PKAL Pedagogies of Engagment

With a pilot grant from the National Science Foundation, in 2008 – 2009 Project Kaleidoscope undertook a series of activities that build from and extend the experiences and expertise of formal and informal networks in the realm of pedagogical exploration and reform. This unique pedagogical initiative reflects PKAL’s theory of change, based on the hypothesis that while introduction of individual STEM faculty to new pedagogical approaches has succeeded in motivating significant numbers of early adapters to change their teaching practices, such efforts are not sufficient to galvanize adaptation of these approaches by larger numbers of STEM faculty across the nation.

Based on research on learning, as well as on organizational change and PKAL’s two-decade experience with educational reform, we are convinced that faculty, like students, learn best when they address new ideas and approaches within a diverse and supportive “community of practice.” We are convinced that just as students learn better in community than in isolation, so do faculty. Just as learning of students is deeper when there is intentional movement within a collaborating team from novice learner to expert learner, so learning of faculty about new curricular and pedagogical approaches and the process of change is most effective when faculty become personally engaged, when they come to shape their own learning. Further, we are convinced that there must be visible and active engagement of administrative colleagues—in various spheres of responsibility—in these STEM communities of practice.

Thus, attention to existing formal and informal networks of STEM leaders and stakeholders is the centerpiece of this initiative. We believe networks are key for a variety of reasons: they are designed to serve colleges and universities facing similar problems and opportunities. They enable collaborative efforts by faculty and administrators who understand local and regional cultures. They encourage a feeling of responsibility to a larger group that promotes participation and achievement. They offer economies of scale in planning and managing major initiatives.

The networks formally involved as PKAL Collaborating Partners (NOTE: LINKS TO MORE ON EACH):

  • Appalachian Colleges Association (ACA)
  • Atlanta PKAL Regional [GA]
  • Connecticut Council of Independent Colleges (CCIC)
  • Minnesota State College and Universities (MnSCU)
  • PortPKAL [OR]

This project reflects the re-articulation in 2004 of PKAL’s vision, goals, strategies and actions that undergirds planning for PKAL’s future and expands PKAL’s exploration of what works. The aim here is to bring provocative ideas into the community of stakeholders about the potential of collaborative efforts to advance our common vision of undergraduate STEM in the service of students, science and society and to mobilize greater collaborations toward that end.

A major collaborating partner in this PKAL initiative is SERC, the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College. This partnership is a critical leveraging of complementary on-line resources: SERC’s online collection of pedagogic modules and faculty development activities and PKAL’s archive of essays, reports and stories about the theory , practice, and leadership of pedagogical and organizational change.

The visible products of this initiative include (NOTE: LINKS TO MORE ON EACH OF THESE):

  • A PKAL/SERC collection of resources for pedagogical agents of change (faculty) and champions of pedagogical change (administrators)
  • A SERC-facilitated process for exploring, developing, sharing and assessing pedagogical explorations
  • An emerging PKAL Theory of Change
  • A template for a memo of understanding (MOU) for collaborative efforts
  • A Handbook for Workshop Planning
  • A Handbook for Pedagogic Agents of Change and Champions (under construction)
  • A bibliography of critical resources for pedagogical agents of change and their champions. (NOTE: this is the same list that we had in the 2009 proposal. )