Volume VI: Issue I, No. 3

A Kaleidoscope of Perspectives on Institutional Transformation, STEM & Beyond

Questions that drove the thinking and planning and dreaming of the first cadre of PKAL leaders centered around getting students to share the passion of STEM faculty, to understand the power and potential, connectedness and relevance of the STEM disciplines “…from the very first day.”

Twenty years ago, the documented dismalness of the lower level STEM courses was a major catalyst for mobilizing pioneering efforts to reinvent what students experienced ‘from the very first day.’ It is time to refocus on the lower level STEM courses, recognizing although that much has been accomplished, much still needs to be done if all students are to become engaged STEM learners. It is time to consider lessons learned on campuses where systemic and sustainable transformation is visible and to translate their experiences into a broader agenda for action—at the local level and within the PKAL/AAC&U partnership.

A panel at AAC&U’s January 2010 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC shared their experiences in shaping a communal sense of how lower level STEM courses serve the institutional mission and motivate all students to consider careers in related fields—from K-12 science/math teacher to an engineer working on global environment issues; and prepare all students for leadership in these challenging times.

Jeanne Narum, Founding Director- Project Kaleidoscope.

Robin Bingham, Professor of Biology- Western State College of Colorado
Katayoun Chamany, Associate Professor, Science, Technology and Society Program- Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts
Kelly McConnaughay, Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences- Bradley University
Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies- University of Central Florida
Kyle Seifert, Assistant Professor of Biology- James Madison University
Scott Van Bramer, Professor of Chemistry & Department Chair- Widener University

The redesign of science curricula, for us, starts with some questions:

  • Scientists love doing science. How can the curriculum be organized so as to induce science students to enjoy science from the 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 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 are consequences are visible and appreciated from the first day?

Our discourse about these questions has made it clear to us that curriculum and pedagogy are inseparable. In science (STEM) more than in any other field, the true subject matter is methodology. Teaching science is, at best, a modeling of behavior, a demonstration of the true nature of investigation.

Session Notebook
Session Overview, Worksheet: Questions to Address, F21 Abstracts on Lower-Level STEM Courses & PKAL Planning Process