NC1207: Collaborative for Research on Food, Energy, and Water Education

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

NC1207: Collaborative for Research on Food, Energy, and Water Education

Duration: 10/01/2018 to 09/30/2023

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

There exists a clear and present need to innovate educational efforts focused on food, agriculture, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences education.  Efforts to recruit and prepare highly-skilled members of FANH workforce continue to fall short of the needs of industry (Goecker, Smith, Smith, & Goetz, 2010).  Additionally, there is evidence of significant limitations in what individuals know about FANH science-based issues, their underlying scientific dimensions, abilities to critically analyze and reason about them, or how these issues impact their lives (NRC, 2009). These challenges provide a rationale for sustained, systemic, and interdisciplinary education and outreach efforts focused on food, energy, and water (FEW) issues in a wide array of contexts, including K-12 classrooms, university settings, informal and non-formal learning environments, and in public spaces.  The emergence of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus (FEW-Nexus; FAO, 2014) presents a unique opportunity not only to re-envision these programmatic efforts, but also to engage in fundamental education research.  This research is critical to better understand how to optimally support youth and adults to become informed, scientifically-literate consumers, producers, voters, and policymakers regarding FEW issues that span the FANH sciences.  Our working hypothesis, and underlying assumption of this NC committee proposal, is that the FEW-Nexus affords a novel theoretical and analytical lens through which to both foster and understand science literacy from ‘cradle to grave’.

What is science literacy? The National Research Council defines science literacy as “knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity” (NRC, 1996, p. 192). A common interpretation of science literacy is that learners will naturally employ their knowledge of science to analyze and make effective decisions about challenging FEW issues. Conversations about science literacy often revolve around defining what and how much science everyone should know.  Yet, empirical research shows that this perspective is over-simplistic in its assumptions about the nature of knowledge and learning. To truly foster science literacy, it is necessary to go beyond simply helping individuals learn a pre- determined body of knowledge. The FEW challenges of today demand competencies with integrative problem-solving and decision-making grounded in the ability to account for and balance trade-offs and synergies within and across systems.  These processes will be critical to address the increasing challenge of feeding a growing human population sustainably with a finite supply of natural resources. As such, all learners must be actively supported to learn to leverage scientific knowledge and negotiate its intersection with social, cultural, and economic values to make science informed decisions about FEW issues.

However, little research has been conducted to understand how individuals develop science literacy through systems thinking.  The FEW Nexus serves as a conceptual framework used to describe and aid in addressing the complex interrelationships associated with coupled human-natural systems at local, regional, and global scales.  The interdependence and inter-linkages between water, energy, and food means that changes in one system can have far-reaching impacts in other systems, resulting in significant ecological, economic, social, and political consequences. The nexus serves as an analytical tool to understand the interplay between natural systems and their human dimensions.  While each of these represents a coherent system and unit of analysis in its own right, envisioning their interconnections as a ‘nexus’ aids in decision-making that span particular objectives, production and consumption pathways, and regulatory modes.  In short, the nexus idea affords greater ability to represent systems as holistic entities that go beyond a simple sum of their constituent parts.  To advance knowledge in this space, we propose a new 5-year Multistate research project that builds upon the efforts of our NCDC231 planning committee over the past two years. 

Reaching tomorrow’s FEW decision-makers in a systemic way involves innovating programming on many fronts.  All youth and adults must be prepared to examine complex FANH science-based FEW issues and make socially-responsible decisions, as well as be informed and empowered to influence contemporary conversations and challenges associated with FANH. To do so, they must develop core understanding of FANH sciences, non-scientific dimensions of FEW issues, and abilities to engage I principled and purposeful analysis and decision-making about them.  This knowledge base and skillset - science literacy - is crucial to maintain America’s global competitiveness and democratic foundations.  Land Grant institutions must take a leading role in fostering science literacy as a means of preparing all global citizens for the FEW challenges of today and tomorrow, including bolstering the national FANH sciences workforce.  However, few systematic education research efforts exist designed to study science literacy about FEW issues, or the interrelatedness between agriculture and natural resources stewardship.  Doing so will require interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations, which can be greatly facilitated by the proposed NCDC committee.  The 12-state North Central Region has many educators and scientists with expertise that can contribute to systemic education research efforts grounded in the Food-Energy-Water Nexus. As one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world, it is also home to many contemporary issues that span food, energy, and water, such as water resource management, adaptation to increasing climate variability, and sustainable energy production and consumption, each of which reflect the region’s unique “silos and smokestacks” history and heritage.  This committee will serve as a catalyst to engage a broader, national community of educators and scholars in education research and educational programming grounded in the FEW-Nexus.

