Report on Reports

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



One recommendation emerged from all the others as conveying a fundamental conviction of the assembled group.

  • All students should have access to supportive, excellent programs in STEM, and all students should acquire literacy in these subjects by direct experience with the methods and processes of inquiry.
  • This recommendation, though simply stated, is audacious in its implications. It looks into a future in which STEM education incorporates open-ended investigations in which students are fully engaged with the ideas and methodologies of the disciplines they are studying. It looks to a future in which many undergraduates get degrees [in these fields] not because they necessarily want to work in those fields but because those subjects are superb training for whatever it is they want to do. It looks to a future in which English majors, for example, emerge from college not fearful and distrustful of science and technology but familiar with their basic principles and outlooks- and in which science majors can express themselves fluently, both orally and in writing, as a result of the experiences they have in college.

    Colleges and universities have been presented with a unique opportunity to remake undergraduate education in STEM. The reassessment of national goals set in motion by the end of the Cold War, the demographic change occurring in the country, the financial constraints affecting many institutions, and the rapidly growing influence of new technologies have contributed to an environment in which fundamental principles are being reexamined. This reexamination will inevitably change higher education. Toward what end depends on the decisions that colleges and universities make today and on the support they get to carry out those decisions in the future.


    What makes some colleges and universities more "transforming" than others? We identified four factors that shaped the successful course of change.

  • Transforming institutions had propitious external and internal conditions. …these institutions also had the freedom to respond creatively and to remain in control of their futures.

  • Change leaders… recognized the importance of anchoring change in the cherished academic values, creating a climate of trust, shared the credit, and looked at the change from a long-term perspective.

  • Leaders helped people develop new ways of thinking…as well as different practices, structures, and politics. They provided opportunities for people to reflect on the assumptions, values, and habits that supported the status quo.

  • Leaders paid attention to the change process and adjusted their actions in response to what they learned. They thought about who was involved and why, and what changes made sense to whom. Instead of discounting dissent, they listened to and learned from it.

  • - On Change I. American Council on Education, 2001.