News Archives

New Online Homes for PKAL & the PKAL LSC

March 11, 2011

This PKAL home page will continue to provide access to the archive of PKAL resources of value to the broad range of communities taking responsibility for shaping robust intellectual, social and physical learning environments for 21st century learners in all fields.

As of January 2010, Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) joined forces with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) where PKAL's work in advancing "what works" in undergraduate STEM education is continuing to thrive and grow. PKAL's work on learning spaces has emerged from this transition into the PKAL Learning Spaces Collaboratory (PKAL LSC) where attention to planning learning spaces is continuing and expanding.


Please visit PKAL's website at for news and information on:

Kelly Mack, Executive Director—Project Kaleidoscope may be contacted at 202/884-7439; you are also invited to the AAC&U offices at 1818 R Street, NW in Washington, DC.

PKAL Learning Spaces Collaboratory

For information about news, events, and programs orchestrated by the PKAL Learning Spaces Collaboratory, your attention is directed to the new PKAL LSC web presence at

Jeanne L. Narum, Principal—PKAL LSC may be contacted at 202/232-1300 or Other opportunities to keep up-to-date on PKAL LSC activities include:


Leadership Development: Helping Faculty Learn to “Lead Up”

August 4, 2010

In early June 2010, PKAL held a regional STEM education leadership workshop in the Upper Midwest, hosted at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. The thirteen attendees— early career faculty from public and private colleges and universities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and South Dakota— embarked on a leadership development journey that started with the identification of their own professional goals. They were then challenged to link these goals to the bigger picture of their departments and institutions. This necessarily involved thinking deeply about shifting focus from their individual agendas to one that is more collective or institutional in nature. In other words, making the transition from “I” to “we” and becoming “servant leaders.”

One of the highlights of the workshop was a session lead by MaryAnn Baenninger, President of The College of St. Benedict, in which she elaborated on her views of leadership. From her perspective, a key aspect of leadership is about building and nurturing communities focused on common goals. One way that faculty members can be leaders even without a formal title is to “lead up.” What does this mean? It means, in part, that faculty members understand the work of administrators, their real constraints and pressures (including budgets!), and the language they use in their administrative culture. More concretely, faculty should think about how what they are doing connects to the campus strategic plan, how resources are allocated (and ask if you don’t know), and how to coordinate and leverage with other projects. Also, being a solution, as opposed to another problem, will make conversations with chairs, deans and senior leaders about support and resources more fruitful. One of the key issues we have been discussing as part of the Keck/PKAL Facilitating Interdisciplinary Learning project is how to connect the leadership of faculty more intentionally with the institutional mission and leadership. Leading up is certainly one effective grassroots strategy.

As we move forward together, PKAL is planning more leadership workshops in partnership with existing and emerging regional PKAL networks around the country. Also, these kinds of conversations were part of PKAL’s Summer Leadership Institute on July 17-22.

Stay tuned for more perspectives on leadership here and on PKAL’s blog Through the Kaleidoscope.

Interdisciplinary STEM Learning

June 3, 2010

As this new century continues to unfold, it is becoming even more apparent that students will need to be competent and confident in their abilities to think and act across disciplinary lines. Today's world is ever more interconnected, integrated and interdisciplinary. PKAL's Facilitating Interdisciplinary Learning (IDL) project, funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation, has been engaging 30 campus teams around the country in a conversation about what works and what needs to happen to better prepare students for interdisciplinary STEM thinking and doing. This project builds, in part on PKAL's past work in the interdisciplinary zone.

Campus teams representing a broad spectrum of institutional types from liberal arts, research and technical colleges to both the public and private sectors. Their IDL projects span the STEM disciplines with several campuses focusing on environmental programs, neuroscience, interdisciplinary STEM concentrations, assessment of IDL, teacher education, undergraduate research, new buildings, general education courses, campus culture, first-year experiences and more.

Key questions we have been addressing are:

  • How do we create robust interdisciplinary learning experiences that intentionally help students synthesize and integrate their knowledge across these boundaries?
  • How will we know when students can effectively integrate and apply their knowledge?
  • What campus infrastructures need to be revised or invented to support these experiences?
  • What role do campus and national leaders play in facilitating IDL?

As part of this project, we held a Leadership Roundtable on April 9-11, 2010 in Baltimore, MD to begin to synthesize the recommended goals and strategies from the collective experiences of the participating campuses. At this Roundtable, representatives from campus teams worked in teams organized around the questions above to begin to synthesize recommendations from their collective work. Several critical advisors, who have experience in IDL, assessment and leadership, were on hand to provide expertise outside the project and to get us thinking in new ways (which we did!). The results are being processed now and will form the framework for a National Colloquium on Interdisciplinary STEM Learning to be held in Washington, D.C. in October 2010. More on this meeting and the final recommendations to come.

Follow this link to learn more about this meeting, including the meeting agenda and notebook.

What Works: Engaging Science and Advancing Learning

April 29, 2010

What works is when there are visible and operative institutional policies and practices that guide collective and substantive efforts to advance STEM learning of all students. This requires:

  • Developing and embracing a culture across campus in which faculty collectively and collaboratively explore innovative approaches to shape robust STEM learning environments.
  • Creating and communicating institutional structures and rewards that sustain such a culture over the long-term.
  • Understanding the ‘drivers for change,’ given your institutional context and circumstance.
  • Setting clear, measureable, and actionable outcomes—at the level of the learner as well as of the institution.

Over the past twenty years, the community that is PKAL has shaped a kaleidoscopic set of visionary statements about what works. Each of these individual visions builds from and reflects the founding vision of PKAL about the value of undergraduate natural science communities. In looking toward the future, engaging the partnership between PKAL and AAC&U, the focus will increasingly be on what lasts, signaling that the challenge today is for academic leaders to extend and enhance the capacity of their institution to offer an educational program of distinction for years to come.

What works today may work less well in tomorrow's circumstances. What lasts must be viewed in the context of an ever-changing world. What works is thus a continual questioning about what lasts that takes account of the present and envisions the future. Such questioning, and the process of engaging communities in framing questions and generating answers, is the work of today's leaders as they move forward, shaping their future.

Some contemporary questions about the future were explored at two PKAL sessions at the 2010 AAC&U annual meeting focusing particularly on questions regarding the role of the introductory course in engaging learners and the impact of institutional culture in building and sustaining an engaged and engaging STEM learning environment.

A Kaleidoscope of Perspectives on Institutional Transformation, STEM & Beyond

Engaging in Conversations for Shaping Robust STEM Learning Communities

March 12, 2010

The PKAL approach to building community reflects the conviction that for communities to emerge, function, and flourish, those involved must come to a common awareness that the status quo is no longer defensible, and to know—intellectually, emotionally, and experientially—that something different had to happen in the arena of student learning in STEM fields. The PKAL approach involves providing multiple opportunities for people to come together—within departments and institutions, as well as across boundaries of discipline, geographic and sector of higher education—to begin to shape a common language around which visions, goals, and strategies could be explored and established.

Some lessons learned from past PKAL activities about fostering informed conversations include:

  • Focus on things that matter to those involved. Take advantage of real problems—those that are real now, at the campus level and at the national level.

  • Understand the institutional culture—how and where decisions are made, plans implemented, and take care to respect traditions in a time of transition.

  • Be aware of the complexity of the process of change and of the time it takes to deal with that complexity, and that “for every complex problem there is a simple solution and it is wrong.”

  • Bring all the stakeholders to the table in a meaningful and timely manner, and recognize that the best advice comes from the most unexpected places. (Stakeholders are all those [individuals, groups, organizations, or systems] who can affect and/or be affected by the actions of the larger community, are those who are actively involved in the project and/or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project.)

Our challenge, as PKAL moves into the partnership with AAC&U, is to broaden the community of engaged stakeholders, shaping connections and conversations across the PKAL and AAC&U communities in order to leverage our individual work for the collective good.

Conversations Current and Emerging within the PKAL Community

Welcome to PKAL: 2010 and Beyond

February 9, 2010

  • How can colleges and universities develop the nimbleness to adjust to the accelerating changes within our 21st century global society, in the context of shaping and reshaping their undergraduate STEM learning environment?
  • How can learning in STEM fields be seen as a mode of civic engagement within our 21st century global community?
  • How do you bring together a critical mass of leaders (reform-minded faculty and administrators) to take responsibility for meaningful and sustainable change on an individual campus and how do you connect campuses in ways that accelerate the spread of reform initiatives having documented success?
  • What can we learn from research in cognitive science and in social change that can advance our work in engaging undergraduate learners in STEM fields?

These questions emerged from the PKAL Forum held during the 2010 AAC&U annual meeting, an afternoon in which 150 leaders from the nation’s colleges and universities and national professional and disciplinary societies gathered to begin the process of identifying key questions that the PKAL community should be addressing in the coming months and years. This “gathering questions” process reflects PKAL’s modus operandi since 1989, working from the premise that effective change begins with identifying the question and then analyzing the problem in the pursuit of responses to those question.

Each of the PKAL sessions at the meeting also emphasized other drivers for PKAL’s work over the past twenty years:

  • Having a diversity of people at the table in the process of question posing and problem-solving— whether the challenge is facilitating interdisciplinary learning, reshaping introductory STEM courses, or working toward structural institutional change.
  • Taking the kaleidoscopic perspective in the process of exploring, distilling, and disseminating emerging answers to the question of what works?

