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A Sustainable Energy Concepts PD Model for Rural Schools and Its Extension to a Systemic Approach for Integrating STEM Research and Education


The Purdue University Innovation through Institutional Integration (I³) project, “A Sustainable Energy Concepts Professional Development Model for Rural Schools and Its Extension to a Systemic Approach for Integrating STEM Research and Education” brings together an NSF/EHR Noyce award with other Purdue University programs around the I³ integrative themes for broadening participation and the integration of research and education. It is an innovative effort to establish a systemic approach which connects interdisciplinary STEM research activities with educational pursuits and has a deliberate focus on broadening participation in STEM disciplines in rural communities. The project model is designed to engage teachers in rural high schools with researchers and their research activities. Rural teachers and their students will be involved in global “grand challenge” research endeavors, initially associated with biofuels and sustainable energies, in order to spark interest in STEM disciplines.

The project uses a two-tiered approach: 1. The education and research integration model which consists of two parts: a) a professional development program that engages rural pre-service and in-service high school teachers in Indiana around sustainable energy research activities; and b) support of teachers in transforming their curricula and classroom practice by incorporating concepts of sustainable energy. 2. Refinement and establishment of a systemic approach for integrating research and educational activities using this model.

Purdue University is leveraging its existing strengths in interdisciplinary research and educational engagement through the integration of the following projects: the NSF funded Noyce Scholars program for Preparation of Rural High School STEM Teachers; the Woodrow Wilson STEM Goes Rural Initiative; the Department of Energy Energy Frontier Research Center: C3Bio; the existing I-STEM (Indiana STEM) Resources Network; and the Purdue Rural Schools Network. The project is coordinated by the Discovery Learning Research Center, an educational research center at Purdue, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The model development component of this project provides summer experiences for teams of in-service and pre-service teachers through short courses in sustainable energy topics, developed in coordination with the scientists of C3Bio. These teams take part in (and receive graduate school credits for) a problem-based learning (PBL) summer course in which they develop their own PBL units on sustainable energy to use in their classrooms. During the academic year, teachers continue their interactions with one another, as well as with Purdue scientists and program personnel, through regional summits, web-enabled meetings and social networking. Each year, the leadership team reviews evaluation data towards developing a generalizable framework for integrating research with education.

The project directly impacts approximately forty rural in-service teachers, eighty pre-service rural teachers and all of their students. An additional approximately 400 rural in-service teachers and their students are indirectly impacted through academic year outreach activities of the project. The ultimate outcome of this project is to develop a systemic approach to integrating research with education, allowing Purdue University to sustain the transformation of STEM education through the continued integration of cutting-edge STEM research with education using the refined project model.

The development, design, and evaluation will provide descriptive and empirical program models that can be replicated/modified in other situations. In addition, the project will contribute to the research base on rural STEM education. This includes identifying and understanding factors that have an impact on improving preparation and retention of teachers in rural schools, as well as on the preparation and recruitment of rural students to STEM disciplines.



Start: September 15, 2010
End: August 31, 2015

Project Members:


Purdue University

Project Website:

Discovery Learning Research Center

Award Number: