The Keck/PKAL Facilitating Interdisciplinary Learning Project

Project Abstract

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) respectfully requests $498,595 from the W.M. Keck Foundation in support of a coordinated, three-year series of activities focused on the goal of facilitating interdisciplinary undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in the nation’s colleges and universities. This goal will be achieved in two ways. First, we will inform and advance efforts of leaders at a select group of colleges and universities in shaping interdisciplinary learning opportunities for their students, in building an institutional culture in which interdisciplinarity flourishes, and in integrating attention to goals for student learning into the process of institutional transformation. Second, we will distill and extend the experiences of this group of campuses, preparing a series of publications (portfolios, manuals, and guides) that will be a resource for the larger community.

This resource, to be developed and disseminated in collaboration with participating institutions and a wide range of stakeholders, will build from the insights and recommendations presented in the Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) prepared by the Keck-sponsored study group at the National Academy of Sciences. The value of the IDR report is its scope and specificity, presented in the context of a discussion about the urgency of STEM leaders to address problems that are beyond the scope of a single discipline.... The leadership team assembled for this project is itself interdisciplinary and our approach to facilitating interdisciplinary learning signals our understanding of the definition of interdisciplinary research presented in the IDR report:

    …a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools and perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice (2005).

This proposed Keck/PKAL project is significant as it takes an insightful report “off the shelf,” makes its recommendations transparent, and translates their essence into a road-map for informed action by the broad community of stakeholders.