Welcome to PKAL: 2010 and Beyond: A Letter from Susan Elrod

From PKAL: A Kaleidoscope of Best Wishes for 2010

December 23, 2009

"Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility. Innovators shake up their thinking as though their brains are kaleidoscopes, permitting an array of different patterns out of the same bits of reality. Changemasters challenge prevailing wisdom. They start from the premise that there are many solutions to a problem and that by changing the angle on the kaleidoscope, new possibilities will emerge. Where other people would say, 'That’s impossible. We’ve always done it this way,' they see another approach. Where others see only problems, they see possibilities.

Kaleidoscope thinking is a way of constructing new patterns from the fragments of data available— patterns that no one else has yet imagined because they challenge conventional assumptions about how pieces of the organization, the marketplace, or the community fit together."

    — Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow. Harvard Business School Press, 2001.

What works: Leadership in Catalyzing Collaborations Toward STEM Reform

October 23, 2009

It is interesting to study this graphic, courtesy of the Research Corporation, through several different lens. The first lens would be the perspective for which it was designed, the perspective of what a contemporary scientist, engineer, or mathematician needs to be able to do to make a substantive contribution to his or her field of practice. They must be able to catalyze conversations and collaborations at the edges, to move away from conversations in silos to conversations that expect and celebrate a diversity of expertise at the table, that enable the kind of serendipitous collision of ideas that is enabled by places such as the HHMI Janelia Farms.

Another lens would be what needs to happen on a campus, when there are people deeply committed to working on a particular problem, intent on shaping something new, because of their commitment to their students, their field, and their institution. Through this lens we can come to understand better the politics and processes of innovation and change—what leaders need to know and be able to do to catalyze meaningful collaborations.

A final lens would be that afforded by research on learning, which clearly documents that people learn best when they are actively engaged, when they are situated in a social and supportive community, are given opportunity to reflect and build on prior knowledge, involved with addressing problems that are relevant to their lives and their work—and when they become deeply engaged, understanding their role within a community of practice.

So, we offer this graphic as a catalyst for greater collaborations at the campus level, as well as within the national disciplinary societies and educational associations whose collective efforts make a difference.

What works: Leadership in Catalyzing Collaborations Toward STEM Reform

Looking into the Future: The AAC&U/PKAL Partnership

September 8, 2009

We are pleased to announce that Susan Elrod has accepted the position of Director of Project Kaleidoscope and is prepared to work with the PKAL and AAC&U communities on shaping the future of the undergraduate STEM learning environment.

From the early 1990’s to this time, numerous initiatives—small, medium, and large, discrete and comprehensive—have been directed toward transforming the undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning environment in America. Some of these have had major national and systemic impact on the quality and character of undergraduate STEM learning; some more modest and more localized impact and others have been isolated and ephemeral. Yet, for all these pioneering efforts, the work of transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment has not yet reached a credible ‘tipping point.’ The challenge remains to shape sustainably robust undergraduate natural science communities that attract students to STEM fields and motivate them to persist and succeed—STEM learning environments that serve the national interest now and into the future.

These recent decades have been a time of remarkable confluence of contextual influences on the undergraduate STEM learning environment. These influences are opportunity for meaningful change:

  • Emerging research-based insights about how people learn confirm previous experience-based insights that what works is giving students ownership of their own learning: that it is when undergraduate learning in STEM fields is imagined as apprenticing, moving learner from novice to practitioner, when learning is contextual and relevant, giving students opportunity to gain the skills, capacities, and understandings needed to address contemporary challenges in the world beyond the campus.
  • Increasing diversity of the undergraduate student population, coupled with the growing awareness that deep engagement in STEM learning is the means to prepare all students more effectively and creatively for their responsibilities as citizens of our global community and for the wide range of 21st century careers that call for skills and capacities gained through study in STEM fields as undergraduates, calls the question about the relevance of STEM learning for today’s students, science, and society.
  • Evolving scientific, engineering, and technological communities of practice are becoming dramatically different, as disciplinary boundaries are morphing and dissolving, technologies are more pervasive and essential tools for STEM research and communication, and S&T challenges and opportunities increasingly must be interpreted and addressed from a global perspective.

The challenge to make STEM learning a deeper and more meaningful learning experience for all undergraduates in our country’s classrooms is now even more pressing. Today, increasing the number and quality of STEM students and majors is essential to address a broader set of national priorities: from preparing the 21st century workforce to equipping all students to be leaders in a 21st century global community in which science and technology have increasing impact. This vision is the driver for the partnership between AAC&U and Project Kaleidoscope.

The AAC&U Partnership with PKAL

Embracing the Right Questions: Planning Spaces for Science

May 7, 2009

Keep discussions at these early stages open and free; they should be wide-ranging, involving many different members of the community. Explore many different ideas about the future of both curriculum and space for your undergraduate programs in science and mathematics, ideas that have been stimulated by thoughtful consideration of your mission as a campus community, by your benchmarking visits to other institutions, and by personal reflections on what it will take to improve the environment for the natural science community on your campus.

This is the time to be both visionary and realistic in your dreaming; the new spaces and structures being considered will serve the institution for many years. Remembering that the goal is to improve learning for students, think about questions such as the following:

  • What works in the science and mathematics programs on our campus?
  • What kind of spaces are needed for faculty to remain vital as scholars?
  • Are there ways, intellectually and physically, that new connections can be made between the sciences, and among the sciences, the humanities, and the arts?
  • How will the increasing national attention on developing a science-literate citizenry, transforming the K-12 community, bringing groups currently underrepresented in science, mathematics, and engineering affect our planning, our program, our space?

Such questions will be addressed in more depth during the process of defining the facilities program, after the decision has been made to move ahead with your project.

Answers to these questions will differ campus to campus, as individual institutions explore them in the context of their distinctive identity and mission. However, even if a major facilities project is not anticipated, these are the kinds of questions that must be asked as each academic community prepares to build and sustain strong undergraduate programs in science and mathematics in a changing, challenging world.

—PKAL Volume III: Structures for Science, 1995.

Embracing the Right Questions: Planning Spaces for Science

PKAL Facilities Webinars

The Next Stage in the PKAL Partnership with AAC&U: Searching for a New PKAL Director

April 30, 2009

Recognizing the new partnership between Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), it is important to reflect on the roots and vision of PKAL. The earliest PKAL report (1992) captured two years of effort from a leadership team of faculty and administrators with significant expertise in and commitment to the work of transforming undergraduate science and mathematics (a pre-STEM era). The preface in that report guides PKAL today and will continue to do so.

    Our work convinced us of several things:

    • The diagnoses of weaknesses in America’s education programs for science and mathematics are on the mark.
    • The search for solutions would proceed more effectively if we could come to understand better the guiding principles that drive strong programs in science and mathematics in diverse institutional settings.
    • Now is the time for action. There is a national consensus about the nature of the problem and the need to address it. All the partners—schools, colleges and universities, federal and state governments, professional associations, and private foundations—are moving from analysis to action.

    Unless everyone with a stake in undergraduate science and mathematics makes tough decisions now about strategic priorities—about dollars, people, space, and time—effective reform will not happen. Unless all partners work together, this nation’s educational shortcomings will not be addressed adequately. Effective reforms take money, to be sure. But more important is an environment for reform that encourages planning, fosters creativity, and rewards useful innovation. The environment for reform must be based on a driving vision of what works.

    —PKAL Volume I. What works: Building Natural Science Communities, 1992.

There has been much progress over the past twenty years to build and sustain such environments for reform, and PKAL leaders are pleased to have had a major role in moving the community ‘from analysis to action.’ It is humbling, however, to note the work that still needs to be done, that old challenges remain and new opportunities have emerged. It is our hope that the PKAL/AAC&U partnership contributes in a meaningful way to our collective effort over the next decade. PKAL and AAC&U leaders understand clearly that:

    The undergraduate years are critical for strengthening our nation’s science and mathematics capacity. It is in college where future scientists and college faculty are recruited and prepared for graduate study; where our nation’s elementary and secondary teachers, educators of America’s youth, are equipped; and where tomorrow’s leaders gain the background with which to make critical decisions in a world permeated by vital issues of science and technology. It is also at the undergraduate level where many able young-people—particularly minorities and women—decide to discontinue their study of science and mathematics. The result is a serious loss of talent to the service of the nation, a loss that we cannot afford if we are to remain competitive in a global economy.

    —PKAL Volume I. What works: Building Natural Science Communities, 1992.

Thinking Strategically about STEM Facilities for the Future

March 20, 2009

Since 1992, Project Kaleidoscope has sponsored 36 workshops and colloquia on undergraduate facilities for science and mathematics, in which over 2000 people have participated. Based on the experience of these meetings and the experience of institutional teams whose planning has been informed by these meetings, we suggest facilities that work are those that:

  • clearly reflect the educational goals for the sciences and mathematics within an overall institutional framework, for the immediate and the long-term
  • support learning that is experiential, hands-on
  • recognize the increasingly social character of scientific research and teaching by facilitating productive interaction between and among students and faculty
  • acknowledge the role of serendipity in the doing of science, by including spaces for exploiting the unplanned, teachable moment
  • are so inviting, safe, and well equipped that they are used by students and faculty most hours of the day, seven days a week
  • anticipate the future by providing flexibility in space and infrastructure
  • respect and reflect the community that brought them into being
  • contribute to the humanity of the campus.

The materials prepared for and emerging from these meetings are a treasury of resources for academic leaders thinking about new and/or renovated spaces for science. Some visions of the future are presented in these essays, adapted from materials in the PKAL archive.

Engaged Partnerships

December 11, 2008

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) has entered into two significant partnerships over the past several months, with the: Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U); and Science Education Resource Center (SERC) hosted at Carleton College. The value of partnerships and collaborations as catalysts for meaningful change has been recognized from the earliest days of PKAL. We must collaborate; the time is too short and the task too great to do otherwise, was the challenge issued by the then Chairman of the House Science Committee at the conclusion of PKAL’s 1st National Colloquium, in 1991.

