The April 9-11, 1995, convocation “From Analysis to Action: Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology” sought to capture, on a small scale, the full diversity of undergraduate education. Its almost 300 participants included people from industry, government, and education; two-year colleges and four-year colleges; liberal arts, comprehensive, and research institutions; all regions of the country; and all levels of the professoriate. The result was three days of provocative conversation that ranged widely across issues affecting higher education.
The convocation was structured in parallel with a 44-page challenge paper sent to participants before the meeting. Following brief plenary sessions, participants broke into small groups to discuss issues raised in the paper. Each group had a chair and rapporteur that synthesized the group's conclusions and recommendations. These findings were then synthesized by three larger groups organized thematically according to issues affecting students, faculty, and institutions. A final round of breakout groups consisting of college presidents, government officials, tenured faculty, non-tenured faculty, etc., discussed issues directly affecting that group before a concluding plenary session announced the major conclusions and recommendations of the convocation, which in turn formed the basis for the preceding report of the convocation steering committee.
This synposis combines material from the challenge paper and from the workshop rapporteurs to provide a more thorough accounting of the convocation proceedings than could be provided in the preceding report. It is organized in the same way as the challenge paper and the convocation, with three broad areas that are each divided into four or five more specific topics. Lists of questions that appeared in the challenge paper are reproduced here in full, though participants did not necessarily address each question. References are from the challenge paper or were mentioned by convocation participants.
This synopsis should not be seen as the consensus recommendations of the group as a whole. But convocation participants raised many important issues and generated a number of intriguing ideas. They are presented here to foster dialogue and promote change of the undergraduate experience in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
What should be the goals of undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology?
Students who enroll in America's two-year and four-year colleges and universities bring with them a wide array of talents, aptitudes, backgrounds, and deficiencies (National Science Foundation, Division of Research, Evaluation, and Dissemination, 1991). Some arrive at college with virtually no scientific or mathematical skills; a few have already done sophisticated research in high school. Some have clear-cut professional ambitions; others have little idea what they want to study or what they want to do after they graduate. Today about 40 percent of all undergraduates are over 25 years old. More of them live off campus than on. More of them are women than are men, and the proportion of minorities is growing steadily (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994).
The tremendous diversity of students and of the institutions they attend would seem to defy the setting of widely applicable goals for what all undergraduates should learn and be able to do in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Yet the current system, which rarely establishes specific goals beyond those associated with individual classes and courses of study, seems entirely unsatisfactory. Too many students fall through the cracks, either because they are exposed to these
subjects very little in college, or because their experience in such courses is so unpleasant that their last formal academic experience with these disciplines is one of disillusionment and frustration (Seymour and Hewitt, 1994).
All stakeholders in undergraduate education need to give more thought to the goals of the enterprise. This examination needs to encompass different educational levels, including individual classes, courses of study, and the undergraduate experience as a whole. It needs to involve different groups within an institution, including individual faculty members, departments, schools, and entire institutions, and different kinds of institutions, including two-year colleges, four-year colleges, business, industry, and government. The goals that are set should be both ambitious and attainable. They also must be measurable, because meaningful assessments are needed to provide incentives and accountability.
General statements of academic mission are usually too vague to drive meaningful change. These mission statements may speak of integrating knowledge or of achieving rigor, but they rarely have any discernible impact on what goes on in the classroom. What is needed are specific objectives, along with means of implementation and evaluation, that reflect both institutional and national perspectives.
This part of the convocation summary considers the educational goals of undergraduate instruction in five categories: providing access to science, mathematics, engineering, and technology for all students; ensuring that all undergraduates become literate in these subjects; educating future pre-college teachers; preparing students for technical occupations; and educating majors in science, engineering, and mathematics.
