Goals and General Description

Shaping General Education Programs Focused on Scientific and Quantitative Literacy
The 2003 PKAL Assemblies
What Works - What Matters - What Lasts: The Roles and Responsibilities of Leaders in Undergraduate STEM

November 7 - 9, 2003

SENCER: Science Education for Civic Engagements and ResponsibilityAAC&U
American Conference of Academic Deans (ACAD)

One of the most striking aspects of the current context for the work of improving undergraduate programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is the recognition that all students– not just self-selected, highly motivated majors– must have access to rigorous learning opportunities in STEM field. The reasons for this is clear:

  • mathematics, science and technology play such central roles in modern society, with increasingly influence on how we live, work and interact with the natural and the man-made worlds
  • it is the responsibility of institutions of higher education to prepare their students with a basic understanding and appreciation of these areas of study so they leave with the confidence and skills to become contributing members of our democracy.

Exploring, initiating, implementing and assessing programs that are directed toward increasing the scientific and quantitative literacy of all students requires a different mind-set among academic leaders than when working to shape programs that serve only majors. Some of the challenges leaders face are that:

  • policies and practices need to be in place that foster interdisciplinary conversations among faculty– helping them to make the kind of intellectual connections that they aspire for their students to make– conversations that result in sustainable general education programs
  • goals for student learning– campus-wide and within departments– as well as graduation requirements need to be examined to determine if they advance institutional efforts to motivate all students to persist and succeed in the study of STEM fields.

This PKAL Assembly will highlight promising practices that place mathematics and science at the center of the undergraduate learning experience. It will be a forum for academic leaders from two- and four-year colleges, comprehensive, doctoral and research universities to examine ideas, experiences and materials that are having demonstrable success in shaping general education programs that enhance the scientific and quantitative literacy of all students.

Assembly planners have identified key questions to be addressed:

  • how can we convey “science at the cutting-edge” to undergraduate students in general education programs
  • how can we design undergraduate laboratory courses for general education students that encourage them to "try on the hat of a scientist"
  • how do faculty overcome the challenges of teaching non-majors for the first time (and, what are these challenges)
  • how do we respect the increasing diversity of the undergraduate student population in shaping these programs designed to serve all students
  • where are the resources– the programs that work in strengthening the intellectual connections between STEM fields/humanities and social science essential for strong general education programs– that can be adapted in other settings
  • what kind of networks and collaborations, within and beyond a campus, facilitate the development of strong general education programs focused on scientific and quantitative literacy
  • what administrative structures need to be in place to ensure that faculty, budgets and facilities are available to support these programs over the long-term?

These questions will be addressed in plenary sessions, in case-study sessions, during poster presentations and in the informal conversations that are a valuable component of all PKAL Assemblies. There will be significant opportunities to learn from faculty and administrators responsible for designing and implementing general education programs that have matured, been scaled-up and institutionalized. Discussions about faculty development, about funding needs and opportunities, and about networking for success will also be a part of the weekend.

There will be poster receptions, an opportunity for sharing materials developed on participating campuses.