STEM education needs opportunities for researchers from diverse backgrounds to engage collaboratively in inter-theoretical research on a richly featured shared data set, in order to catalyze complex problem-solving while aligning researchers around common tools and questions. Physics education research (PER) is an interdisciplinary research area in which collaborations among diverse researchers can bridge knowledge gaps and spark innovation. At the Interdisciplinary Research Institute in STEM Education (I-RISE), scholars from diverse backgrounds gather to observe, document, and reflect on an instructional setting rich enough to support many interests. The objectives of the I-RISE are:

  • To facilitate scholars crossing disciplinary boundaries to acquire skills and knowledge to conduct more rigorous research on STEM teaching and learning
  • To support STEM education research scholars in looking together at a shared, richly featured data set in order to learn from one another’s theoretical, methodological, and analytic perspectives
  • To catalyze the development of innovative theoretical, methodological, and analytic approaches to understanding complex STEM education issues of national importance
  • To immerse scholars in observing the dynamics of learner-centered small group activities and engaging in supported reflection on and analysis of what they observe
  • To provide a brief sabbatical-like opportunity for researchers to engage deeply with the detailed work of another project, rather than only through research papers and presentations
  • To develop a successfully piloted model of graduate and faculty researcher professional development
  • To promote the development of a common sense of purpose and research agenda for physics education researchers as a professional community

The I-RISE is organized in parallel with the innovative professional development (PD) courses offered by the Energy Project at Seattle Pacific University (NSF DRL 0822342), whose primary objective is to promote elementary and secondary teachers’ development of formative assessment practices in the context of energy. I-RISE 2013 will host up to eight scholars in August, in association with the PD course for secondary teachers. Scholars spend half of each day observing the PD course and documenting what they observe with video, field notes, photographs, and artifact collection. During the other half of each day, Scholars work with the video and other data to identify episodes of interest, engage in collaborative analysis, develop themes, consult literature, and generate research projects. Scholars are partnered with one another in a strong framework for mentoring and collaboration. I-RISE concludes with a two-day Congress at which Scholars present analyses of data they collected and share their unique research questions, methodology, and perspectives on the literature. The I-RISE is directed by Rachel Scherr.


Highly visible learning: Participating teachers use multiple representations (including kinesthetic learning activities, white boards, small group discussions, and large-group consensus building) both for presentation and for idea development. Teachers cooperatively create, analyze, critique, and refine representations in order to learn about energy and also learn the constraints and affordances of each representation. Small-group collaborative work alternates with whole-class consensus discussions. Teacher-teacher interactions are unparalleled for self-motivated professional learning and depth of intellectual engagement.

Rich documentation: The Energy Project supports extensive video and photo documentation of interactions and artifacts, providing material for multiple research perspectives. In 2010 and 2011, the Energy Project invited visiting Scholars to help the Project create and manage its hundreds of hours of video and other documentation. Secure online collaboration space provides Scholars with a forum for collaboration and an archive of past insights and analyses.

Research novelty: The physics topic, learner population, and instructional format are all relatively unexplored areas of interest to physics education researchers. The Energy Project has grown into a hub of collaboration for interdisciplinary research on teacher professional development, responsive teaching, conceptual understanding of energy, learning theories, and formative assessment practices, resulting in dozens of presentations and multiple publications so far.


Scholar-selected topics: To a significant extent, I-RISE topics are determined by the Scholars. A major benefit of the I-RISE format is the opportunity it offers for Scholars to bring their particular expertise to a shared data set, in a setting that fosters interdisciplinary collaboration. I-RISE Scholars are encouraged to pursue self-determined research projects on the data they collect, driven by their own professional goals and stimulated by their unique reflections on what takes place in the PD course. For example, a Scholar may come to the I-RISE with expertise in the use of gesture in scientific explanations and may pursue an investigation of gestures depicting energy, based on observations made in the PD course.

Energy Project topics: To another extent, I-RISE topics are determined by the instructional setting and by the existing research themes of the project that hosts the I-RISE. The Energy Project emphasizes teacher professional development, conceptual understanding of energy, learning theories, and formative assessment practices; the Research Directors, who are on the leadership team for the Energy Project, naturally support investigations with these themes. A few existing research interests specific to the Energy Project are listed below. Scholars will be requested to familiarize themselves with at least one of these themes in preparation for the I-RISE.