These challenges at the center of the FEW-Nexus have significant implications for food, energy, and water education research in the North Central Region.  Efforts to foster science literacy through education and outreach must transcend the activities of individual teams to achieve collective, systemic impact and change.  Because of the wide diversity of FEW issues evidence in the North Central Region, from the High Plains to the Great Lakes and encompassing the entire upper Mississippi Basin, we are uniquely positioned to develop education and outreach programs and conduct empirical studies unified by core models, strategies, and commitments but implemented in diverse ways reflecting unique elements of localized FEW-Nexus issues.  Furthermore, the new NCDC would afford collaboration and coordination necessary to develop, implement, and study programming that spans institutions and states in North Central Region.  Ultimately, FEW issues in the North Central Region are connected to national and global FEW systems.  Thus, this new multistate effort has the strong potential to contribute to FEW education efforts that extend beyond the North Central Region, thus providing a nucleus for a growing network of educators and scientists committed to fostering and studying science literacy within the FEW Nexus.  

Cultivating and studying science literacy systemically at a regional level requires working together beyond individual teams and institutions in diverse ways that reflect the fundamental transdisciplinarity of the FEW Nexus.  The multistate and multidisciplinary approach provides an exceptional opportunity to develop collaborative projects in the North Central Region that will allow us to develop and implement comprehensive research programs directed specifically at producing empirical findings on science literacy around regional issues, delineating baseline data to be used as benchmarks over time to ascertain the effectiveness of new education and outreach programs, develop innovative tools to aid in regional responsiveness to emergent FEW issues, and to cultivate a network that could ultimately expand nationally and internationally to address FEW issues worldwide through effective, research-based educational methods and interventions.  Furthermore, such collaborative transdisciplinary and multi-institutional projects will greatly enhance the North Central Region stakeholder’s position to compete successfully for federal funding on FEW education, research, and outreach issues.




Related, Current and Previous Work

Water, energy and food are essential commodities that support human life on Earth. However, a rapidly growing human population is placing ever-growing demand on all three of these resources at a global scale.   It is predicted that food and energy production will need to expand by 50% or more in the next 20-30 years to meet growing demand.  Agriculture already accounts for 70% of global water use and 30% of energy use, both of which are projected to increase as demand grows and yields expand.  These trends will likely lead to increasing competition for resources and have significant implications for all facets of society, including economic development, poverty, international trade, education, and regulatory mechanisms that span public and private domains. The critical global problem of successfully feeding 2.4 billion more people by 2050 can only be solved by innovations in food, energy, water that span disciplinary boundaries. 

However, despite growing emphasis on the FEW-Nexus in the scientific community, the education component of these efforts has been underemphasized and under-represented, even in the face of compelling evidence for the very real and pressing global challenges in the FEW-Nexus, the need to foster science literacy in America’s citizenry, and necessity of meeting ever-evolving needs of the STEM workforce.  Though many FEW-Nexus workshops have been held nationwide in recent years, mostly supported through the INFEWS initiative (USDA-NIFA and NSF), none has focused on FEW-Nexus education and research.  The need for such work could not be greater.  Research has shown that understanding of FEW issues in the United States remains underdeveloped. For example, despite an emphasis on food, energy, and water in discipline-specific science standards (e.g., ESLI, 2010; NGSS Lead States, 2013; U.S. DoE, 2014), research has illustrated gaps in students’ knowledge of core FEW concepts across the K-16 continuum (e.g., Gunckel et al., 2012; Neumann et al., 2013; Pense, Leising, Portillo, & Igo, 2005). These misconceptions appear to carry forward into adulthood (e.g., PEW Research Center, 2015). Statistics such as these suggest a fundamental disconnect between the U.S. population and FEW systems of which they are a part. There is significant need for a systemic effort to study and enhance education and outreach efforts grounded in the FEW-Nexus through empirical research.  As such, the relatively recent emergence of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus (FAO, 2014) presents a unique opportunity through which to re-envision teaching and learning about FEW challenges of today and tomorrow, focusing on coupled and overlapping human-environmental systems. 

