Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

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.

Since 1989, PKAL has had the opportunity to engage with many pioneers in transforming undergraduate STEM: reflective practitioners, creative agents of change. Based on review and analyses of their experiences, a "PKAL process of planning" is evolving, one that is the foundation for the work of PKAL in the next two years. This process will be outlined and annotated in PKAL print and web publications, providing a manual for leaders on how and why to work toward transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment.

The key lessons learned are:

  • start with the right questions
  • have a driving vision
  • have the right people at the time, in a timely manner
  • focus on what works, on solutions not problems
  • take the kaleidoscopic perspective at all times
  • be ready for the long haul.

Some "right" questions in the context of planning new spaces for science, identified by participants in PKAL facilities workshops, deal with the philosophical—about the nature of the community—as well as with the nuts and bolts phasing renovations and securing needed resources. We present first a set of "questions to begin" for institutional teams looking toward new spaces for science; these are not answered. A second set of questions comes with some informative answers, excerpted and summarized from discussions with the community of design professionals involved with PKAL. Finally, we suggest a series of questions that can be used while making "bench-marking" visits to campuses with recently-completed spaces for science. First some unanswered questions, and then some brief responses to the question, what difference do improved spaces for science make?

Three leadership perspectives, from a chancellor/president, a provost/dean, and a faculty project shepherd, show what works in planning that engages the entire community—a process in which the concept of community is both the means and the end of the process.

A vision of community that is nurtured by spaces that make a difference is provided as a starting point from which those planning new spaces for science can do "backward mapping," or for all campuses to evaluate the quality and character of their present spaces.