PKAL Volume IV: What Works, What Matters, What Lasts

Reflections on Leadership: The F21 Experience

PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

In 1997, members of the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century (PKAL F21) community were asked to reflect on the critical challenges (and opportunities) facing faculty leaders in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

A goal for the PKAL F21 network is to nurture leaders already making a difference and to enhance their capacity for leadership at the local and national level. Using the distinctions from Leadership Reconsidered, we define a leader as basically a change agent, one who fosters change, defining leadership as the process of fostering change.

The process of fostering change begins with questions about the future and for many years such questions have been woven throughout PKAL F21 activities. Four driving questions, emerging from planning the 2007 PKAL F21 National Assembly, are presented as a catalyst for F21 reflections in 2007 - 2008.

In 1996 - 1997, F21 members were to address a direct question about how they imagined the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Their responses anticipate some of today's pressing issues.

What is the most critical challenge or opportunity that undergraduate STEM faculty leaders will be facing in the 21st century? Responses (from 1997):

    One of the critical challenges...will involve balancing the acquisition of factual knowledge with the acquisition of critical thinking skills by our students. As the availability and accumulation of scientific knowledge increases, what is ‘critical' knowledge becomes opaque. It is even more daunting to imagine what such knowledge will be in ten to twenty years.
    – Veronique A. Delesalle– Professor of Biology & Chair of Environmental Studies, Gettysburg College

    We should pursue research in undergraduate mathematics and science learning, instruction and career development with the same vigor we pursue research in these fields. As we start to recognize the intricate relationship among multiple aspects of any one innovation, we would better understand the phenomenon of quality experiences for undergraduates. This is an opportunity to unite our wealth of knowledge in science and mathematics with a growing understanding of how students learn and various contexts come to understanding our fields. We cannot do this in ignorance of high-quality research in learning, teaching, and professional development at the undergraduate level.
    – Rose Mary Zbiek– Associate Professor of Mathematical Education, Pennsylvania State University, University Park

    One of the most substantial challenges likely to face undergraduate science and mathematics faculty in coming years may likely be the need to teach courses in a more interdisciplinary and contextual manner while maintaining depth and ‘vigor.' Most fields that students will be preparing for are multidisciplinary, be it medicine, engineering, science or business. Technologies used in many fields cut across traditional disciplines and require a broad-based education to use. ...Focused, in-depth learning promises to be as important as ever in the coming century as students will be dealing with evermore complex and interrelated issues.
    – Kevin D. Belfield– Associate Professor of Chemistry & Coordinator of the Industrial Chemistry Graduate Program, University of Central Florida