The problem solvers and innovators who will be charged with addressing challenges in the FEW-Nexus are currently in our universities, community colleges, and public schools. They are today’s students and tomorrow’s consumers, employees, teachers, voters, and policymakers, who must learn to make informed decisions about FEW issues in support of long-term sustainability and food security.  This knowledge base and skillset - science literacy - is a foundation for maintaining America’s global competitiveness and the focus of FEW education programming.  Internationally, this perspective is echoed in ongoing conversations about how global citizens should engage with disciplinary knowledge and practices. To truly foster science literacy, it is necessary to go beyond simply helping individuals learn a pre-determined body of knowledge. Instead, they must be actively supported to learn to leverage and employ this scientific knowledge, and negotiate its intersection with social, cultural, and economic values, to concretely identify relevant problems, evaluate real options for action, and move towards fundamentally different methods of accomplishing their goals. Science literacy, then, must foreground reasoning and decision-making about challenging real-world issues in the FEW-Nexus and how individuals mobilize science to support this process.  Leveraging perspectives in science education (e.g., Bybee, McCrae, & Laurie, 2009; Feinstein,  2010;  Rudolph,  2014)  and  the  decision  sciences (Arvai et al., 2004), we define science literacy as an enhanced capacity, both at the individual and collective levels, to make effective decisions grounded in STEM-informed analyses of complex, real-world challenges in the FEW-Nexus. 

The proposed NCDC will be novel and innovative in its framing, activities, and anticipated impact.  Existing projects focus on more targeted subsets of education and education research in the FEW-Nexus.  For example, S1071, NCAC24, and W2006 focus exclusively on food systems education with a particular emphasis on K-12 audiences.  S_temp1078 and NCCC9 focus on decision support for agriculture and natural resources stakeholders.  NC_temp1207 will enable a research community context that encompasses these areas but with a broader focus on FEW systems and their human dimensions in a wider array of educational contexts, including K-12, postsecondary, and informal/non-formal. 





  1. Investigate and develop knowledge of how individuals reason and learn in the context of the FEW-Nexus
  2. Investigate and develop knowledge of how individuals’ reasoning and learning be supported through instruction, curriculum, and other elements of educational programming in the context of the FEW-Nexus
  3. Investigate and develop knowledge of empirical methods, instruments, and designs that optimize research on FEW-Nexus educational outcomes and approaches
  4. Investigate and develop knowledge of how empirical findings help elaborate the FEW-Nexus as a framework for teaching and learning


The proposed 5-year Multistate Committee involves education research and program evaluation to empirically address project objectives.  The overarching methodology can be framed as design-based empirical research (Brown, 1992; Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, 2004; Edelson, 2002) in which educational programming and empirical research play mutually constitutive and iterative roles.  Design-based research has a crucial role to play in initial attempts to translate novel, theoretically-informed design principles into tangible educational interventions.  Proposed project research is grounded in best practices in educational research spanning early-stage to fully developed educational programs and interventions (U.S. Dept. of Education/NSF, 2013).  Within the 5-year project period, we propose two primary activities: a) a national invited conference focused on FEW-Nexus education research and b) collaborative research on FEW-Nexus education efforts.  

NC-FEW National Invited Conference

To enhance systemic research efforts in pursuit of the committee’s objectives, we held an invited conference focused on research on education in the context of the FEW-Nexus in May, 2018.  NCDC231 committee members played a central role in a) obtaining $70k in external funding to support the conference and b) planning and facilitating the invited conference.  In doing so, the committee built upon a set of core themes driving both FEW-Nexus education research identified as part of the invited symposium and NCDC231 meeting in April, 2017:

  1. Reposition the pursuit of food, energy, water education in context of pressing localized problems with global significance (Learning as Participation)
  2. Prioritize efforts that attend to equitable and accessible participation in food, water, energy learning, planning, and problem solving (Equity and Accessibility)
  3. Priority for research around the food, water, energy nexus education in context of the relationship between humans, landscapes, and systems (Building New Knowledge)

In advance of the conference, the committee developed and administered a nationwide survey to FEW educators and education researchers on these three priority themes.  Based upon results from this survey, we identified themes and contexts that were used to structure and organize the conference:


  • Systems thinking
  • Argumentation, evidence-based reasoning
  • Citizen science
  • Contextualized and localized issues
  • Equity and environmental justice
  • Decision-making, STEM literacy, civic engagement
  • Interdisciplinary training

Educational Contexts:

  • Higher education and postsecondary settings
  • Teacher education and professional development
  • K-12 student learning in formal classroom settings
  • Informal/non-formal/public settings

The conference also featured three national invited speakers with expertise related to education research grounded in the FEW-Nexus:

  • Rachel Melnick, USDA-NIFA and Tom Torgersen, NSF
  • Kacy Redd (APLU/NSEC)
  • Jeff Weld, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

The invited conference focused on activities and interactions that will advance NC-FEW goals, including the development of a Research Coordination Network (RCN) to the National Science Foundation/USDA-NIFA in September, 2018.  The final conference agenda is included with this proposal.  

