Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

The Interdisciplinary Undergraduate STEM Community

September 23, 2005

The asking of critical questions, from the experience of PKAL-active colleges and universities, is an important catalyst to galvanizing efforts to ensure:

  • all their undergraduates have access to robust learning experiences in science, mathematics and related fields (STEM)
  • such learning experiences inspire students to persist and succeed in the study of STEM fields and prepare them as professionals and citizens in a world in which science and technology have increasing influence on how we live, work, and interact.

The September 23, 2005 posting of Project Kaleidoscope Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts explores some questions to be raised as interdisciplinary programs that serve 21st century students, science and society are being considered, developed and assessed.

What will the future be in 2025?

PKAL leaders in 1995 were asked this question, in the context of preparing PKAL’s major publication on science facilities planning (PKAL Volume III). Such a question is now seen as the “backward mapping” approach to planning– figuring out where you want to be before figuring out how to get there. The 1995 responses to that question (see A Kaleidoscope of Thoughts on the Future) were remarkably prescient in their predictions of an increasing interdisciplinary world in which science/technology is practiced and thus must be learned.

What skills with the next generation of students need? What can educators do now to ensure that their graduates have the skills they need for future careers?

Experience and analyses alike suggest 21st century students will be living and working in a rapidly changing world. As indicated by recent calls for action by corporate leaders to transform math and science education however, even in a changing world there are specific skills required to be a contributing member of society/workplace. The skill sets identified by leaders outside the academy map quite well with learning goals valued by leading agents of change within the academy– particularly leaders transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment. These goals include: a depth of understanding in the field; the capacity to identify, pose, solve and explain interesting questions; the willingness to take risks and learn from failure; and more.

Setting goals for student learning in the context of developing interdisciplinary undergraduate STEM programs is receiving attention from disciplinary communities.

How do you get faculty unified under and "owning" a common vision of interdisciplinary programs?

These are the kind of nuts & bolts questions asked of Keck/PKAL consultants and addressed in the essay To Thrive and Prosper.