  • Embodied learning activities 
  • Conceptual metaphors for energy
  • Forms of energy
  • Teacher and learner empowerment
  • Conversational formative assessment
  • Video analysis methodology


Experience with past related conferences has led us to expect the following outcomes for particular Scholars:

  • Increased sense of professional identity
  • Formation of strong network of close collaborators for future research
  • Increased confidence with and access to boundary-crossing research methods and results
  • Decision to pursue doctoral studies in physics education research
  • Acquisition of key dissertation data
  • Formative experience with new research methods
  • Transition from pure quantitative to mixed qualitative and quantitative research
  • Transformed sense of learners’ capacity to direct their own learning


Leslie Atkins, Assistant Professor, Physics & Sci Educ, Cal State Univ - Chico
Alex Barr Postdoc University of Texas at Austin

Jessica Bartley, Teacher, Physics, Tara High School, Boulder, Colorado
Andrew Boudreaux, Assistant Professor, Physics, Western Washington Univ
Krishna Chowdary, Professor, Physics, The Evergreen State College, Washington
Kristy Chun, Graduate Student, Education, Univ of Cal – Santa Barbara
Hunter Close Asst Professor Texas State University

Abigail Daane, Graduate Student, Education, Seattle Pacific University
Dedra Demaree, Asst Professor, Physics, Oregon State Univ
Michele Dillon Graduate Student Chicago State University

Dorothy Echodu, Project Director, Teso University, Uganda
Virginia Flood, Grad Student, Chemistry, Univ of Maine – Orono
Brian Frank Asst Prof Middle Tennessee State University

Benjamin Geller Graduate Student University of Maryland - College Park

Renee Michelle Goertzen, Postdoctoral Fellow, Florida International Univ, Miami
Kara Gray, Graduate Student, Science Educ, Univ of Colorado - Boulder
Benedikt Harrer, Graduate Student, Physics, Univ of Maine - Orono
Virginia Hayes Undergraduate Chicago State University

Kayla Hegedus, Undergraduate Student, Physics, Whitman College, Washington
Brant Hinrichs Assoc Professor Drury University

Emma Kahle, Undergraduate Student, Physics, Columbia University
Mary Bridget Kustuch, Postdoc, Physics, Oregon State University
Brandon Lunk Graduate Student North Carolina State University

Sandy Martinuk, Graduate Student, Univ of British Columbia
Siri Mehus, Research Scientist, Education, University of Washington
Melissa Anne Povey, Graduate Student, Education, Seattle Pacific University
Gina Quan Undergraduate Student University of California - Berkeley

Amy Robertson, Visiting Asst Prof, Physics, Seattle Pacific University
Lane Seeley, Professor, Physics, Seattle Pacific University
Rance Solomon Undergraduate Student Middle Tennessee State University

Benjamin Spike, Graduate Student, Physics, Univ of Colorado - Boulder
Mackenzie Stetzer, Research Assistant Professor, Physics, University of Washington
Enrique Suarez, Graduate Student, Science Education, Tufts University

Lindsay Wells Knowles Science Teaching Fellow Millbrook High School

Tasha Williams Undergraduate Chicago State University

Benjamin van Dusen Graduate student University of Colorado - Boulder

Joshua von Korff Postdoc Kansas State University


The dates of the 2013 I-RISE are August 4-20. Scholars must commit to attending the entire I-RISE (no late arrivals, early departures, or missed days, except weekends).

Scholars who are admitted to the I-RISE will be awarded a small honorarium of $1000 for the session (12 days). No other support is offered. For Scholars who are accepted to the program, on-campus housing in university apartments is available for a reduced price ($42.00 nightly or $260 weekly, per person). Once admitted, Scholars may sign up for housing by filling out the appropriate form and sending it with payment to SPU's Conference Services. The course name is " Energy One 5013".

To apply, please fill out the 2013 I-RISE Application. The deadline is March 29, 2013. Admissions will be finalized by April 15, 2013.


Collaborators from around the country visit Seattle Pacific University during the academic year to observe and study our research methodologies, our approach to professional development, our pedagogical understanding of energy, and our theoretical development. Each of the following researchers has visited our team for at least one week of intensive collaboration.

Scholars-in-Residence visit Seattle Pacific University for a week or more of intensive collaboration with the Energy Project team on a specific topic of mutual interest. To apply, contact Rachel Scherr.

Previous scholars-in-residence:

Warren Christensen, Assistant Professor of Physics, North Dakota State University **

Emma Kahle, High School Student, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences

Beth Lindsey, Assistant Professor of Physics, Penn State Greater Allegheny

Vashti Sawtelle, Graduate Student, Florida International University, Miami

Eleanor Sayre, Assistant Professor of Physics, Wabash College, Crawfordsville

** Christensen’s visit was funded by a Scholar in Residence award from the Physics Education Research Topical Group of the American Association of Physics Teachers.





PHYSICSENERGYPROJECT@SPU.EDU • CALL: 206.286.7258 • FAX: 206.378.5400