 Project Research

Second, to investigate research questions and project objectives, we will collect a diverse set of data during the project.  Data is largely expected to be collected within the bounds of current and future FEW education research projects led by committee members.   Many of these are externally-funded projects that focus on specific topics within the FEW-Nexus.  For example, Forbes’ WELS2 (USDA-NIFA) and WELL (NSF) projects focus on education research and evaluation of water education efforts in K-12 and undergraduate contexts.  Data anticipated to be collected include surveys, assessments, interviews, observations and video-recordings, educational artifacts, and other evidence of learning, instruction, and/or program design.  These data sources will be coupled with demographic data of participants in FEW-Nexus educational programs, including age, gender, SES, educational attainment, etc.  Data collection methods and sources will reflect the particular design, participants, and implementation timelines of various FEW-Nexus educational programs.  Published articles and other forms of primary literature will serve as data for literature reviews and meta-analysis.  

Data analysis will involve both quantitative and qualitative methods to address research questions within the bounds of the four committee objectives.  Consistent with the design-based research paradigm in which project methods are grounded, research will be conducted largely within and through various kinds of educational programming.  Statistical analyses will involve the use of parametric and non-parametric tests to compare groups and treatment, as well as investigate change over time of outcomes associated with project objectives (e.g., Crocker & Algina, 2006; Sondergeld & Johnson, 2014; Wilson, 2005). Committee members will also employ more complex statistical models, such as regression, Rausch analyses, classical test theory, multilevel models, and meta-analyses.  Qualitative analytical methods (e.g., Merriam, 2009; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Patton, 2001) will include a broad array of analytical approaches, including content analysis, grounded theory, discourse analysis, literature review, and ethnography.  This list is non-exhaustive.  Finally, mixed methods research methods (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011) will be used to address project objectives and answer research questions that require findings derived from both quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as the integration of the two.  This highly diverse array of methodological approaches is consistent with standards for high-quality education research and will be necessary to address complex questions of teaching and learning in the FEW-Nexus. 

We next outline specific research methods as they apply to the four project objectives:

  1. Investigate and develop knowledge of how individuals reason and learning in the context of the FEW-Nexus

A wide variety of assessments and tasks will be used to evaluate and characterize individuals’ reasoning and learning on the context of the FEW-Nexus.  Assessments will be scored and analyzed using statistical methods to assess learning during as part of an array of educational interventions, as well as to compare growth across multiple timescales and projects.  Such scoring may include standard, single-response items, as well as open-ended item types scored using rubrics based upon theoretical perspectives on learning and reasoning in the FEW-Nexus.   Student tasks may also be analyzed qualitatively, including student assessment, artifacts, and transcribed interviews, and video recorded samples of instruction and learning.   Qualitative analyses will be grounded in extant frameworks, including the use of explicit codes grounded in theoretical perspectives on learning and reasoning in the FEW-Nexus.  We will establish inter-rater reliability between scorers by jointly scoring sub-samples of relevant data. This diagnostic information will be used to refine the scoring rubric over the course of the project.  Code queries will be performed to identify and isolate subsets of coded data.  This secondary data analysis will aid in grouping qualitative data for each of the individual codes.  To make sense of patterns in data for each of these eight learning performances, we will engage in a stepwise process of data representation, reduction, and verification (Marshall & Rossman, 1999; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Patton, 2001; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to characterize and describe patterns in students reasoning and learning in the context of FEW-Nexus focused educational contexts and programs.  As definitive patterns emerge, the data will be reduced to isolate and illustrate key themes within and across the codes.  We will test emergent themes by seeking and accounting for conflicting data that contradicts claims individuals’ learning and reasoning.  This process will continue until dominant patterns are refined and substantiated.

