Report on Reports

8. From Analysis to Action... 1996 - National Research Council




Undergraduate education is faced with the challenge of teaching students the integrated relationship of disciplines across the curriculum.

…The functional connections among disciplines also can be powerfully illustrated by incorporating experiential learning opportunities into the classroom. Projects that apply skills and information being learned in class help students make connections with the real world around them. Collaborations with businesses, industry and the community through class projects, internships and field trips broaden student understanding of the material and the variety of areas for which it is important.

…In order for dramatic curricular change of this nature to occur on an institutional level, a commitment from the institution is necessary, not just from the faculty or students.

– PKAL F21 Statement, 2002.


The 1996 report Analysis to Action resulted from an extended study by the Committee on Education at the National Research Council. Their goal was to identify key questions and explore all facets of the undergraduate STEM community toward the end of establishing…a common vision of what undergraduate preparation in these vital subjects should be, and how higher education can achieve that vision. A convocation at the National Academy of Sciences was the culmination of the year-long effort; 300 reformers and supporters of reform gathered to distill from that study recommendations that would spur the larger community.

This PKAL report on reports is intended to be a resource for communities moving from analysis to action. Thus, in addition to presenting for your consideration key recommendations included in the NRC report, we also include a question and comments about one of the pressing issues now facing our society: preparing graduates for careers in an increasingly technological workplace.

Question:What are the best avenues for professional development for faculty who are involved with educating future members of the technical workforce?

Comment: Advisory councils from industry can help shape educational programs in colleges and universities. The education of future technicians highlights a major challenge facing higher education: placing content in context. Student and faculty internships in industry, industrial involvement in designing and teaching college courses, and cooperative projects in undergraduate education all promote continuous interaction between educational and industrial partners. An emphasis on flexibility and core competencies would help ensure that institutions of higher education balance broad education with specific training. Hands-on learning, project-oriented courses, distance learning, and the delivery of courses at industrial sites would tie learning to the application of knowledge. Inquiry capabilities, including problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork, are all basic to lifelong technical careers.

Faculty members and departments are responding to the new needs of the workplace with a variety of innovations. Close links between the offerings of different departments are enhancing understanding of the connections among subjects. Majors in some departments are doing senior projects grounded in real-world problems that instill skills they will need in their careers.