Networks

PKAL's most recent network-building activity was supported, in 2002 - 2005, by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-secondary Education. The intent was to provide a mechanism for individuals and institutions to interact with and remain in formal contact with colleagues with a common interest in exploring, developing and sharing the best practices in a specific arena of reform (pedagogies, undergraduate research, K-16 connections, etc.). From the first, PKAL has itself been a network, with the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century the earliest and most formal. The DSEA network is being recognized as a critical opportunity for intelligence sharing. The goal of all these networks is to foment meaningful change by giving people time and place to talk about what works and what does not work for them (and why), so that the work of STEM leaders proceeds most effectively and efficiently.

Claims from the evaluation of the FIPSE-funded PKAL networks:

  • The content of web-based networks has to be clear and of perceived value to potential and active participants.
  • Local and regional STEM networks have a huge opportunity for success (not yet fully realized) to serve as a bridge across educational levels.
  • Networks of STEM educators need not have many members to provide value to participants; indeed, a smaller network with a clearer focus allows for greater self-selection and higher satisfaction among members.
  • Networks of STEM educators do not succeed without one committed champion who is typically competent with communication technologies and is organizationally inclined.
  • It works best when, prior to debuting a network, to apply simple concepts from marketing to determine who would most likely benefit from participating.
  • As an initiative strategy, it is more efficient to build on existing networks than to create new ones.
  • STEM education networks need to recognize both the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for belonging.