  1. Investigate and develop knowledge of how individuals’ reasoning and learning be supported through instruction, curriculum, and other elements of educational programming in the context of the FEW-Nexus

A key element of project research will be to establish linkages between individuals’ reasoning and learning (obj #1) and specific components of educational programming (obj #2).  The Multistate project enables comparative empirical research across institutions that help provide comparison groups for quasi-experimental and experimental research designs.  Empirical work under this objective will involve many of the same specific methods as already outlines.  However, to examine the impact of educational programs on learner outcomes, we draw upon a Utilization Focused Evaluation (UFE; Patton, 2012) framework as an overarching perspective on program evaluation.  UFE provides an evaluative process through which to facilitate learning and development in the systems under study by focusing on the utility of evaluation products by intended users.  In this way, insights gained from evaluative components serve to inform collective decision-making by all stakeholders.   At the heart of the UFE process lie specific activities traditionally associated with program evaluation, including data collection and analyses.  However, UFE does not prescribe any specific content, method, or theory and, as a guiding framework as opposed to a methodology, it can be comprised of a wide variety of evaluation methods within an overall participatory paradigm. 


  1. Investigate and develop knowledge of empirical methods, instruments, and designs that optimize research on FEW-Nexus educational outcomes and approaches

A primary goal of the committee’s work will be to identify and pilot new instruments for measuring outcomes of FEW-Nexus educational programming.  This work will involve a) exploration of existing research designs, methods, and instruments from a diverse array of disciplines and b) development and pilot-testing of new instruments for measuring these outcomes.  For any newly-developed and implemented instruments, we will engage in instrument validation and reliability testing grounded in methods associated with both IRT and Rasch modeling (Wilson, 2005) and Classical Test Theory (Crocker & Algina, 2006).  General test statistics will be reported to describe the variance of scores, including the mean, range, standard deviation, standard error of the mean, and score distribution on both pre- and post-unit administrations of the assessment.  We will calculate Cronbach’s a values for instruments and item subsets to ascertain overall instrument reliability.  If a given instrument provides measures of multiple dimensions associated targeted outcomes, we will calculate a values to analyze the internal consistency of item subsets intended to align with and provide measures of particular theoretical constructs.  To estimate how close student scores for these item subsets are to the true score, we will also calculate the standard error of measurement (SEM) for item subsets.  In cases where a given instrument is administered multiple times, we will be able to determine instrument stability, or test-retest reliability, by calculating Pearson Product-Moment Correlations between scores for the two administrations. 

  1. Investigate and develop knowledge of how empirical findings help elaborate the FEW-Nexus as a framework for teaching and learning

As a relatively recently-envisioned construct, the FEW-Nexus remains relatively untested as a theoretical perspective on education and education research.  A primary goal of the committee’s work will be to interrogate current perspectives on the FEW-Nexus as they aid in implementing and studying FEW-Nexus educational programs.  For example, what are attainable outcomes for individuals’ learning and reasoning as they apply to the FEW-Nexus, but also discipline-specific expectations for learning at multiple ages?  A beginning task for the committee’s work will be to ‘crosswalk’ existing curricular standards from STEM disciplines, agricultural education, environmental education, and other sources (including the social sciences) to identify primary areas of emphasis for Nexus-based educational programs.  We plan to produce a coherence matrix that aligns educational outcomes of FEW-Nexus educational programming with existing standards for various audiences at various ages. Once identified, these priority themes can serve as focal points for targeted literature reviews using appropriate and effective methods.  For example, two promising areas of emphasis for educational programming grounded in the FEW-Nexus include a) systems thinking and b) informed decision-making.  Both could serve as primary educational outcomes of Nexus-based educational programming but demand more empirically-informed theoretical development as core components of an overarching perspective on FEW-Nexus education. 

Results of these analyses will submitted for presentations at national and international conferences and for publication in peer-reviewed journals.  They will also be disseminated to educators, outreach specialists, and others who implement education and outreach programs grounded in FEW-Nexus systems, topics, and concepts.  Additionally, they will provide a vehicle for new collaborations among committee members, empirical evidence upon which new proposals for FEW education research projects can developed for submission to Federal grant programs, and contribute to knowledge about ‘best practices’ in FEW education and outreach programs nationwide. 

Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Data from empirical research on FEW-Nexus education and outreach efforts
  • A concrete mission statement and set of objectives for a FEW-Nexus education research network
  • Replicable model of intra-institutional FEW-Nexus education research team-building strategy
  • Dissemination and recruitment plan (identification of and plan of action for engaging with professional communities spanning FEW-Nexus education research interests)

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Empirical research results to address project objectives
  • Increased capacity for NC-FEW to impact FEW-Nexus educational programming at institutional and national levels
  • External funding to enhance sustainability and impact of NC-FEW (e.g., an NSF grant for a Research Coordination Network)


(2018):Each member of the committee will self-select one or more research strands from project objectives to pursue. This ongoing research process includes multiple studies across a variety of institutions and states. The research team will meet regularly to share findings, plan collaborative studies, and conduct FEW-Nexus education research. As an iterative process, there will be ongoing and reoccurring research activities as summarized in the timeline, based upon approval of the proposed Multistate Research Committee.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

Over the first year of our NCDC231 planning committee period, our committee has pursued an active agenda of dissemination and pursuit of external funding. We prioritized securing funds for an invited conference in 2018, including APLU funds through NSEC ($10,500 awarded), a $30K conference grant proposal to USDA-NIFA HEC program (preliminary notification of award), and a $10,000 UNL ARD innovation seed grant (preliminary notification of award). To leverage these efforts, we have focused our dissemination efforts on a diverse array of professional organizations that reflect the disciplinary homes of committee members and have a firm interest in FEW-Nexus education research.  These organizations include:

  • American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE)
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • European Science Education Research Association (ESERA)
  • Geological Society of America (GSA)
  • International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS)
  • National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
  • National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)
  • National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
  • North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
  • North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA)
  • National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT)
  • Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER)


Each of these organizations has a national conference associated with it, as well as high-visibility, peer-review journals for dissemination of project-related research.  In the past year, committee members have begun to engage with these communities to increase visibility for NC-FEW: 

Forbes, C.T. & Li, C. (accepted).  A national collaborative for food, energy, and water education.  Symposium to be held at the 2017 annual meeting of the North American Association of Environmental Education, San Juan, PR. 

Forbes, C.T. (invited, 2017, June).  A national collaborative for food, energy, & water education: Opportunities and strategic visioning.  Invited presentation at the 2017 annual meeting of the National Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC), New Orleans, LA.

Forbes, C.T., Foster, D., Millenbah, K., Scherer, H., & Wang, H-H. (2017, June).  A national collaborative for food, energy, and water education.  Paper presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA), West Lafayette, IN.

Forbes, C.T. & Scherer, H. (2017, July).  Education in the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus: A transdisciplinary community.  Paper presented at the 2017 Earth Educators’ Rendezvous, Albuquerque, NM. 

Forbes, C.T. (invited, 2016, April). Cultivating science literacy in the nexus: Multidisciplinary STEM education across food, energy, and water. Invited presentation at 2016 Annual Symposium of the Global Food Security Consortium, Iowa State University, Ames, IA.

Forbes, C.T. (2016, July). Science literacy for the 21st Century: An institutional initiative to science-informed decision-making about food, energy, and water.  Presentation at the 2016 Summer Institute, Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities, Chicago, IL. 

Forbes, C.T., Dauer, J., Dauer, J., & Keshwani, J. (2016, January).  Grow, eat, learn: Fostering science literacy through food, energy, and water in Nebraska and beyond.  Poster presented at the 16th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment: The Food-Energy-Water Nexus, Washington, DC. 

Each of these organizations is also affiliated with high-visibility, peer-review journals.  For example, one concrete plan that emerged from the invited conference involves a literature review/meta analysis of FEW-Nexus education research in informal/nonformal educational contexts.  A small working group was established to advance this work.  For empirical work conducted by committee members more broadly, we will emphasize some or all of the following journals for dissemination of project-related research:

  • CBE-Life Sciences
  • Environmental Education Research
  • Geosphere
  • International Journal of Science Education
  • International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education
  • Journal of Agricultural Education
  • Journal of Environmental Education
  • Journal of Environmental and Science Education
  • Journal of Extension
  • Journal of Geoscience Education
  • Journal of the Learning Sciences
  • Journal of Science Teacher Education
  • Journal of Research in Science Teaching
  • NACTA Journal


We will also disseminate project activities on the NCDC231 website:

The invited conference, held in May, 2018, provided fertile ground for discussions about future grant proposals.  The project committee will develop and submit an INFEWS RCN proposal in September, 2018, with the express purpose of continued support for NC-FEW. Given other sources of support for the conference and interest of conference participants, we anticipate the development of additional proposals to Federal agencies focused on undergraduate education grounded in the FEW-Nexus.  There are many opportunities for innovative and impactful projects in this space and we anticipate that NC-FEW will continue to help catalyze proposals over time. 


