Then, Now & In the Next Decade
Pedagogies of Engagement
With support from NSF, PKAL is undertaking a coordinated series of activities that build from and extend the experience and expertise of formal and informal collaborating networks working to promote excellence in undergraduate STEM learning within their constituency. The broader impact of this project is that it moves the locus of transformational change to a focus on student learning goals at the broad institutional and consortial level, away from an individual faculty member. Further, it leverages resident expertise within networks and within PKAL to accomplish larger goals relative to STEM learning than could be accomplished in isolation. The intellectual merit is its explicit connection between research-based learning strategies that strengthen undergraduate learning and “change” strategies that strengthen faculty interest and capacity in the realm of pedagogies of engagement.
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Facilitating Interdisciplinary Learning
Facilitating interdisciplinary (ID) learning of undergraduates is of current concern to leaders shaping contemporary undergraduate STEM learning environments. With support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, a new PKAL initiative is focusing on specific challenges to facilitating ID learning: how to identify, design, implement and assess curricula that cuts across, links, and integrates traditional disciplinary communities and to establish operational and structural policies and practices that supports ID learning over the long-term. The intent is to develop learning environments that are responsive to student interest in real-world problems and to prepare students for a workplace in which problems are not cast in disciplinary silos. Throughout this initiative, PKAL and participating colleagues will explore how students learn in interdisciplinary STEM learning environments.
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PKAL, from the very first day, has understood the importance of leaders in building and sustaining institutional cultures that nurture colleagues (students, faculty, administrators and staff) who have a broad vision that reflects the changing institutional context and is inspired by a sense of mission; are able and willing to explore new approaches, ask hard questions, engage in collective inquiry, learn from failures; are committed to making a difference— for their students, their institutional and professional communities and the world beyond the campus. Attention to identifying, exploring and enhancing skills and strengths of leaders and leadership teams is woven throughout all PKAL initiatives. From the NSF-funded Leadership Initiative (2004-2007), a rich set of resources on leadership development has been developed and presented on the PKAL website; resources include essays from the field on theories and practices of STEM leadership, reports and reflections from individual and institutional agents of change with experience in shaping programs and spaces, and data about what works. PKAL hosts (by application) a summer leadership institute for members of the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century.
Collaborations & Networks
Over the past several years, the work of PKAL has been enriched and extended through collaborative efforts with a wide range of “near-peer” networks, recognizing that collaborations are powerful “agents of change.” What we are learning validates research on dissemination: how ideas evolve, emerge and are enhanced when like-minded colleagues pursue a common vision. This research also speaks directly to the impact of “near-peers” on influencing and persuading others to explore, adapt and assess approaches having demonstrable impact on strengthening STEM learning at all levels. The range and diversity of networks and collaborations now making a difference at the undergraduate level is remarkable; dissolving boundaries of discipline, geography, spheres of responsibility and career stage as they work to transform the undergraduate STEM learning environment in this country.
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