Volume V: Then, Now & In the Next Decade

Embracing the Right Questions: Planning Spaces for Science

One of the most powerful stimuli for leaders to take a kaleidoscopic perspective on curricular and pedagogical change is planning and then completing the construction of new spaces and structures for undergraduate STEM communities. Because the financial stakes are so high, everyone’s attention is captured. Stakes in regard to student learning are equally high.

Faculty and administrators must determine if and how their physical facilities can support the research-rich, technology-intensive environments that lead to robust learning by undergraduate students; in like manner, they must explore if and how their spaces can foster the kind of natural science community that attracts all students into the study of STEM fields and motivates them to pursue careers in these fields.

Improved spaces make a difference in that they:

  • create the opportunity for strengthening learning, with greater student access to opportunities to ‘do science,’ from introductory courses through upper-level courses for majors
  • introduce an increasing number of students to the art and excitement of doing research, thereby fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills
  • enable flexible scheduling and use, accommodating students with different learning styles and different career aspirations
  • play a role in recruiting strong faculty, as candidates see the value the institution places on these disciplines and its commitment for the future
  • accommodate emerging interdisciplinary thrusts in teaching, research and learning
  • provide expanded technology infrastructures that support programmatic reforms based on an increased use of instructional technologies, and give students a command of the tools of information exchange essential for work and life-long learning
  • leverage the search for external support, making the institution more competitive in obtaining grants for research, curriculum faculty development and instrumentation
  • are occasions for revisiting institutional priorities, and for considering the allocation or reallocation of resources so that those priorities can be funded over the long term.

Arriving at such spaces involves revisiting institutional priorities, and considering the allocation or reallocation of resources so that those priorities can be funded over the long term. It also involves asking key questions about all aspects of the planning process.

How Improved Facilities Make a Difference. PKAL Volume IV: What Works, What Matters, What Lasts.