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

Your Name and Title: Marie Himes, Research Associate

School or Organization Name: The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, NC State University

Co-Presenter Name(s): Cameron Good, Graduate Assistant

Dr. Hiller Spires, Distinguished Graduate Professor of Literacy Education

Dr. Erin Krupa, Assistant Professor of Math Education

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s): K-20 Teachers and School Administrators

Short Session Description (one line): 

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

Full Session Description (as long as you would like): 

For this two-year National Science Foundation (NSF) - DRK12 Exploratory grant-funded project, the New Literacies Collaborative at NC State University is partnering with two North Carolina Cooperative Innovative High Schools - one rural and one urban - to engage in and research Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global as an interdisciplinary instructional approach that supports growth of students’ science content knowledge. 

The goals for this session are to discuss the PBI Global process and design features, share past PBI Global projects, and preview our upcoming research on “STEMifying” PBI Global.

PBI Global is a five-phase inquiry process that focuses student engagement on the enduring challenges enshrined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dr. Hiller Spires has been working with this specific inquiry process for over a decade, engaging in PBI Globals with graduate students, teachers, and K-12 students. 

For the current NSF grant, the researchers are working with ten teachers and two administrators to develop interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curricular materials for UN Sustainable Development Goal six - ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. Teachers will utilize these instructional materials while engaging in the five-phase PBI Global process with students. 

As part of the teachers’ preparation for PBI Global, they are participating in four days of professional development during which they will develop deeper understandings of the specific PBI Global inquiry process and the UN SDG six content. Teachers are also utilizing this time to collaboratively plan.

Across the two-year project, the researchers will be assessing the change in teachers’ attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies through focus groups and a teacher inquiry survey.

Approximately 240 9th grade students from these two schools will participate in PBI Global and the coinciding research. Focusing student inquiry on UN SDG six serves to deepen students’ knowledge on a complex issue that demands global attention. Students at the target schools come from ethnically and socio-economically diverse groups that are typically underrepresented in STEM fields. Prior to their inquiry, students will read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park as a grounding text. This novel shares the dual narrative of Salva Dut, a so-called “Lost Boy of Sudan,” and Naya, a fictional character living in modern day South Sudan. Throughout the book, Salva’s and Naya’s stories are intricately connected to the enduring water and sanitation challenges facing South Sudan. The common read serves to deepen students’ understandings of global water and sanitation issues and to spark students’ inquiry. As part of PBI Global, students will ask a compelling question; gather and analyze sources; creatively synthesize claims and evidences; critically evaluate and revise; and share, publish, and act (see Figure 1).

Students will work in six-person teams with three members from each school. The collaborative inquiry portion of this project will last four weeks in spring 2020 and spring 2021. Students’ inquiry will culminate with a PBI Global showcase at the end of the four weeks at which students will also engage in collective action to bring awareness to UN SDG six.

Figure 1: PBI Global model 

With students, researchers will be analyzing how the PBI Global inquiry process supports student science content knowledge and how PBI Global influences students’ motivation and engagement. To measure these constructs, the students will take a multiple choice pre-/post-assessment on water and sanitation science content knowledge with items taken from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2061 Science Assessment Item Bank. Students will also take a pre-/post-survey on factors that affect student motivation and engagement during inquiry using Brett Jones’ MUSIC Inventory. Researchers will also lead before, during, and after focus groups with students, examining expectations for and experiences with PBI Global. Post-PBI Global, the researchers will analyze students’ multimodal learning products using an established rubric.

Through this study, the researchers seek to advance both theory and practice of interdisciplinary learning through developing improved inquiry-based instructional materials and researching impacts on teachers and students. Moreover, the researchers aim to better understand how inquiry-based learning can promote high levels of science achievement and find broad application across multiple disciplines.

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