History of PKAL

PKAL Phase IV: 1999 - 2003

In its decade of existence, PKAL has become a significant partner in national efforts to improve undergraduate SME&T education. PKAL has established a well-tested programmatic model for the dissemination of ideas and materials about "best practices" in SME&T reform and for spotlighting the work of hundreds of experts in the field from around the country, and for support of local efforts to transform the learning environment.

The challenge for PKAL in Phase IV was to take its work to the next level, to:

  1. stretch those active in reform to ramp up their efforts as individuals and teams, and become advocates for reform on their campus, within their disciplinary community, and in regional and national networks;
  2. focus more intently on bringing a greater percentage of individuals and institutions from all sectors of higher education (two- and four-year colleges, comprehensive and research universities, minority-serving institutions) into the community of reformers;
  3. put in place visible national forums for the regular exchange of ideas about and adaptable tools for reform, with special attention to creative use of electronic resources that are changing how people live, work, and interact;
  4. ensure that understandings from research/technological advances (research on learning, cross/interdisciplinary scientific research, etc.) are properly integrated in ongoing local and national reform efforts;
  5. develop metrics that can be commonly used to demonstrate that changes in policies, programs, and practices at the curricular, administrative, and institutional levels lead to real change in student learning (not just making things different, but better); and
  6. continue to emphasize to the entire stakeholder community why strong undergraduate SME&T programs are in the national interest.

In Phase IV, PKAL achieved these goals by:

  1. establishing an annual series of Summer Institutes, brining together each year hundreds of participants (in teams from approximately 200 - 250 institutions and representatives of disciplinary societies) in one or more of the 14 - 16 Institute workshops in which best practices are presented by faculty and administrative "expert reformers," and catalyzing wide-ranging discussions about the national context for the work of reform;
  2. hosting Change Agent Roundtables, providing a continuing intellectual basis for reform and ensuring that PKAL's activities are informed by innovations at the cutting-edge;
  3. preparing and disseminating, in print and electronic form, essay series on the future of undergraduate SME&T, and an annual report, Investing in the Future on progress within the PKAL community;
  4. building a national "network of networks" to provide quick and easy access for individuals and institutions to model, at the local and regional level, the PKAL approach to dissemination; and
  5. laying the groundwork for an online journal, by 2005, and connecting formally to the nascent NSDL.
  6. Additional funding for Phase IV came from the ExxonMobil Foundation in addition to Phase III funders.