Lessons learned about the critical role of such partnerships in advancing individual, regional and national efforts to shape and sustain robust undergraduate STEM learning environments from PKAL’s current NSF-supported Pedagogies of Engagement initiative are reflected in the partnerships with AAC&U and SERC.

What works in such partnerships is when there is:

  • A shared vision of a more desired future and of the urgency of the task to realize that future
  • Shared leadership on each side of the partnership visibly supporting and championing meaningful change initiatives
  • Ready access to resources (people, ideas, funds, materials, communities, and networks) that have documented success in advancing meaningful change initiatives— adapting, implementing, and assessing new curricular and pedagogical approaches in the undergraduate STEM context
  • A plan of action that reflects the shared vision, engages the shared leadership, and ensures that resources are easily accessible to those within the partnership in ways that catalyze efforts at the campus level to adapt, implement, and assess curricular and pedagogical approaches that serve to prepare undergraduates to be contributing citizens and members of the 21st century workforce, no matter their background or career aspiration.

Engaging Learners: Engaged Learning - Part I

November 5, 2008

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Project Kaleidoscope is undertaking a major initiative fostering and stimulating wider understanding and implementation of promising practices with documented impact on strengthening undergraduate STEM learning.

This Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) initiative spotlights what is known, from research and practice, about:

  • how individual undergraduate faculty in mathematics, the various fields of science and engineering, can transform individual courses and classrooms and laboratories toward the goal of actively engaging students in their own learning
  • how leaders of departments and programs in these fields can shape learning experiences through which the students for whom they are responsible are introduced to and socialized into the natural science community on their campus
  • how academic deans and other institutional leaders can support the efforts of individual faculty, programs, and departments, helping to shape the intellectual, social, financial, and physical infrastructures essential for undergraduate natural science communities to flourish on their campus.

A Guide to Engaging Learners: Engaged Learning is being developed as a major resource for this NSF-funded PKAL initiative. It is designed as a road-map for those exploring why, who, what, where, and how to implement change at the local level. We present here questions to ask about how to engage learning in formal and informal learning environments and how to support efforts of faculty— as individuals and members of departments and programs— working toward a vision of engaged learners. Further questions addressed are about collective actions needed at the institutional level to support, nurture, and sustain these efforts.

Threaded throughout the Guide are insights that reinforce how efforts of individual and institutional agents of change serve the larger national interest, preparing graduates who are instrumental— as members of the 21st century workforce and as responsible citizens in our 21st century democracy— in shaping the future of our global community.

Lessons Learned II: Common Problems, Challenges, and Opportunities Facing STEM Leaders

September 25, 2008

A common barrier to institutional transformation is the difficulty of assembling a leadership team taking responsibility for understanding what needs to be accomplished and for making certain that the community works creatively, efficiently and effectively toward a common vision. The emerging PKAL Planning Process, in many ways, mirrors the pedagogical processes by which faculty shape collaborating, problem-solving teams of undergraduates in classrooms and/or research labs. For example, as described in an HHMI publication, leading and managing a research lab team requires:

  • Choice—people who want to be there, to have appropriate responsibilities, be involved in discussions about strategies and be listened to.
  • Competence—people who have the skills to do the work that is expected of them.
  • Purpose—people who understand the importance of their role in the enterprise.
  • Recognition—people who are given feedback (continuous), have their work recognized and celebrated.
  • Comfort—people who enjoy the task and look forward to continuing engagement with colleagues.
  • Progress—people who know that progress is being made (small goals met) against an agreed upon schedule and process.
  • Enthusiasm—people who are able to communicate their enthusiasm and vision for the work that is being done beyond the team.

Such requirements, and some practical advice, are also addressed in the PKAL archive of resources on planning spaces for undergraduate STEM communities— Guidelines for Collaboration. This advice will inform efforts of academic planners, no matter the problem, challenge or opportunity they are addressing.

Lessons Learned About Leadership in Institutional Transformation

September 12, 2008

Among lessons learned from PKAL's NSF Funded Leadership Initiative (LI) (2004 – 2007) was that there is a process that works in undertaking institutional transformation. Distilled in the PKAL Planning Process, what works, is when the process:

  • reflects contemporary pedagogical approaches— tackling the work of transforming undergraduate STEM with approaches and tools of STEM professionals
  • centers on student learning— serving a vision that all 21st century undergraduates acquire deep understandings about contemporary scientific and technological issues and gain the skills, capacities, and willingness to use those understandings in addressing contemporary issues
  • develops leaders and an institutional culture of leadership— generating a visible and evolving cadre of leaders shaping an institutional vision and achieving a culture in which that vision can be realized
  • focuses on what works— building a collaborative, problem-solving community taking leadership responsibility over the long-term.
Embedded in all of these is the value of questioning and reflecting. Experiences from the PKAL LI community will be posted in the coming year; we begin with questions about shaping an interdisciplinary learning environment for STEM students and on the role of provosts in nurturing a research-rich STEM learning community.

Collaborations Shaping the Future

September 2, 2008

We must collaborate—the task is too great and the time too short to do otherwise.

This challenge ended the 1st PKAL National Colloquium in 1991, as George E. Brown (then Chair of the Science Committee, U.S. House of Representatives) urged the community of stakeholders to take collective responsibility for transforming undergraduate programs in mathematics and the various fields of science, engineering and technology.

Over the next several months, PKAL will be spotlighting some contemporary collaborations— formal and informal— undertaking strategic initiatives designed to ensure present and future students have access to a robust learning experience in undergraduate STEM classrooms and labs.

Collaborations Shaping the Future

Looking Ahead

August 7, 2008

An earlier PKAL report, Then, Now & In the Next Decade, contrasted current realities and future scenarios in respect to America's undergraduate STEM learning environment.  It suggested that although recent reforms (from the mid-1980’s) made a significant difference, they should be seen only as pilots for the critical larger-scale work yet to be accomplished.  The report anticipated a future in which institutional cultures are different: where goals for student learning are set, used for benchmarks against to measure programs, and drive the development of human, financial and physical infrastructures consistent with those learning goals; it was a future in which STEM faculty design curricular programs assuming all students can learn STEM and adapt the research-based pedagogies to make it happen.  2009 was anticipated as a future of collaborations that cut across boundaries of discipline, sector and geography, building networks of agents of change at the institutional and national level.

Where are we now?   What is the current reality and what can we anticipate will happen in the next decade?

A recent essay, Looking Back and Looking Ahead, in AA&CU’s Liberal Education, by Jeanne Narum, PKAL Director, sketched some initial answers to those questions. Postings on PKAL’s web site in coming months will explore further issues relating to shaping the future of undergraduate STEM, moving from analysis to action.  We also invite your attention to PKAL’s new web site.

Then, Now & In the Next Decade »

Defining Faculty Leadership

May 5, 2008

The definition of leadership that drives the work of PKAL is taken from the work of Alexander Astin and Helen Astin (Leadership Reconsidered: Engaging Higher Education in Social Change, 2000):

    …leadership is a process ultimately concerned with intentionally fostering change ...that is directed toward some future or condition which is desired or valued. …all people are potential leaders and…leadership is a group process.

This definition describes the work of leaders in many settings, but it seems particularly relevant in the process of developing leaders to take responsibility for systemic transformation of the undergraduate STEM learning environment. A recent Howard Hughes Medical institute (HHMI) publication (Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty, 2006) makes the same point about leadership in these words, in the context of describing the leadership roles of scientists within the lab setting:

    Leadership is getting a group of people to enact a vision of what needs to be accomplished….thus, leadership starts with a vision, and requires relationships with others to accomplish tasks.

When developing leaders from within the ranks of faculty, it is important to note that:

  • faculty leadership is non-positional
  • faculty leaders generate and direct energy
  • faculty leaders are accountable for outcomes
  • faculty leaders base action on information
  • faculty leaders create networking
  • faculty leaders build toward agreement
  • faculty leaders are emergent and flexible
  • faculty leaders shape discourse
  • faculty leaders are willing to take risks.

—from Susan Sciame-Giesecke, Indiana University Kokomo

From the PKAL F21 community, here are reflections of five F21 members of the Class of 2007 on their roles as faculty leaders, together with their interviews with senior leaders on their campuses.

Shaping a Meaningful Career in Undergraduate STEM: Perspectives from the Field

April 23, 2008

Overcoming the Resistance to Change

If our universities and colleges are to adapt to the rapidly evolving world, they need bold and progressive leadership to fight the forces that typically resist change.

Some personal insights concerning the academic system are:

  • Be prepared to tackle irrational inertia inherent to large systems with creative effort.

  • Recognize the importance of gifted individuals and of keeping their groups small. If you want to accomplish something, gather a few people who really care to do it. In general, larger committees accomplish less because of the conservative nature of the committee process.

  • Provide enough rope. One means of overcoming inertia is through a delegation of responsibility— providing motivation for change by providing “rope.” In other words, give small groups of faculty the flexibility to make changes and revisions in their domain of responsibility.

  • Acknowledge that “naive” young intellects are critical in pushing the system into the future.

  • Employ successful models in order to prove that reforms successfully established at one place can be reestablished at other sites.

  • Use bribes, or “incentive funding,” to create change. Leadership must use limited resources creatively to induce people to depart from their natural path of conservatism— basically, use a carrot rather than a stick to motivate change.

— Bruce Alberts, Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco (from a PKAL Seminar, 1994).

