2008 PKAL Roundtable on the Future Undergraduate STEM Learning Environment

Questions for the Next Decade

We are at a watershed moment in thinking about the ideal undergraduate STEM facility.

This is a watershed moment because answers to many of the questions that drove the work of those planning, designing, and building new spaces for undergraduate research and learning over the past decade are becoming visible— cast in concrete. College and university spaces for science built and/or planned recently illustrate answers to questions such as how to:

  • connect space planning to our institutional vision?
  • accommodate 21st century pedagogies that serve 21st century students?
  • incorporate 21st century science and technology?
  • ensure our spaces are agile and adaptable, easy and cost-effective to maintain over the long-haul and are themselves laboratories for learning?
  • use the process of planning— as well as the product of our planning— to build and sustain community?

At the 2008 PKAL Roundtable on the Future STEM Learning Environment, participants will examine a range of projects (recently completed or in planning/construction) that illustrate creative answers to such questions in how they:

  • addressed concerns and opportunities in regard to interdisciplinarity in a research-rich learning environment
  • give attention to research on learning in the process of shaping new spaces for science
  • accommodate 21st century science and technologies
  • use contemporary construction materials and techniques that reduce cost of initial
  • construction and/or maintenance over the long-term and are environmentally sensitive
  • enhance institutional distinction.

The intent of the 2008 Roundtable is to produce a new set of questions to be addressed over the next several years by those responsible for the quality and character of undergraduate spaces for STEM learning. Distinct from questions asked then and now, we will be outlining questions for the next decade.

The schedule is shaped in anticipation of questions to “push the edge” in regard to how and why to arrive at spaces that:

  • accommodate and facilitate interdisciplinary learning
  • respect the power of technologies as a tool for learning and building communities of practice
  • reflect the impact of research on learning on space design
  • celebrate the centrality of science within the undergraduate learning environment for all students.

The goal of the Roundtable is that everyone with ideas about or responsibility for the quality of space and learning in undergraduate STEM communities contributes to thinking about the questions for the next decade. If the opening insight about a “watershed” moment is on target, the Roundtable will be of value to two (or perhaps three) audiences:

  • as with all PKAL facilities planning activities, it will serve teams from campuses in the early stages of space planning (individual classrooms and labs, new construction, renovation or addition) or just beginning to think about new spaces for the future. The driver for PKAL is always that local change initiatives always benefit from knowing how others addressed similar projects; nowhere has this proved more true than in the arena of facilities planning.
  • it will also serve the community of professionals (architects, planners, construction firms) for whom the academic community is the “client.” Having everyone on the same page— knowing the questions for the next decade about who the students are, where the science is going, how to use 21st century materials and tools most creatively— will add to the efficiency and creativity of the process from beginning to end.

  • and the Roundtable can serve to inform the larger community of stakeholders about what works when a vision of the future drives the planning of spaces for science for the next decade.