NSF ECR-EHR Core Research: The ProQual Institute for Research Methods in STEM Education (NSF #1937741)

Project’s NSF Page

UGA Today Feature


John Morelock, Ph.D. - EETI Associate Director for Educational Innovation and Impact
Nathaniel Hunsu, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor of Engineering Education
Dominik May, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor of Engineering Education
Nicola Sochacka, Ph.D. - Former EETI Associate Director for Research Initiation and Enablement
Joachim Walther, Ph.D. - EETI Founding Director, Professor of Engineering Education

Grant Details

Funder: Directorate for Education and Human Resources, National Science Foundation
Amount: $999,998.00
Award number: 1937741
Start and End date: January 2020 – December 2024


The ProQual Institute (PQI) is designed to implement a novel, problem-led, research quality-focused approach to developing STEM education research capacity. The approach starts with the problem, idea, or general topic of interest, and researchers are then guided to identify and visually map a “social reality” of interest to articulate clear and purposeful research questions and to inform a coherent use of theoretical frameworks to undergird the study. Based on understanding the scope and nature of the research object, participants will be guided to explore appropriate methodological frameworks and methods that can be used to investigate that social reality and answer the research questions. The advantage of this concept is that by understanding the specific roles theories and methodologies play in a study, these frameworks can be more purposefully and productively used by novice educational researchers to conceptualize and empirically investigate the social reality of interest.

The Institute will design and implement six week-long Summer/Winter Schools for 125 diverse participants who will (1) gain an understanding of core ontological and epistemological differences between STEM and education research, (2) learn how to empirically investigate a “social reality” of interest by selecting and using appropriate theoretical and methodological frameworks and research methods, and (3) acquire an appreciation for incorporating research quality considerations throughout the duration of qualitative and mixed methods educational research projects. The design of the Summer/Winter Schools will be informed by constructivist and situated/experiential learning theories. The Institute also will create and manage a virtual community of PQI participants to provide ongoing support after completion of the one-week, face-to-face program and evaluate the impact of the PQI on participants’ self-efficacy as qualitative and mixed-methods researchers. The project will help to broaden and deepen the contributions that STEM education research can make to fundamental understandings of STEM education.

The project is supported through the EHR Core Research Building Capacity in STEM Education Research competition that is designed to build individuals’ capacity to carry out high quality fundamental STEM education research in STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, and STEM workforce development.




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