Occasional Paper II: What Works: Leadership— Challenges for the Future

Case study: What Works: Asking the Right Questions

Arthur J. Lidsky
Senior Consultant Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates, Inc.

There are four areas that must be addressed at the institutional level in order to make significant improvements in science and mathematics programs and to ensure those improvements have long-term impact. They are: mission and academic plan; teaching and research; curriculum, staffing and facilities; and process, organization and responsibilities.

In the spirit of Project Kaleidoscope, consider the following questions regarding your Mission and Academic Plan:

  • When did your institutions last revise or reaffirm its mission statement and academic plan?
  • Does your current academic plan address institutional size, number of faculty, curriculum, teaching and research issues?
  • Do the changes that you envision for the sciences fit within you planning context, in terms of number of faculty, staff, students, and curriculum?
  • Are your institutional priorities clearly evident from your mission statement and academic plan?

After considering mission and academic plan, the nest step is to ask more focused questions on the Teaching and Learning that happens at your institution:

  • How should you modify the way you teach so as to improve on the way you were taught, while adapting to current ideas, emerging technology, and institutional direction?
  • To what extent have science faculty at your college explored changes in teaching style and methodology?
  • What changes do you anticipate in teaching methodology?
  • Will students be expected to be involved with research projects a senior year project, for example?

Once you've considered what's at the heart of your institution, as articulated in your mission statement and enacted in the teaching and learning that takes place at your institution, the next step is to examine those systems which provide the necessary foundation Curriculum, Staffing, and Facilities:

  • Does your college's thinking about the sciences represent several different statements and visions of the future, or is it a single coordinated, division-wide vision?
  • How is your college adapting to the dissolution of the boundaries between the sciences today?
  • How can existing facilities support opportunities for new programs?
  • Do you anticipate changes in your general college curriculum that will have spatial implications? Staffing implications? Financial implications?

Any plan to improve science and mathematics must involve the administrative leadership in the Process, Organization, and Responsibilities associated with successful reform. Ask yourself:

  • What is the role of the chief academic officer in the planning of science and mathematics facilities and program improvements on your campus?
  • Have your college's president and development officer been involved in your planning process?
  • What type of resources should the college make available to support faculty in their quest to develop the most exciting, productive program, or the best facility?
  • Does the college need additional upper-level administrative staff to support these improvements?

The development of new programs for the sciences is exciting; we are at a time when this is occurring within both the disciplines and higher education generally. Asking these and related questions now will prepare you against asking later:

Why didn't we think of that before?