Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts
February 13: Recommendations on how to put dysfunctional or under-performing departments on the road to becoming a vital department
Essays, Stories & Reports:
A PKAL Essay - Building a vital department
- Jeanne L. Narum, Director- Project Kaleidoscope
Many times a voice from outside the department is necessary to evaluate what is not working. Consultants do not carry institutional baggage and their credibility might encourage all faculty to speak out and encourage openness to new ideas.
A synthesis of recommendations from Keck/PKAL Consultancies: Dealing with dysfunctional departments
- From Keck/PKAL Consultancies (Over the past several years, more than 100 colleges and universities involved with PKAL have used the Keck/PKAL Consultant program to help their community overcome challenges to building a vital department.)
Identifying what does not work is sometimes as important to efforts to build strong STEM departments and programs as knowing what works (see stories posted 02/06/04 from the undergraduate physics project SPIN-UP). Most problems facing departmental leaders have been identified and addressed in other settings: attrition after first-year courses; little or no administrative support; "ownership" of specific courses. Bringing an outside voice to the discussions is sometimes helpful, as illustrated by this report summarized from several Keck/PKAL consultancies.
Resources from PKAL:
Further Keck/PKAL Consultancy Reports:
- Analyze the relationship between curriculum, advising and student perception of the science program.
- See that institutional support for faculty and students involved in undergraduate research is demonstrated in tangible ways.
- Connect faculty to intriguing and successful pedagogical approaches on other campuses that are reversing attrition, and recognize this work as a scholarly activity.
Resources from other sources:
Linking departmental and institutional mission: The Morehouse Experience
- J.K. Haynes, David Packard Professor & Dean of Science & Mathematics - Morehouse College
Building a strong department from the foundation of a solid vision that drives all planning and assessment is the key to the success of the biology department at Morehouse College.
Departmental Matrix - Clarity about the scope and sequence of departmental offerings
- Mary Savina, et al., Geology Department - Carleton College
Having departmental conversations about where students learn what, brings coherence to the academic program.
Bio2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
This National Research Council publication outlines the rationale for and approaches to transforming undergraduate biology departments to more directly reflect changes in how science is practiced.
To view the complete set of PKAL Volume IV postings, to date, please visit