Mentors Developing Leaders: A PKAL Café Scientifique Conversation

April 16, 2008

Join the PKAL Café Scientifique on Monday, April 21 at 2:00 p.m. (EDT) for a discussion about mentoring as a central role, responsibility, and opportunity for all members of the STEM learning community—particularly in the context of shaping a culture in which leaders and leadership flourish.

George "Barney" Forsythe, President— Westminster College and Marlene Moore, Powers Distinguished Professor of Biology— University of Portland, will speak about their personal experiences with mentoring during their career—as mentee as well as mentor, about the barriers and opportunities to shaping an institutional culture in which mentoring for faculty at all career stages is valued, and about the connection between mentoring and developing leaders for the undergraduate STEM community. This April PKAL Café Scientifique conversation will be hosted by PKAL F21 members at Western State College of Colorado.

Jerry Mohrig, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry—Carleton College describes mentoring in these words:

    Mentoring means caring about people, believing in them, and getting people to believe in themselves. …mentors open people up to the gifts that they have. Mentoring is the frangipani of a robust undergraduate STEM learning environment. Frangipani is an Italian word that can mean an exquisite perfume or a pastry with cream, sugar, and almonds. The broader meaning I’ve seen in cooking refers to an ingredient that isn’t required in a dish. The food will taste good without frangipani. But when it’s present, the taste is indescribably better. The experience becomes memorable.

Mohrig was one of the first mentors for the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century (F21) community (a PKAL “Village Elder”). He and a host of other village elders then and now have made a valuable contribution in mentoring early-career faculty leaders. Mentors speak from personal knowledge about what works in building and sustaining a meaningful career. Mentors bring to the table a compelling vision of the future and a determination to help shape that future by engaging with emerging generations of leaders.

Words of Wisdom and Practical Advice from the Field: Advice for Early Career STEM Faculty I

April 9, 2008

Advancing and enhancing efforts of early-career STEM faculty is a central responsibility of PKAL. We are pleased to be collaborating with the Center for Integration of Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in their continuing work of preparing future faculty for undergraduate STEM learning environments. We present here some resources being developed by PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century panelists for the June CIRTL meeting.

From Karl A. Haushalter, Harvey Mudd College (F21 Class of 2007):

  • Seek out a mentor within your department and outside of your department.
  • Set priorities and make sure that the way that the way that you spend your time reflects those priorities.
  • Network.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Take photos.
  • Actively seek and learn from (brutally) honest peer feedback.
  • Have fun.

Words of Wisdom and Practical Advice from the Field: Personal and Political Dimensions of STEM Leadership

March 11, 2008

Words of Wisdom and Practical Advice from the Field: Personal and Political Dimensions of STEM Leadership

    We usually don’t think of athletes evolving as an athlete, but we do watch basketball players, for example, improve their passing game or their defensive or shooting skills, and we accept it matter of factly that some basketball players would be better served concentrating on the development of certain skills more than others.
    — Kenneth P. Ruscio, President–Washington and Jefferson University

    Seasoned faculty members have to understand what change is all about and how to measure success, and–in particular–to embrace failure as well as success. Consider what you are trying to change as a super tanker that turns very slowly and try to figure out what it will take to get it into port safely. You have to realize when you nudge a super tanker to reposition it, much energy, a lot of effort, and more than one tug boat will possibly be needed. But it can be done with persistence and when there is a broad realization of the goal.
    — James M. Gentile, President–Research Corporation

    There are too many people who basically go through life as if there is a single track he or she must follow, no matter what. But doesn’t this mean one has to wait for the one in front of you to move before you get to where you want to go. On the other hand, leaders tend to get off the track, or walk in between the tracks, instead of follow the tracks.
    — Daniel A. Wubah, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs–University of Florida (PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century [F21])

These words of wisdom from senior members of the PKAL Community are in response to questions about how leaders develop and a leadership culture emerges. What leaders are and leadership means to STEM faculty at an earlier career stage is illustrated in statements from members of the PKAL F21 Class of 2007. In the nomination process, they were asked to respond personally to questions such as the following and to use them as a guide to interview someone whose professional life exemplifies the best of a scholarly career.

  • What does leadership mean to me, given my responsibilities for the undergraduate STEM learning environment on my campus?
  • How do the institutional culture and the broader societal context play a role in defining and shaping a culture of leadership?

The interview “assignment” was designed as a bridge-building exercise, connecting people in different career stages and leadership roles. Their statements and interviews offer pragmatic words of wisdom:

    I have learned a lot by being allowed to share some responsibilities with the department chair and the dean. I believe that doing these things and receiving constructive feedback on what I have done was the best leadership training I have ever received.
    — Tikhon Bykov, Assistant Professor of Physics— McMurry University

    Find ways to stay involved in projects at different levels. Inexperienced colleagues benefit from your experience while providing a different perspective on new and established projects. In addition, solving problems keeps your mind young and nimble.
    — Steve Lindaas, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy— Minnesota State University Moorhead

    Talk to as many people as possible to find out what the general opinions are on important issues. Don’t presume to know what people think without talking to them. ...listening is the key.
    — Karen L. Shuman, Assistant Professor of Mathematics— Grinnell College (from an interview with her father, a recently retired university research chemist).

    Leadership is reaching out to the people who are least comfortable with change, and working to bring those people along instead of ignoring them or being in conflict with them.
    — Valory Thatcher, Instructor of Anatomy & Physiology— Mt. Hood Community College

Continuing Discussions about Leaders Developing Leaders

February 18, 2008

What works in developing a campus culture in which leaders and leadership flourish, where risk-taking and innovation become part of the institutional DNA?

Two answers to that question from the PKAL perspective:

  • what works is when colleagues take time to discuss issues that matter, in the context of coming to grips with institutional challenges and opportunities for shaping such a culture: (PKAL Café Scientifique).
  • what works is when there are informal opportunities for conversations about what leadership is and what leaders do, given a specific institutional context.

The process of understanding what works builds from a collective understanding of what leadership is. From observing leaders in action and reflecting on wisdom from the field, the PKAL “work-in-progress definition of leadership” is that:

  • leadership is concerned with fostering change.
  • leadership is inherently value-based.
  • all people are potential leaders.
  • leadership is in essence a group process.

Leadership Reconsidered

The idea that all people are potential leaders seems to be a difficult concept, particularly for STEM faculty at an early career stage. Thus, we have been gathering reports from the community about how leadership emerges and develops in context, about how leaders create and sustain environments in which leaders and leadership flourish.

Members of the PKAL F21 Class of 2007 were invited capture the story of a senior colleague who represented the kind of scholar/leader they aspire to become. This was an opportunity for a rising leader to learn how a meaningful career evolves in context. The "capturing a story" strategy was designed to have impact on the personal relationship between leaders at different career stages as well as on the plans of a junior scholar as he or she plots a professional future. But we hope it also enhances the sense of community on the campus, building a culture in which such opportunities for sharing stories becomes part of the institutional DNA.

Questions for the Next Decade: 2008 PKAL Roundtable on the on the Future Undergraduate STEM Learning Environment

January 16, 2008

For more than a decade, PKAL has encouraged colleges and universities engaged in imagining, programming, designing, and constructing new spaces for science to ask a set of critical questions, including:

  • What are our institutional priorities? Do we have a current academic plan that is compatible with our mission and our understanding of the future? Do the changes we envision for the sciences fit within our mission and plan, in terms of numbers of faculty and students? Does our thinking about the sciences represent individual visions or an institutional vision?
  • What are the experiences of our colleagues with experience in shaping new spaces for science? How did they make decisions about site, renovation/new, assembling the project team, selecting design professionals?
  • What works now for the students on our campus and how do we know? What is to be our institutional hallmark for STEM learning— undergraduate research, interdisciplinarity, science for all, or...? What impact do we anticipate technologies will have on research and learning in STEM fields into the future? Is there a "sense of place" that brings life and meaning to our community?

Answers to these questions are now cast in concrete on campuses across the country, as institutions have been responsive and creative in understanding how new spaces will look, function, and enhance institutional distinction.

So, the question is: are there new questions that need to be on the table and new colleagues at the table in planning the next generation of spaces for science? The 2008 PKAL Roundtable on the Future STEM Facility will be an opportunity to explore, shape, and reshape new questions. We invite your participation:

  • What questions dealing with "research on learning" should be on the table in shaping spaces that will serve 21st century students and science in the next decade?
  • What questions dealing with "interdisciplinarity" should be on the table in shaping spaces that will ensure the 21st century community of STEM learning reflects the 21st century community of STEM practice?
  • What questions should be on the table when concerns and dreams relate to institutional distinction, to signaling responsible environmental stewardship, to ensuring agility and adaptability over the long-term, and to enhancing the humanity of the campus by making the doing of science visible?
  • What difference do new and improved spaces make?

Facilitating Interdisciplinary Conversations

January 8, 2008

“At the heart of interdisciplinarity is communication— the conversations, connections, and combinations that bring new insights to virtually every kind of scientist and engineer.”

The 2005 Report from the National Academies of Sciences, Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) has "...conversations that cut across traditional boundaries (of disciplines, spheres of responsibility, geography) as a key condition..." necessary to facilitate interdisciplinary research. The IDR report also calls for those “desiring to work on interdisciplinary [problems] to immerse themselves in the languages, cultures, and knowledge of their collaborators….”

On all sides are coming calls for new kinds of conversations that cut across traditional boundaries:

    “We conclude that chemists and chemical engineers need to be prepared to work increasingly in multidisciplinary teams, and that this will change the way we educate future chemical scientists.” (Beyond the Molecular Frontier: Challenges for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 2003).