Giving all students the opportunity to pursue careers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology
Programs to increase access to undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology traditionally have focused on groups that are underrepresented in these fields, and many of these programs have met with considerable success. Among the approaches that have been taken are outreach to surrounding schools, summer and weekend institutes, research apprenticeships, curriculum improvement, financial support, the development of study groups, and increased faculty involvement with students (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993a, b; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1993, 1994, 1995; Massey, 1989; Matyas and Malcom, 1991; National Science Foundation, Task Force on Women, Minorities, and the Handicapped in Science and Technology, 1989; Project Kaleidoscope, 1991, 1993; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1988, 1989). In general, the most effective approaches are both comprehensive, in that they touch upon many aspects of a student's life, and extended over time. From elementary school through college and beyond, students need multiple sources of support to remain motivated and prepared for the next level of achievement.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: ACCESS
Despite steady improvement in many areas, women and minorities remain underrepresented in all but a handful of fields, which argues for a continued effort to recruit and retain members of these groups in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. But issues of access also need to be interpreted in a broader context. In a country where school-aged ethnic minorities have become majorities in many areas, the rationale for programs focused on particular groups is shifting. Special programs and efforts must be effective for all students, not just for certain categories of students.
The need for access extends throughout a student's educational experience. At the K-12 level, all students need access to educational experiences that create high levels of scientific, mathematical, and technological literacy (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; National Research Council, National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, 1995). Requirements for entry to college should be at a high level, so that students do not think that expectations are unimportant. Students should not come to college so deficient in science and mathematics that their entire undergraduate education in these subjects consists essentially of remedial courses.
Two-year colleges are an important factor in issues of access, since they enroll over half of the first-time freshmen in the country. These institutions have valuable experience in teaching a diverse student body, and this experience can be a valuable resource for four-year institutions. For example, two-year faculty should be included in development activities with four-year faculty, since each group can learn from the other.
The cost of education is a major issue for today's students, as of course are sources of financial assistance. Considerations of access therefore involve the provision of adequate financial resources for all students, especially the underrepresented. The benefits and costs of providing adequate resources to various groups—for example, through a national scholarship program focused on recruitment and retention—needs to be documented to build public support for such initiatives.
Evaluation plays an important role in programs designed to increase access. To determine the effectiveness of a program, criteria and measurable goals must be established—preferably early in the program to permit midcourse corrections. Studies of different student populations that are structured to permit comparisons can provide data on the effects of programs. A program's success in meeting stated goals should be evaluated before, during, and after intervention.
Science, mathematics, engineering, and technology for all undergraduates
Above all others, one goal has emerged as most important in considering undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: the need for all students at all institutions of higher education to achieve a basic level of knowledge in these domains.
At the K-12 level, the national standards developed for science and mathematics define what students should know and be able to do in these subjects (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; National Research Council, Mathematical Sciences Education Board, 1989; National Research Council, National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, 1995). At the level of two-year and four-year colleges, the great diversity of student needs and institutional objectives makes defining desired levels of literacy more difficult (National Research Council, Committee on the Federal Role in College Science Education of Non-Specialists, 1982; Sigma Xi, 1990). No matter what the institution, however, undergraduates should acquire substantive knowledge in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. They should understand the basic principles used to explain natural phenomena, and they should be able to connect science, mathematics, engineering, and technology to real-world problems and issues, including personal and social needs. They should understand the processes by which scientists, mathematicians, and engineers investigate and solve problems. They should be exposed to information that is broad and current, and they should acquire the ability to remain life-long learners about these subjects.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: LITERACY
A variety of educational experiences can achieve these goals, and all that do would be appropriate.
In curricula often crowded with distribution requirements, why should colleges and universities demand literacy in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology? There are several key reasons: Gainful employment in the 21st century often will require a basic level of scientific, technological, and mathematical understanding. All people should be able to make intelligent and informed decisions not only about legislative and public policy issues but also about choices involving science and technology that affect them and their families. And science literacy is a powerful antidote to anti-science beliefs that periodically threaten the rationalistic underpinnings of society (Holton, 1993).
Helping students achieve literacy in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology places demands on faculty members throughout an institution. Faculty members will need to adopt new curricula, teaching styles, and means of assessment. Arts and humanities classes will need to incorporate perspectives based on science, mathematics, and engineering, just as the latter courses will need to teach the historical and cultural dimensions of their subjects. Faculty in all departments will need to work together—overcoming current obstacles to such cooperation —along with individuals from organizations outside academia.
