FEd Fall 2001 Newsletter - Project Kaleidoscope

Spring 2001



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What's Your Network? upkalani.gif (17168 bytes) Project Kaleidoscope

Elizabeth McCormack

For most of us, our research communities have been critical to our career development. This has certainly been the case for me, and until recently, this community was pretty much unrivaled in my professional life. Lately however, I've been enjoying a second community just as enabling and informative and most importantly, just as inspiring. This network is the web of interactions surrounding Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL).

PKAL is a growing set of connections between individuals and institutions concerned with and committed to efforts to improve undergraduate science, math, engineering and technology (SME&T) education. PKAL's work addresses the full scope of this endeavor including issues concerning faculty, curriculum, research and facilities, as well as joining in broader institutional and national debates on education in fields of SME&T. Interacting with this community has enriched my classroom and teaching labs and led to a new level of enjoyment and success in working with students both at the undergraduate level and the graduate level. It has guided me in thinking broadly about my role in my department, in my institution, and in articulating goals for teaching that compliment my research goals.

Below are listed some of the activities that constitute PKAL. In the last ten years nearly 4500 academics representing more than 850 diverse college and universities have participated in PKAL-sponsored events and activities. As PKAL enters its second decade, its goals have grown to include broadening its network to make more connections with educators and researchers at universities including young scientists, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students just embarking on academic careers.

PKAL Summer Institutes and Workshops

The Institutes take place for two weeks each summerin 2001, they will be in Snowbird, Utah. They are thematic, changing each summer, with several programs running at the same time. They provide unique planing opportunities for teams to develop tailored approaches to meet departmental and institutional goals to reform and improve undergraduate science and math education on their campuses. They facilitate faculty and institutions to take new directions in classrooms and labs by embracing key developments in science and technology, by addressing new societal challenges to education and by encouraging all educators to affect the lives of their students on the campus and beyond. PKAL has effectively served as an intelligence-broker and network-builder by hosting over 100 workshops that serve as a venue to exchange best practices about "what works" to strengthen student interest and learning.

PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century (F21)

Most would agree that quality education is critically dependent on faculty who are intellectually energetic, up-to-date in their field, passionate about student learning, implementing new technologies and pedagogies, and committed to research as an effective learning experience for students. To sustain systemic reform in science and math education, PKAL has built a network, now over 1000 strong, of faculty from a diverse set of institutions that constitutes a broad community of educators that meets annually at a PKAL F21 National Assembly to inform, challenge and support each other.


PKAL collects and publishes materials that emerge from the various institutes and workshops and distributes them for the larger community. These are valuable resources. Major volumes addressing critical issues in transforming science and math education serve as handbooks for reform. PKAL Volume IWhat Works: Building Natural Science Communities has served many faculty and institutions working to strengthen their programs for over a decade. PKAL Volume IIIStructures for Science: A Handbook for Planning Facilities for Undergraduate Natural Science Communities is regularly used by campuses planning new science buildings. The most recent publication, Then, Now & in the Next Decade: A Commentary of Strengthening Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education, sets forth new goals and parameters for reform efforts in the 21st century.

How can you get involved?

Visit the PKAL web site to learn more about PKAL activities and publications.

As an academic dean or Provost, sponsor a promising young faculty member to join the Faculty of the 21st Century. As a faculty member, ask your dean to nominate you to become a member of the Faculty of the 21st Century.

Put together a team of both faculty and administrators to attend a PKAL Summer Institute to learn about and plan for reform in science and math education on your campus.

Attend a PKAL F21 National Assembly as an F21 member to focus on "what works" for student learning, recruitment and retention and to make connections with colleagues across all disciplines to talk about career related issues that go beyond disciplinary boundaries.

Contact a PKAL Faculty of the 21st Century member near you by visiting the PKAL web site and start networking and find out what PKAL has done for them.

I invite you to learn more about this truly transforming community. Share your own experiences in SME&T education and learn from others.

Elizabeth F. McCormack, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor on the Rosalyn R. Schwartz Lectureship in the Physics Department at Bryn Mawr College and PKAL F21 Class of 1996.