    “Real world problems are rarely defined along narrow disciplinary lines. Undergraduate students would benefit from at least cursory learning about the interplay of disciplines embodied in such problems. Thus we recommend that engineering schools should introduce interdisciplinary learning in the undergraduate environment.” (Educating the Engineer of 2020: National Academy of Engineering, 2005).

    “Administrators need to recognize the time and effort required by encouraging faculty to take advantage of campus resources…. For interdisciplinary education to become a reality, colleges and university must provide incentives and help eliminate disincentives to interdepartmental collaborations.” (BIO 2010: National Research Council, 2003).

PKAL is initiating two new efforts focused on fostering the kind of conversations and connections required to move toward a new paradigm for undergraduate STEM education:

Creativity & Reflection & Leadership

December 13, 2007

Encouraging reflection as part of developing creative STEM leaders has always been a central theme of PKAL. Toward that end, we offer some year-end reflections from the PKAL community to spark creative thoughts as we move into 2008.

Some of these reflections come from new PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century members, who were invited this fall to think about leaders and leadership. They see leaders as: influencer, motivator, learner, someone passionate about his or her mission, pursuing it for the benefit of the greater good. One suggested:

    A leader is an artist who uses the paints of innovation, inspiration, instruction, and industriousness to create a beautiful masterpiece…masterpieces [who] are the undergraduates in our department.

And from another, who asked her eight-year old son, “what is a leader?” His responses:

    “A leader is someone that guides a group, like a tour guide”. He explained that the guide protects the group by preventing individuals from touching or feeding certain types of things. He further explained that a guide prepares a group so that it can protect itself. “You listen [to the guide] and you know what to do in order to protect yourself so that you learn that when you hear growling, you don’t get too close”.

    She then asked him why groups needed guides; couldn’t a group go on a tour without a guide? He responded that a guide is needed “when people don’t know how to do things or when people want to see things they haven’t seen before”. When asked: “How does one become a guide?” He replied that “first, you learn stuff from a guide that already knows and then you get a job at a place that needs a tour guide.”

The value of learning “stuff” from others is one reason PKAL has been focusing on stories and interviews, to capture the wisdom from the field so that others can benefit and build from their experiences. As the Taoist sage Lao-tzu says:

    Learn from the people
    Plan with the people
    Begin with what they have
    Build on what they know
    Of the best leaders
    When the task is accomplished
    The people all remark
    We have done it ourselves.

We invite your attention to some reflections on leadership and creativity, and wish you time for personal renewal and reflection and a Happy New Year.

Creativity and the Undergraduate STEM Learning Environment

November 27, 2007

Space matters when creativity is a goal for student learning.

Space matters when faculty are shaping STEM programs and pedagogies around a common vision of how 21st century students learn.

Space matters when such programs and pedagogies reflect and respect how 21st century science is practiced.

The dimensions of a learning environment that nurtures creativity will be discussed at the 2008 PKAL Roundtable on the Future Undergraduate STEM Learning Environment.

Exploring Creativity- A Goal for Student Learning and Institutional Transformation

October 24, 2007

In her opening plenary remarks to the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute, Tori Haring-Smith, President of Washington and Jefferson College, challenged participants to focus on developing creative thinkers as a key pedagogical goal for the work of transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment.

In her words:

    Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class, claims that members of the creative class will be “the natural– indeed the only possible– leaders of twenty-first century society." His description of the creative class sounds remarkably like those students we all love to teach: intelligent, open-minded, self- confident risk-takers who enjoy challenges, value diversity, and engage in creative problem-solving. The creative class fuses the Puritan work ethic (hard work and personal challenge) with bohemianism (risk-taking and unconventional things). Those who work creatively and unconventionally will be the innovators who will drive the economic engine of this country. Interestingly, the kind of environment Florida tells us attracts the creative class sounds remarkably like an ideal college campus–a place combining challenge with support that values ideas and seeks to analyze them.

Expanding on means to build a culture in which creativity flourishes as a goal for student learning, we present interviews with Haring-Smith and with Debbie Chachra and Mark Somerville, two faculty from the Franklin W. Olin School of Engineering who also presented at the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute with colleague Benjamin Linder.

This is the first in a monthly series of PKAL Volume IV postings on STEM Student Learning Goals (SLGs). Postings will explore the diverse ways that attention to student learning goals affects institutional planning at all levels. You are invited to contribute.

PKAL Phase VI: Encouraging Collaborations for Developing Undergraduate STEM Faculty

October 11, 2007

The National Science Foundation has awarded Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) a grant to pilot a National STEM Faculty Development project. This will be an eighteen-month effort to determine what works in collaborating with formal networks to strengthen expertise within and across networks committed to adapting, implementing, and assessing contemporary research-based approaches to strengthen student learning in STEM fields.

This project is one outcome of the recent strategic planning for PKAL's future that led to a re-articulation of PKAL's vision, goals, strategies and actions for the next decade. This project is part of PKAL's continuing effort to identify, nurture, and support leaders taking responsibility for shaping robust undergraduate STEM learning environments. The kaleidoscopic perspective drives our work: integrating research and education in shaping faculty careers; connecting the evolution and assessment of programs, pedagogies, and spaces to insights on how people learn; and building bridges that cross boundaries of discipline, institutional types, and spheres of responsibility.

Story-telling and leadership in the work of reform

September 25, 2007

Science is about a great many things.... It’s about the systematic accumulation of facts and figures. It’s about the construction of logically consistent theories to account for those facts. It’s about the discovery of new materials, new pharmaceuticals, and new technologies..... But, at heart, science is about the telling of stories— stories that explain what the world is like, and how the world came to be as it is. And like older explanations, such as creation myths, epic legends, and fairy tales, the stories that science tells help us understand something about who we are as human beings, and how we relate to the earth.

-M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos. Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Since 2004, PKAL has posted a diverse set of stories, interviews, and reflections by faculty, administrators, and others whose work is aimed at transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment. We are now engaged in a “work-in-progress” renovation of the PKAL Volume IV website— a renovation that includes the reorganization and expansion of the personal accounts from leaders in undergraduate STEM told through interviews, stories and reflections.

We take the theme, people you’ve met along the way, from the lead essay by James Gentile, President of the Research Corporation, presented at the 2006 PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century Assembly. Gentile champions the practice of reflecting and connecting— to keep mindful of those who have made a difference in your life and to keep in touch with them. Such reflecting and connecting is consistent with the theory and practice of leadership development, so it is fitting to introduce this new series with his piece. We also invite your attention to the recently-released 2006 Annual Report from the Research Corporation.

A second set of pieces about people we’ve met along the way will focus on members of the PKAL Faculty 21 Network whose work is making a visible difference at the local and national level. Malcolm Campbell describes the evolution of and the institutional support needed for GCAT (the Genomic Consortium for Active Teaching); three F21 members who are Principal Investigators of NSF-funded STEP (Science Talent Expansion Program) are also interviewed. Although GCAT and STEP are different in many ways, each begins from a point of understanding what the future will be like for undergraduates now in our classrooms and labs and of the curricular, pedagogical, and organizational changes that must be made to ensure strong STEM learning. Our intent is to highlight F21 members throughout the year.

The third set of stories, interviews, and reflections will come from the community with expertise and experience in all stages of planning facilities for undergraduate STEM communities. We also highlight today interviews with colleagues from Bowdoin College (Marianne Jordan), Dickinson College (Walter Chromiak), and University of Richmond (Betsy Curtler and Andrew Newcomb), together with design professionals engaged with Dickinson and the University of Richmond.

The PKAL Facilities Resource

September 10, 2007

We invite you to review the PKAL Facilities Planning Resource, a work-in-progress renovation of materials in the PKAL archives relevant to planning spaces and structures that serve 21st century undergraduate learning in STEM fields.

This resource includes a PKAL Facilities Portfolio, which incorporates interviews, essays, and presentations from the community of academics and design professionals with expertise and experience in STEM facilities planning. It also includes a PKAL Facilities Directory, a listing of contemporary projects.

From the Archives IV: Leaders and leadership

August 22, 2007

Leaders have a capacity for self-reflection, for reality-testing. The importance of reflection is one of the threads through the Words of Wisdom for STEM Leaders presented in this posting from the PKAL archives. These words of wisdom, from a wide range of reflective leaders, offer perspectives on the personal dimension of leadership— both reflection and action.

Thinking about how leaders can learn to manage themselves and stay sane in the process, Ronald Heifetz emphasizes the importance of reflection, using the metaphor of learning to dance:

    Rather than maintain perspective on the events that surround and involve us, we often get swept up by them. Consider the experience of dancing on a dance floor in contrast with standing on a balcony and watching other people dance. Engaged in the dance, it is nearly impossible to get a sense of the patterns made by everyone on the floor. To discern the larger patterns on the dance floor— to see who is dancing with whom, in what groups, in what location, and who is sitting out which kind of dance— we have to stop moving and get to the balcony (Heifetz, Leadership without Easy Answers. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994).

At the beginning of a new academic year, we hope STEM leaders take some time to move to the balcony to reflect on the patterns in their scholarly life, recognizing (again from Heifetz) that listening to one’s self requires a place where one can hear oneself think.

These words of wisdom can catalyze one’s reflections and also suggest what might be done upon returning to the dance floor. The iterative process of reflection and action is built into PKAL’s DNA; thus the PKAL template for planning is included with the words of wisdom. This template works at the level of planning one’s personal future, of planning the future of the department or program, as well as at the institutional level.

From the Archives III: What is leadership? What does leadership mean to me?

August 8, 2007

Questioning exercises have always been at the core of PKAL activities, recognizing the value of private as well as public time to clarify and reshape one's personal perspectives on all dimensions of leadership in undergraduate STEM. Understanding the power of questions, on the ramifications of reflecting on and responding to essential questions is an important dimension of leadership.