This committee will use the standard form of committee governance as outlined in the Guidelines for Multistate Research Activities. Committee leadership will be established as follows:

* Chair: Responsible for organizing the meeting agenda, conducting the meeting, and assuring that task assignments are completed.

* Chair-elect: Supports the chair by carrying out duties assigned by the chair. The chair-elect serves as the chair in the absence of the elected chair.

* Secretary: Responsible for the distribution of documents prior to the meeting and for keeping records on decisions made at meetings (a.k.a. keeping the minutes).


The committee will hold elections for Chair, Chair-elect, and Secretary at the final meeting of the NCDC231 Planning Committee meeting, currently scheduled for spring/early summer 2018.  


The complete list of committee members is detailed in the NIMSS Appendix E. In addition to carrying out the agreed research collaboration, research coordination, information exchange, or advisory activities, project members are responsible for reporting progress, contributing to the ongoing progress of the activity, and communicating their accomplishments to the committee’s members and their respective employing institutions.


Administrative guidance will be provided by Archie Clutter, Dean and Director, Agricultural Research Division, UNL (assigned AA)

Literature Cited

Arvai, J.L., Campbell, V.E.A., Baird, A., Rivers, L. (2004). Teaching students to make better decisions about the environment: Lessons from the decision sciences. The Journal of Environmental Education, 36, 33–44.

Brown, A. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.

Bybee, R., McCrae, B., Laurie, R. (2009). PISA 2006: An assessment of scientific literacy. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(8), 865-883.

Collins, A., Joseph, D., & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 15-42.

Creswell, J. W. & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications

Crocker, L. & Algina, J. (2006).  Introduction to classical and modern test theory.  Wadsworth.

Edelson, D. (2002). Design research: What we learn when we engage in design. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11(1), 105-121.

Earth Science Literacy Initiative. (2010). Earth science literacy principles guide: The big ideas and supporting concepts of Earth Science.

FAO. (2014). The water-energy-food nexus: A new approach in support of food security and sustainable agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Feinstein, N. (2010). Salvaging science literacy. Science Education, 95(1), 168-185.

Goecker, A. D., Smith, P. G., Smith, E., & Goetz, R. (2010). Employment opportunities for college graduates in food, renewable energy, and the environment: United States, 2010-2015. Purdue University.

Gunckel, K. L., Covitt, B. A., Salinas, I., & Anderson, C. W. (2012). A learning progression for water in socio-ecological systems. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(7), 843-868.

Merriam, S. B. (2009).  Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation.  San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994).  Early steps in analysis.  In M.B. Miles & A.M. Huberman (Eds.), Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed., pp. 50-89).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

National Research Council. (2009). Transforming agricultural education for a changing world. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

Neumann, K., Viering, T., Boone, W.J., & Fischer, H.E. (2013).  Towards a learning progression of energy.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 50(2), 162-188.

NGSS Lead States (2013). Next generation science standards. For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Patton, M. Q. (2001). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pense, S. L., Leising, J. G., Portillo M. T., & Igo, C. G. (2005). Comparative assessment of student agricultural literacy in selected agriculture in the classroom programs.  Journal of Agricultural Education, 46(3), 107-118.  doi: 10.5032/jae.2005.03107

Pew Research Center (2015). A look at what the public knows and does not know about science.

Rudolph, J. L. (2014). Dewey’s “Science as Method” a century later: Revising science education for civic ends. American Educational Research Journal, 51(6), 1056-1083.

Sondergeld, T. A., & Johnson, C. C. (2014). Using Rasch measurement for the development and use of affective assessments in science education research. Science Education, 98(4), 581-613.

U.S. Department of Education. (2013). Common guidelines for education research and development.  Washington, DC. 

U.S. Department of Energy (2014). Energy literacy: A framework for energy education for learners of all ages.  Washington, DC: U.S. DoE.

Wilson, M. (2005). Constructing measures: An item response modeling approach. Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Log Out ?

Are you sure you want to log out?

Press No if you want to continue work. Press Yes to logout current user.

Report a Bug
Report a Bug

Describe your bug clearly, including the steps you used to create it.