Volume V: Then, Now & In the Next Decade

What works: Leadership in Catalyzing Collaborations Toward STEM Reform

Increasingly, when reforms take root and flourish at the campus level, it is because academic leaders are bringing local communities of interest together to wrestle with the politics and the process of change. At the campus level, such politics and processes are merely those of dissemination, getting people open to new ideas, to exploring and piloting different practices and policies, to implementing and assessing new initiatives and to determine what works, how, and why. Early in PKAL’s days, Uri Treisman challenged the community to understand deeply something about the process of change and how to translate an idea into action. An adaptation of his paper offers advice for contemporary leaders of organizational change.

National educational and disciplinary societies have a very critical role to play in the larger effort to catalyze collaborating communities. These groups have the influence and the prestige to see that their members have opportunity to bring their expertise to bear on the difficult questions facing our society.

What is happening in the world of disciplinary societies and educational associations? A few notes:

  • An ad-hoc group (DSEA [Disciplinary Society and Education Association Alliance]) meets irregularly in Washington to share ideas, best practices, and lessons learned in their activities to mobilize their members toward strengthening undergraduate STEM programs, faculties, resources, and connections. The DSEA report shared in June 2009 with NSF colleagues can be seen here.

    Note the range of services provided by the various societies: from documenting disciplinary learning outcomes to organizing regional workshops on undergraduate research to providing web-resources (curricular and pedagogical).
  • At the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) January 2010 annual meeting, several sessions will be an opportunity to explore some PKAL lessons learned over the past two decades about leadership in catalyzing collaborations, as well as some thoughts about the future—recognizing the emerging partnership between PKAL and AAC&U. Each of the formal PKAL workshops and sessions will be interactive, drawing out and distilling best ideas from participants about what works, whether it be in the realm of leadership development, assessing student learning, or shaping and reshaping lower-level STEM courses.
  • In July, with support from NSF, AAAS hosted a conversation on “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education,” perhaps a first-ever convening of biologists across the spectrum to connect around issues of what the 21st century biology student should come to know and be able to do—as a result of their undergraduate learning experiences. Recognizing the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of undergraduate STEM learning, this report should be of interest to all.
  • In September, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) hosted a Congressional Briefing focusing on the need (and opportunities) for increasing diversity in the field of mathematics: MAA Congressional Briefing to Stress Diversity in Mathematics. Recognizing that increasing the diversity of the community of undergraduate STEM learners is a common commitment, this report should be of interest to all.