    What is leadership? What does leadership mean to me, given my responsibilities for the undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning environment? What are my personal capacities as a leader?

This is one of the four driving questions shaping the 2007 PKAL F21 National Assembly. Participants will have opportunities to explore personal perspectives on leadership–their own, those of their F21 peers, and those of others recognized as making a difference within and for the undergraduate STEM community.

We continue the summer series of materials from the PKAL Volume IV archives with continued attention to the questions of leadership.

These materials from the archives are apropos to the recent Call for Nominations for the F21 Class of 2007, and the Call for Statements from the F21 Classes of 1994 - 2006.

Leaders Developing Leaders

July 27, 2007

To encourage discussion, PKAL proposes that the goal of the 21st century undergraduate STEM learning environment is to create and nurture leaders— students, faculty, and administrators— who are ready and able to take on big challenges; discomfort the comfortable; and be an influence of consequence in diverse communities. [As stated in the 2007 vision of the Purdue University School of Engineering] to create and nurture leaders who are innovative, with a strong work ethic, adaptable in a changing environment, ethical, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial, curious and consistent learners.

The theme of leaders developing leaders is woven very intentionally through all PKAL activities in the coming academic year. Many of these activities serve the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century Network (F21). Thus, we are pleased to announce:

From PKAL’s past and present experiences in leadership development, we have come to recognize that:

  • leaders are in all spheres of responsibility on a campus, and thus that both significant top-down and bottom-up leadership support is needed to effect change that is pervasive and positive over the long-term

  • leaders operate within a community, negotiating with and influencing colleagues working toward a common vision
  • there must be intentional and visible attention to planning and procedures that enable the design, implementation and assessment of strategies for action, given the complexity of the context for leadership in academe

  • the capacities for and abilities of leadership can be learned….by all members of the undergraduate learning community.

We invite colleagues to review PKAL essays and reports on leadership, assembled from the PKAL Archives.

From the Archives II: The Roles of Faculty Leaders

July 20, 2007

Over the 2007 summer months, we will be presenting materials from the Project Kaleidoscope archives that tell stories and present reports from the community on the kaleidoscopic approaches that provide compelling and provocative answers to questions central to transforming STEM.

F21 Leadership Institute alumni developed a set of Benchmarks of Excellence in Leadership, based on analysis of evaluation surveys from alumni, their senior administrators, and Leadership Institute mentors.

Faculty leaders:

  • demonstrate willingness to take intellectual and pedagogical risks, and are actively engaged:
    • in exploring and developing new curricular approaches
    • in teaching, research, and learning across traditional disciplinary boundaries
    • in pursuing cutting-edge questions in their field of research interest
    • as a departmental advocate for science, being assertive in pressing their case with the powers that be and within the larger campus community
    • with outreach to the community beyond the campus.
  • demonstrate heightened self-awareness in both their professional and personal lives, and in the interaction of the two, by:
    • making time for reflection
    • thinking about the appropriateness of vocation/work
    • engaging others in the discussion of such issues
    • being willing to seek advice and guidance in these areas
    • being available as a good colleague and mentor.
  • demonstrate an understanding of and appreciation for differences:
    • among their colleagues in styles of working/teaching
    • among their students in styles of learning
    • based on culture and gender
    • of activities for individuals and those designed for teams.
  • are active disseminators of best practices in:
    • bringing new pedagogies into the curriculum
    • engaging students with the content of science & mathematics
    • infusing research into the educational experience
    • leadership in higher education.

Faculty leaders demonstrate a working understanding of the theories, processes, and tools of leadership, that there are multiple styles of leadership and multiple contexts for leadership.

For more, visit:

From the Archives I

June 29, 2007

Over the 2007 summer months, we will be presenting materials from PKAL archives that tell stories and present reports from the community on the kaleidoscope of approaches that provide compelling and provocative answers to those questions.

PKAL’s first publication, in 1991, Volume I- What works: Building Natural Science Communities, began with a key set of questions that the initial PKAL leaders had been addressing for two years.

The salient feature of this excerpt from Volume I is the set of questions around which we shaped the vision and approach of PKAL. That early experience confirmed for us the critical need to identify and pursue the right questions in the process of building robust natural science communities:

  • Scientists love doing science. How can the curriculum be organized so as to induce science students to enjoy science, from the very first day?
  • Real science is carried out by teams in settings where face-to-face communication and shared values create a common culture. How can students begin to develop a sense of membership in a science community, from the very first day?
  • Science is a human enterprise, internally connected, and linked also with the world, with other disciplines, with social and political forces. Beliefs and actions regarding science have important consequences. How can we teach science so that those connections and consequences are visible and appreciated, from the very first day?

Making the Case for STEM Transformation: A Leadership Responsibility

June 22, 2007

Project Kaleidoscope’s goal is to give STEM faculty and their administrative colleagues access to new ideas and insights about what works in transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment, assistance in adapting what works for their local circumstances, and opportunity to develop as leaders. The driving metaphor of kaleidoscope suggests our approach to exploring what works, considering: curricular content (what is taught); pedagogies and technologies (how it is taught); facilities (where it is taught). Students and student learning is the key thread through this tapestry of what works explorations.

Based on that goal, our strategies are:

  • to offer a coordinated series of meetings (workshops, seminars, institutes, and roundtables) at which campus leaders (individuals and teams) meet to discuss and experience what works and to develop an agenda for local action
  • to gather and disseminate electronic and print publications about what works, to advance continuing conversations about leadership in transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment
  • to nurture formal and informal networks through which the work of individuals and individual colleges and universities is informed and enhanced.

Recent PKAL meetings have addressed, from several perspectives, the umbrella theme of being an advocate for undergraduate STEM. We here present a synopsis of workshop discussions on making the case for new spaces for science: how to shape the case and to identify and influence particular audiences within your home community.

The suggestions will be of interest to all leaders responsible for communicating the why of the work of building and sustaining robust undergraduate STEM learning environments.

Student Learning Goals: Implications for Planning- Resources for the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute IV

May 18, 2007

Recognizing that although “planning is an unnatural process,” (to quote Sir John Harvey Jones), from the experiences of PKAL leaders and institutions we are deriving some best practices and lessons learned to facilitate the process of planning, to enhance the creativity of planners as they imagine and invent the future of their undergraduate STEM learning environment.

In this posting we present: i) an agenda for planning that is built around attention to student learning goals; ii) a template for programming new spaces for sciences that can serve as a template for broader planning initiatives (developing faculty/programs), that includes a snapshot journey through recent spaces for science, with the rationale for such spaces, that illustrate approaches to designing spaces that serve student learning.

Again, these materials set the stage for discussions and explorations at the 2007 PKAL Leadership Institute.

Student Learning Goals: Implications for Strategic Leadership- Resources for the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute III

May 4, 2007

In his 1993 paper for PKAL, pioneering educator P. Uri Treisman poses some critical questions: How do we link local solutions to national problems? What can we learn from those who have solved particular problems in particular environments to advance local efforts toward reform? What are the characteristics of the students who will be learning in our STEM classrooms and labs?

Craig Nelson examines the implications of Treisman's work for campuses seeking to celebrate student diversity and broaden participation in the study and practice of STEM fields. As with Treisman, he calls for fundamental changes in pedagogical paradigms, including to change from measuring teaching by what is taught to measuring what is learned.

Eugenia Etkina and Jose Mestre outline implications of learning research for teaching science to non-science majors. Moving from a definition of constructivism, they conclude that [t]he autonomy felt by a student who can function like an investigative scientist is a great motivator.

Student Learning Goals: Building Community- Resources for the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute II

April 26, 2007

Over the years, PKAL leaders have explored the essential characteristics of a community that ‘works,’ recognizing that whatever challenges or opportunities facing campus leaders– to nurture faculty, shape or reshape programs, policies, spaces and/or budgets– the nature of the learning community must have highest priority.

Understanding how students think about learning is one critical step in building robust 21st century undergraduate STEM learning communities. This can be done in many ways, by: reviewing responses of your students on NSSE surveys; interviewing students in classes in which 21st pedagogies are being adapted; and having conversations with pedagogical pioneers on your campus about their experiences with students.

Student Learning Goals: Why Change- Resource for the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute I

April 20, 2007

Focusing on student learning is a hallmark of 21st century education, within and beyond STEM fields.

Leaders intent on making the case for why change? can base their arguments on the prevalence of attention to student learning evident in contemporary reports from many and diverse sources.

Sessions at the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute will offer significant opportunities for participants (as individuals or institutional teams) to explore the substance of such reports.

A Model of Learning: Resources for the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute

April 16, 2007

We are led, therefore, to postulate that the ideal model for learning science, mathematics and engineering at the undergraduate level has three irreducible qualities:

  1. The learner is enmeshed in a community of learners.
  2. The learning experience is personal.
  3. The learning establishes connections that place [learning] in context.

These qualities will meet the test of diffusibility. They can be created anywhere.

– excerpted from Learning Science, an essay from PKAL Volume I: What Works in Building Natural Science Communities

This ideal model, which emerged from and guided the work of early PKAL leaders, was distilled from the reflections and experiences of many pioneering agents of change in the late 20th century. From their work, it was clear that what works is when the classroom (and lab) is seen as a locus for activity and dialogue, for cooperative efforts engaging students, and students and faculty, and a place for students to construct their own knowledge.

Announcing: 2007 PKAL Summer Institute

April 5, 2007

What resources are needed by and available for academic leaders intent on building and sustaining a robust 21st century STEM learning environment for undergraduates on American college and university campuses?

