History of PKAL

PKAL Phase V: 2003 - 2007

Phase V began by marking the tenth year of the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century Network. This was, therefore, a time of transition for PKAL, one that responded to the maturing of the F21 network. This time of transition also reflected an awareness of the need for leaders- at all career stages and in all spheres of responsibility- to be working more intently and intentionally toward a common vision of what works, what matters, and what lasts in strengthening the undergraduate learning environment: thus the increased emphasis within PKAL on enhancing the leadership capacity of faculty and administrators and on building networks that enable the work of these leaders to flourish.

PKAL hosted the 2003 assemblies, designed to prepare teams to assume active leadership roles in building and sustaining strong learning environments on their campus. The assemblies addressed reform from the institutional perspective:

  • shaping new inter- and cross-disciplinary programs that serve 21st century science and society
  • integrating information technologies throughout the learning environment
  • connecting student learning to the world beyond the campus (global science & technology communities, the 21st century workplace, the K-12 community, etc.)
  • providing opportunities for all students to engage in rigorous learning within a research-rich environment
  • motivating students to pursue careers that capitalize on their interests, experience and skills in scientific, engineering, and technological fields.

Over 825 faculty and administrative leaders participated in one or more of the assemblies. One tangible outcome of the assemblies was a new resource of statements on what works.

In moving into Phase V and reflecting on the changing context for reform, a planning group of PKAL leaders developed a new proposal to NSF. The premise for the proposal was that shaping the future of undergraduate education in STEM requires:

  • faculty scholars taking responsibility for leadership in developing a learning environment that is responsive to the needs of disciplines and to advances in science and technology that transcend traditional disciplines
  • an intellectual and human infrastructure that supports, sustains, and enhances the work of faculty leaders at several levels within and across institutions, working together toward a vision of...
    ... an environment in which all American undergraduates have access to learning experiences that motivate them to persist in their studies and consider careers in [STEM] fields; it is of an environment that brings undergraduates to an understanding of the role of science and technology in their world.
    - PKAL Report on Reports (2002). [cited in NSF 03-558]

Unfortunately, previous efforts, stretching back decades, to instantiate improved undergraduate science education have been sporadic, short-lived, and often with little lasting impact. One reason for this lack of sustainability is that earlier faculty development in STEM fields has been targeted at individual courses and programs and/or from the perspective of single disciplines. While successful in improving isolated parts of the undergraduate learning environment, such efforts have not led to systemic, long-lasting improvements in the learning environment. A new approach to faculty enhancement is essential, particularly in a time when challenges and opportunities confronting 21st century leaders require faculty prepared to collaborate across typical departmental boundaries, within the context of a community pursuing a common vision about student learning.

Funded by NSF in late 2003, this new Leadership Initiative is the larger umbrella under which PKAL activities will be crafted for the next several years. Central aspects of this current PKAL phase include the PKAL publications, Leadership and Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts.

Additional funding for Phase V comes from the Phase IV funders.