Occasional Paper I: What Works: A Research-Rich Environment

Setting an Action Agenda

We invite you and your colleagues to join us in a continuing dialogue about strengthening undergraduate science and mathematics. The specific focus is on building a research-rich undergraduate environment to capture and sustain student interest in the sciences and mathematics. By "research-rich," we mean an environment where learning is active, hands-on, experiential, and research-based from the very first courses for all students to capstone courses for majors.

The 1993 PKAL Invitational Colloquium used the following questions as a catalyst for small group discussions, leading to the development of recommendations for students, faculty, partnerships, and context:

  • How does the teacher/scholar use research as a mode of teaching and learning in the undergraduate environment? What makes it possible? What further mechanisms could be established on individual campuses to integrate teaching and research more effectively? How can we all work together towards such a vision?
  • How can the conflict between researchersâ allegiances to their professions and the institutional requirements regarding teaching be resolved? How can faculty involved in undergraduate programs focus their research as a mode of teaching and learning?
  • What mechanisms need to be in place to ensure that the next generation of teachers/scholars is ready for the task? What models exist? What other mechanisms need to be explored? What is the role of academic institutions and funding agencies, working individually and together, to make this happen?
  • What solutions have worked as institutions sought to equip and encourage a larger cadre of faculty to take an active role in a research-rich environment? What new mechanisms could be explored that will lead to reform on individual campuses and ensure that the needs within the national scientific and educational infrastructure are addressed?
  • How do graduate programs reflect the realization that an undergraduate research-rich environment is good preparation for graduate study?
  • How can funding agencies better allocate their resources to support a creative and dynamic research-rich educational environment? How can faculty and administrators join together to foster a research environment at the undergraduate level that effectively recruits and retains students?
  • What models of productive partnerships exist? What new structures formal and informal might be put in place so reform ideas can be exchanged more effectively?

These questions provoked the colloquium participants into presenting their ideas and articulating important issues. We hope they will generate responses from the larger educational community.