This is one question driving the design of the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute. Institute participants, as individuals or members of an institutional/organization team, will examine a wide range of existing and emerging resources that can advance their work of agents of change at the campus and the national level.


Wisdom from the Field: The PKAL-Keck Consultation Program

March 26, 2007

On-campus consultations are a valuable dimension of institutional transformation, enabling a wider group of colleagues to meet with experienced reform practitioners, whether the issues relate to individual departments or programs, or are focusing on broader challenges such as facilities renewal. Over the years, with support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, PKAL provided consultant teams to colleges and universities that were facing barriers to advancing plans for reform and that recognized the need to gain external perspectives on their internal policies, programs and practices. Now, at the conclusion of the W.M. Keck grant, we have assembled an archive of materials relating to the PKAL-Keck Consultation Program.

Reflections on PKAL

February 28, 2007

The beginning of a new year is time to step back, reflect on the past and the future of PKAL.

PKAL’s vision about student learning, shaped by the earliest cadre of PKAL leaders, is “…that the ideal model for learning science and mathematics [and engineering] in college has three irreducible qualities:

  • the learner is enmeshed in a community of learners
  • the learning experience is personal
  • the learning experience establishes connections that place science in context.”

We invite your review of the essay, Learning Science, from the 1991 report to gain further insights about learning within a community— that learning within a community is an intellectual and physical environment based on dialogue and activity— wherein knowledge is constructed cooperatively; about the personal character of learning— which means that students learn by doing science in person rather than receiving science vicariously (hands-on); and about the power of enabling learners to see connections between what they are experiencing in the classroom and lab to the world beyond the campus.

Stories from the PKAL LI Experience

January 31, 2007

The power of stories is the theme of this PKAL Volume IV posting. From campuses participating in PKAL’s Leadership Initiative, (very)-short stories are presented about how they galvanized conversations about new directions for undergraduate STEM programs, kept those conversations going, and built an infrastructure for the future. We invite you to study their stories in the context of change efforts on your campus.

Believing that buildings tell stories, we also present a presentation from the 2006 PKAL Leadership Seminar in Kansas City—inviting you to review each of these spaces and determine the vision of student learning that it illustrates.

Insights from Experience: Facilities Planning

January 12, 2007

What works is learning from the experiences of colleagues and design professionals in shaping 21st century STEM learning spaces for 21st century students, science and technology.

College Learning for the New Global Century

January 10, 2007 this global century, every student—not just the fortunate few—will need wide-ranging and cross-disciplinary knowledge, higher-level skills, an active sense of personal and social responsibility, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge to complex problems. The learning students need is best described as a liberal—and liberating education.

On January 10, the Association of American Colleges and Universities presented the report from its National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP). The congruence of student learning goals for liberal learning articulated by LEAP and the higher-level goals for STEM student learning articulated by leading agents of change in undergraduate STEM is notable. The LEAP report brings new and important insights about “why change” to discussions about transforming undergraduate STEM learning, connecting individual efforts of faculty in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (individually and departmentally) in a larger institutional vision of the purpose of the enterprise, in our global century.

Assessing Student Achievement

November 7, 2006

In recent years, increasing attention is being given to linking insights about how people learn into the process of curricular and pedagogical transformation. Some pioneers in this work met recently in Washington at a first-time gathering of PI’s of NSF-funded grants in the Assessment of Student Achievement (ASA) program [Division of Undergraduate Education]. Organized by the ASA team at Drury University, the meeting was an opportunity for sharing within the ASA community, as well as an opportunity to gather ideas and insights for sharing with the broader community addressing issues relating to the quality and character of undergraduate learning in STEM fields. To begin, we present some answers to a question posed to the ASA principal investigators: “What is the major lesson you have learned through your ASA experience that all STEM faculty should know?”

Fostering Interdisciplinary Research

November 1, 2006

We direct your attention to a provocative article on Interdisciplinary Research: Opportunities, Obstacles and Options, from the recently published 2005 Annual Report from the Research Corporation.

The article, by Randy Wedin, provides examples, opinions, and insights on the particular interface of the physical sciences and the life sciences, based on interviews with fourteen scientists, many of whom have been especially active in interdisciplinary research. It addresses the questions of "what are the barriers to interdisciplinary research? And what innovative options are available for overcoming those barriers?"

Infusing insights about How People Learn into policy and practice

October 6, 2006

Infusing insights about how students learn into the shaping of policies and practices requires attention by senior academic administrators as well as at the departmental level.

In this week's PKAL postings, we present an essay about how provosts, deans and other senior administrators can keep the focus on the quality and character of student learning. A candidate for the departmental "tool-box" for ensuring that student learning is at the center of departmental deliberations is also presented, adapted from an exercise at a PKAL workshop. Finally, we direct your attention to the valuable resource about assessment of student learning, in the archive of the National Institute for Science Education.

Connecting How Students Learn to Where Students Learn

September 19, 2006

The September 19 posting of PKAL Volume IV explores "what works" in connecting how people learn to where people learn.

This week, we feature stories about

  • Georgia Tech’s PBL (problem-based learning) environment,
  • the new science facility at Notre Dame,
  • and the SCALE-UP program at North Carolina State University.

All of these stories make a persuasive case that physical spaces make a difference in how people learn. Also included in this posting are questions about the future of undergraduate STEM learning spaces that are emerging from the community of architects involved with PKAL.

Translating How People Learn into a Roadmap for Institutional Transformation

September 8, 2006

  • What is your mental image of how people learn?
  • How does that image shape how students are learning in your classrooms and labs?
  • How does that image shape institution-wide efforts toward designing programs, nurturing faculty?
  • How does that image shape the spaces in which that learning takes place?

The first PKAL Volume IV posting for the 2006 – 2007 academic year initiates a series addressing such questions, under the general theme:

Leadership: What Works (part VI)

August 24, 2006

Some options and opportunities for setting goals for student learning in STEM fields are presented in this final posting in PKAL’s summer series on leadership, what works, in which we also present information about the PKAL Leadership Seminar to be held in Kansas City, November 17 – 19, 2006.

We invite the PKAL community to review Tom Friedman’s descriptors of persons who will succeed in our increasingly "flat world" and to consider if such characteristics are aligned with their goals for student learning at the level of course, department and/or institution. That list, and insights about the creative mind from Nancy Andreasen, can also serve as a roadmap for leaders developing leaders within the community of stakeholders responsible for the quality of undergraduate STEM programs in this country.

Leadership: What Works (part V)

August 17, 2006

Leaders find ways to make a difference: carving out new agendas that change the landscape for everyone, creatively shaping and disseminating best practices for use by the larger community, or sharing a passion for science with their students. This PKAL Volume IV posting on Leadership: What works, highlights the work of leaders in these three areas.

First, an interview with Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, Chair of the House Committee on Science; then interviews with some of the recent awardees of the National Science Foundation's Distinguished Teaching Award, who describe their experiences integrating education and research; finally, statements from some of the recent members of the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century, who speak of their visions of what undergraduate STEM might be by 2016.

Leadership: What Works (part IV)

August 8, 2006

"If we are to provide prosperity and a secure environment for our children and grandchildren, we cannot be complacent.... Simply maintaining status quo is insufficient when other nations push ahead with desire, energy, and commitment....

"Today's challenge is economic— no Pearl Harbor, Sputnik, or 9/11 will stir quick action. It is time to shore up the basics, the blocking and tackling: without which our [nation's] leadership will surely decline. For a century, many in the United States took for granted that most great inventions were homegrown...and were commercialized here as well. We are less certain today who will create the next generation of innovations, or even what they will be. We know that we need a more secure Internet, more efficient transportation, new cures for disease, and clean, affordable, and reliable sources of energy. But who will dream them up, who will get the jobs they create, and who will profit from them? If our children and grandchildren are to enjoy the prosperity that our forebears earned for us, our nation must quickly invigorate the knowledge institutions that have served it so well in the past and create new ones to serve in the future."

Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. NAS. 2005.

Among the many recent urgent calls to action, the report from the National Academies of Science in 2005, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, has had the most significant impact. From shaping America's Competitive Initiative to influencing recent decisions in Congress about authorizations and appropriations in support of research and education in scientific and technological fields, the recommendations and proposed actions in Rising Above the Gathering Storm are beginning to change the playing field.

The challenge that introduced their report was raised again by NAS committee chair, Norman Augustine, in speaking to the first meeting of the National Science Board Commission on STEM Education on August 5, 2006.

The discussions among Mr. Augustine, NSB Commission members, NSF representatives, and other guests explored several key issues, including the need to have a rigorous examination of what works as a basis from which to shape a plan of action.

Emphasizing the importance of engaging all stakeholders in ongoing dialogue about actions and implementation strategies, Mr. Augustine spoke of the upcoming Rising Above the Gathering Storm Convocation at the National Academies of Sciences, to be held on September 28, 2006.

Leadership: What Works (part III)

July 21, 2006

An address by Karan Watson, Dean of Faculties, Texas A & M University continues our summer series focusing on leaders and leadership. Presented at the 2006 PKAL Leadership Seminar, "Ensuring the Success of All Students," Dr. Watson tells stories from her Cherokee heritage, translating their traditional morals into mantras for 21st century leaders.

Approaching the issue of diversity as key to ensuring the success of all students is explored in essays and papers by Robert Megginson, Associate Dean for Undergraduate & Graduate Education at the University of Michigan; Craig Nelson, Professor of Biology at Indiana University, and George Campbell, President of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Links to the work of BEST (Building Engineering and Scientific Talent) and to PKAL visions of what works offer further resources for leaders working to ensure the success of all students in STEM fields.

