immersed in science content through globally relevant learner-centered activities. Likewise, English, history and math teachers will collaborate to create a dynamic interdisciplinary learning experience for the students.

This proposed exploratory research addresses an important educational question: How can we design and implement globally relevant, inquiry-based teaching and learning for science content?

Partner schools will launch the PBI Global project with their students on January 31, 2020. Students research focus will be on SDG 6 – ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – and student will chose one of the other 16 SDG to tie into their research question.

The proposed project aims to build on our initial findings with PBI Global by assessing changes in students’ science content knowledge, motivation and engagement as well as teachers’ attitudes towards inquiry-based pedagogies. We are addressing the following three research questions. The theme of the project is Every Drop Counts: Clean Water and Sanitation.

  • How does inquiry through the PBI Global process support student science content knowledge?
  • How can students’ motivation and engagement be characterized after participating in the PBI Global process?
  • To what degree do teachers’ attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies change as a result of PBI Global professional development?




  • National Science Foundation National Science Foundation
  • Person Early College for Innovation & Leadership Person Early College for Innovation & Leadership
  • Wake STEM Early College High School Wake STEM Early College High School
  • Teams

  • New Literacies Collaborative New Literacies Collaborative
  • Project Team

    Dr Hiller A. Spires Dr Hiller A. Spires

    Erin Elizabeth Krupa Erin Elizabeth Krupa

    Cameron Good Cameron Good

    Marie Pierson Himes Marie Pierson Himes