Occasional Paper I: What Works: A Research-Rich Environment

A Focus on the Context

Issues Raised:

Building strong undergraduate programs in science and mathematics is likely to be no more costly per degree produced than traditional approaches that result in high attrition.

Providing modest funding, on a matching basis, of some added costs of building and sustaining a strong undergraduate sector would be a cost-effective way for government and foundations to join in a new partnership with colleges and universities.

The undergraduate experience in the critical time to inspire the commitment of students to careers in science and mathematics, those who will become K-12 teachers, as well as those who will become corporate and civic leaders and professionals.

Discussions about the national context for undergraduate science and mathematics should always include the K-16 continuum.

Finding better indicators to predict success in graduate school would reduce dependence on the GRE√Ęs as a criterion for admission.

Moving from successful pilot projects to nation-wide reform could be facilitated by regional resource centers.

Publishers of educational materials should support the development of innovative course work.

  Recommendations:

Recognizing that an informed and supportive public is essential if we are to have an undergraduate science and mathematics community that serves the national purpose, we recommend:

  • Institutions and funding agencies work together to:
    • determine precisely what it will cost to build and sustain a strong undergraduate sector in science and mathematics
    • develop strategic priorities for allocation of financial resources
    • collect data on the impact of current reform efforts on individual students and campuses and use such data to determine a continuing national agenda for reform.
  • Professional societies endorse efforts of their members engaged in reforming undergraduate science and mathematics, and take the lead in supporting a renewed concept of the role of the teacher/scholar.
  • State policy makers and funders become active supporters of undergraduate science and mathematics reform.
  • Academic leaders, individually and collectively, take every appropriate opportunity to speak publicly about what works in strong undergraduate science and mathematics programs.