Leadership: What Works (part II)

July 10, 2006

The second in our series on leadership, this Volume IV posting contains an essay by Kathie L. Olsen, Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation. She spoke at the October, 2005, PKAL Leadership Seminar at the University of Maryland Baltimore County about the future of science and education, contemporary "Sputnik" moments that energize the scientific and technological workforce, and the value of undergraduate research and personal mentors for students pursuing careers in the sciences. Dr. Olsen's words emphasize the need for stakeholder investment in STEM fields and a nation-wide commitment to the "endless frontiers" of research.

Leadership: What Works (part I)

June 27, 2006

With this posting, PKAL initiates a summer series on leaders and leadership, spotlighting individuals and institutions pursuing the structural changes in higher education called for in the many recent calls for action from national and disciplinary communities.

The core of this series captures presentations at PKAL Leadership Seminars during 2005 – 2006. We begin with an essay by Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Dr. Hrabowski spoke at the PKAL/UMBC Seminar on Building a Research-rich Learning Environment. He emphasized that changing the culture takes a collective vision, because change has everything to do with attitudes, values, and perspectives of the broader community.

Building a Strong Faculty

May 31, 2006

Strong faculty are indispensable to responding effectively to the many recent calls for a national effort to transform the learning environment for American students in mathematics and the various fields of science.

In this posting, we extend discussions about strengthening faculty raised in the NRC report, Evaluating and improving undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineer, and mathematics, including a series of reflective questions about shaping a scholarly journey from James M. Gentile, President— Research Corporation.

Visions for a Robust 21st Century STEM Learning Environment

May 16, 2006

Both research and practice confirm that a clear and compelling vision is essential if demonstrable and sustainable progress is to be realized toward achieving the ambitions and aspirations of a particular community.

This posting of Volume IV is about visions.

Learning and Teaching Undergraduate Mathematics

April 26, 2006

In this week's posting on Volume IV, we continue our focus on reports distilled in the PKAL Report on Reports II, 2006 with further materials related to the 2004 Curriculum Guide from CUPM (Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics). The work of this committee is sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), which regularly produces publications of value to the extended community of leaders in undergraduate STEM, including but going beyond those with direct responsibility for the quality and character of undergraduate mathematics.

Recognizing that April is Math Awareness Month, information about two efforts to transform the undergraduate learning environment in mathematics— BioQuest's ESTEEM network and the International Conference on Teaching Mathematics 3— is also presented.

Supplement to PKAL Volume III

April 7, 2006

To institutions considering new spaces for science, PKAL offers the following counsel, taken from a 1990 report of a meeting convened by the Government-University-Industry-Research Roundtable (GUIRR):

"Institutional policies and practices should systematically plan the allocation of resources to favor programs and facilities in areas that are central to the institution’s mission of education and that offer the best opportunities to achieve distinction."

Figuring out how new science facilities will enhance institutional distinction is a fundamental responsibility of campus leaders. Without a vision of what difference the new spaces will make, the process of planning is skewed. Arriving at a vision that resonates with the mission of the institution requires attention to the external context (See PKAL Report on Reports II) and to local circumstances. Such an examination of context and circumstances is advanced in several ways, but priority must be given to asking the key question: “what is the nature of the learning community on our campus?” Another key question is: "how are other institutions answering questions about educational vision, facilities planning, community building? What can we learn from their experiences to advance our planning?"

This Supplement to Volume III is designed to cross-pollinate ideas and insights about what works in achieving spaces for science that enhance institutional distinction. There are stories about individual projects; power point presentations from workshops; check-lists from which to measure quality of space; and summaries of Keck/PKAL consultancies. There are also reflective essays that stretch our collective imagination of facilities of the future: more sustainable, more technologically-intensive, more welcoming to all students, more evocative of environments in which 21st century science is practiced.

As the larger community of stakeholders, including leaders from academe and from the community of design professionals, shares best practices, lessons learned about what worked and did not work, planning on individual campuses can proceed most expeditiously. But more important, this cross-pollination can lead to a national community better informed about and committed to a vision for undergraduate STEM programs that will indeed serve student, science and society with distinction for years to come.

Interdisciplinary Research

April 3, 2006

We continue our series of discussions on individual reports captured in the PKAL Report on Reports II, 2006, giving attention to Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, published in 2004 by the National Academy of Sciences. If we were to distill the three or four dominant themes through these reports, certainly the need for conversations and experiences that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries would become visible.

Learning and Teaching Centers

March 23, 2006

What works to foster an informed leadership that takes responsibility at the institutional level for building and sustaining a robust undergraduate STEM learning environment for the 21st century?

Some beginning answers to that question can be found in this week's PKAL Volume IV posting, which presents stories about: the "Learning Commons" at The Colorado College; the "Campus Instructional Consulting" center at Indiana University at Bloomington; the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University; and the "Center for Educational Excellence" at the United States Air Force Academy.

Renewing National Attention to Undergraduate STEM Education

March 16, 2006

The critical need to give renewed national attention to the quality and character of our country's undergraduate programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is being highlighted in many venues, most recently in a Hearing of the Subcommittee on Research, Committee on Science of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This Hearing is but one strand in conversations that have been going for almost two decades, beginning with the NSB "Neal Report" that was a catalyst in the mid-1980's for renewed attention to a critical link in the nation's scientific and technological infrastructure. The many recent reports issued by public and disciplinary groups (see PKAL Report on Reports II) spotlight both what needs to be done, and what is being done, to build a robust STEM learning environment for the 15+ million undergraduates now in our nation’s colleges and universities.

Report on Reports II - Part II

February 23, 2006

Perspectives from educational associations, think-tanks, and disciplinary communities on shaping a 21st century infrastructure that supports the nation's scientific and technological communities are presented in Part II of PKAL’s Report on Reports II, 2006. Their analyses and recommendations amplify the need for structural change called for by leading national groups whose reports are presented in Part I of this PKAL publication.

In PKAL Volume IV postings during February and March, single reports from Part II will be presented. Ideas and issues raised in each individual report will be extended, and links to further resources provided. Our intent is that this series informs local, regional and national efforts to achieve "systemic reform" of the educational system undergirding America’s scientific and technological communities.

Report on Reports II - National Reports

February 1, 2006

Reports calling for action to strengthen student learning in STEM fields seem to be issued weekly. They signal a sense of urgency about the capacity of America’s higher education system to prepare students for the realities of the 21st century workplace, and for their civic responsibilities; they capture a compelling vision of a nation’s future that can serve as a roadmap for institutional leaders seeking to implement the recommendations presented in their pages.

PKAL has assembled materials from five reports recently issued by leaders from the nation’s business, scientific and academic communities. We invite you to review them here:

National Reports in PKAL Report on Reports II, 2006.

This is an update to the Report on Reports 2002. A print copy of the PKAL Report on Reports 2006 will be available for distribution shortly.

PKAL and China

January 26, 2006

Project Kaleidoscope and three universities in Wuhan China sponsored a weekend pro-seminar on undergraduate STEM reform during the first weekend in November 2005. This was a continuation of a developing collaboration between American and Chinese colleagues pursuing a parallel agenda to strengthen the learning of undergraduates in STEM fields.

Representatives of thirty-seven Chinese universities, the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology participated, together with a PKAL delegation of ten science faculty and academic leaders.

During the final session, participants were asked to list specific activities (short-term) they will be undertaking as a result of the pro-seminar discussions, and some long-term goals.

More information about PKAL and China.

Systemic Transformation: Planning New Spaces for Science... and More

January 11, 2006

The PKAL Volume IV postings in 2006 begin with attention to the process of systemic transformation of the undergraduate STEM learning environment.

The first posting is the first in a series of summaries of contemporary reports from national organizations and academic associations calling for immediate action by the larger community, and providing advice and recommendations on how to proceed.

The second posting is a report from a Keck/PKAL consultation team, with advice on how to "restart" a stalled facilities planning process (a report that will be a resource for the PKAL Facilities Planning Workshop at Meredith College, March 3 - 5, 2006).

Leadership from the perspective of the department/program chairperson

December 21, 2005

Insight and ideas, essays, stories and tools to enhance the work of leaders of departments and programs: PKAL Volume IV posting for the end of 2005.

May we all find peace and quiet in these days, and energy to move into 2006.

Steps Toward Planning Spaces for Science

November 16, 2005

There are many steps to achieve sustainable institutional transformation, including: i) identifying the right questions; ii) addressing such questions to those with relevant expertise; iii) building on the work of experienced agents of change; and iv) focusing on what works. The November 16 posting for PKAL Volume IV gives examples of how campus leaders have taken these steps in the context of planning new spaces for science. The lessons learned from their experiences can inform the work of leaders tackling other facets of institutional transformation, as they all focus on building a collaborating community with a common vision of the future. More »

Planning Spaces for Science

October 27, 2005

In the October 27 posting for PKAL Volume IV, we present resources from the PKAL archive on planning spaces for undergraduate natural science communities.

For over a decade, Project Kaleidoscope has been a major resource for campuses planning spaces for science—whether new construction, an addition or the renovation of spaces large and small. The upcoming PKAL Facilities Planning Workshop at Meredith College in the spring (March 3 – 5, 2006) is the 30th PKAL workshop, seminar or colloquium PKAL has hosted on facilities planning since 1992. Over 700 campuses from all sectors of higher education, from all parts of the country, have sent teams to these events. From these years of activity, PKAL has assembled an extensive archive on each stage of the planning process—from the point of grounding planning in institutional mission, and articulating a compelling vision, through the stages of considering options and opportunities to achieve spaces that contribute to institutional distinction, to figuring out how to secure the capital needed for such a major investment in the physical plant. More »