The AAC&U Partnership with PKAL

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) has entered into a significant partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). The value of partnerships and collaborations as catalysts for meaningful change has been recognized from the earliest days of PKAL. We must collaborate; the time is too short and the task too great to do otherwise, was the challenge issued by the then Chairman of the House Science Committee at the conclusion of PKAL’s 1st National Colloquium, in 1991.

The AAC&U partnership builds from a shared vision of an undergraduate learning environment that prepares undergraduates for addressing the challenges they will face as leaders in the new global century. The major AAC&U LEAP initiative was developed through a multiyear dialogue with academic and business leaders about essential undergraduate learning outcomes. For the PKAL community, the insights from employers signal most compellingly the urgency of the task of transforming undergraduate STEM.

The partnership between AAC&U and PKAL was announced at the November AAC&U meeting, Engaging Science, Advancing Learning: General Education, Majors, and the New Global Century. Relative to this new partnership, comments from the assembly during the concluding session were a collective call for greater intentionality in sharing the kind of ‘aha’ resources (people, ideas and materials) that they were exposed to during the meeting. A plan is in place to capture some of the best ideas and translate them into adaptable resources for the broader partnership community by fall 2009. Most of the best ideas addressed institution-wide change initiatives:

  • articulating clear goals and assessing outcomes across the community of students; developing assessment instruments for cross-disciplinary knowledge and/or scientific habits of mind; taxonomies for assessing students’ abilities in critical and civic thinking; incorporating campus-wide co-curricular events into semester-long, service learning projects

  • organizing to align oft disjointed institutional efforts among faculty to improve students’ scientific and quantitative reasoning skills; developing institution-wide indicators of progress in engaging students; supporting formal learning communities (faculty and administrators) working as teams to design, implement and evaluate change initiatives related to departmental and/or institutional goals.

Further Resources

"Engaging Science Continued: What Institutions are Doing to Advance STEM Learning" is an initiative that follows from the November, 2008 AA&U sponsored meeting in Providence.The project is designed to collect and share ideas and thoughts from colleagues about what they and their institution are doing toward this end.
There will be a session on this project at the January AAC&U meeting in Washington DC with the goal of distilling out what are the challenges and examples of what works at institutions. You can contribute to the success of this project by offering your perspectives and completing the online survey on the blog.

Two important AAC&U resources released of interest to the PKAL community:

  • High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. George D. Kuh, 2008.
    What is it about these high-impact activities that appear to be so effective with students? First, these practices typically demand that students devote considerable time and effort to purposeful tasks; most require daily decisions that deepen students' investment in the activity…. Second, the nature of these high-impact activities puts students in circumstances that essentially demand they interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters, typically over extended periods of time.(Page 14)

  • On Campus with Women a quarterly online newsletter designed to provide information about women in higher education, focusing on issues and trends affecting academic leaders, faculty members, staff, and students. This particular issue focuses on scientific pedagogies that are proving successful in attracting white women and people of color to the sciences, and keeping them there, as well as luring non-science majors to increase their scientific literacy and love of science.