Incoming students have different needs and different levels of preparation in science, mathematics, and engineering, and different courses may
be required for different kinds of students. Options range from separate courses rooted in individual departments to interdisciplinary courses that range across science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Research on the most effective ways of teaching these subjects to students and on the optimum organization of content within such courses could have great practical benefits.
Educating future elementary and secondary teachers
Through the education they provide to future K-12 teachers, colleges and universities have a heavily leveraged influence on American education. An elementary school teacher will influence hundreds of students over the course of a career; a secondary school teacher, thousands. Providing K-12 teachers with the training, resources, and support they need to master these subjects is a powerful means by which to improve the scientific and technical literacy and numeracy of the American public (National Science Foundation, Workshop on the Role of Faculty from the Scientific Disciplines in the Undergraduate Education of Future Science and Mathematics Teachers, 1993).
A lack of interaction among science, mathematics, and engineering faculty, faculty in other academic disciplines, and faculty in schools of education is a serious flaw in much precollege teacher preparation. There are many ways to foster such interaction, including formal centers devoted to the preparation of future teachers, standing faculty committees, and department-based programs. Greater interaction could help realize the potential that schools of education have to improve science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education.
Content should not be separated from methods in preparing future teachers. The two should be embodied in the same course or run in parallel. For example, laboratory courses could include special sections for future teachers in which consideration is given to how best to teach the material being covered. Neither should “teacher prep” be a special watered-down version of the regular curriculum.
Practicing teachers have too few options to upgrade their skills and establish meaningful relationships with other professionals. In efforts to address these needs, college and universities can play a central role. One model, based on the agriculture extension stations, would have college-based specialists in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education charged with developing outreach activities for schools, establishing teacher networks through the college or university, and arranging for internships in institutions of higher education and in business.
These partnerships need to be two-way exchanges. Faculty might work in K-12 settings both to convey their expertise to teachers and to learn from
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: TEACHING
skilled teaching professionals. Similarly, master teachers at the K-12 level can help college faculty design undergraduate courses and outreach activities.
Teacher preparation in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology is an area in which much valuable research could be done. An important priority is identifying existing elements of teacher preparation that are effective so that these elements can be incorporated into new courses and curricula.
Preparing students for technical occupations
As was emphasized throughout the convocation, education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology is for more than just future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. All undergraduates need exposure to these subjects, and one group needs both a thorough grounding in them along with an emphasis on their practical applications—namely, students who will go on to take jobs as technical support personnel. Such students attend both two-year and four-year institutions, and some complete graduate work. Many earn degrees in science, mathematics, engineering, or technology, but some graduate with nontechnical degrees and others enter the workplace directly from high school. The occupations they will enter vary widely, from computer service technician to science laboratory technician to automobile repair technician. These jobs are vital to the functioning of the economy and, in the aggregate, to the nation's international competitiveness (National Science Foundation, Workshop on Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Education in Two-Year Colleges, 1991; National Science Foundation, Workshop on Critical Issues in Science and Engineering Technician Education, 1993).
These students suffer from a lack of public recognition and attention. Sometimes the educational programs directed at them are derided as “voc ed” and assigned a second-class status, despite their growing importance. The first need is therefore for a better definition of technician, one that would enable these individuals to be identified and recognized both professionally and publicly. One possible definition is that a technician is someone who specializes in applying and using technology, has a core credential (often involving two years of higher education and usually no more than four years), and possesses a balance of specialization and breadth. Institutions of higher education, professional societies, and industry can all act to further the recognition of who technicians are, what they do, and why their work is so valuable. Colleges and universities, industry, and government should continue to collaborate on the preparation of standards and competencies for technician education. In the past, efforts to set standards and competencies in technician education have not always been well coordinated—a problem that requires the sustained attention of those involved in these efforts.
Advisory councils from industry can help shape educational programs in colleges and universities. In addition, state and national oversight bodies can be supportive as well as critical in their monitoring of technician education.
The education of future technicians highlights a major challenge facing higher education: placing content in context. Student and faculty internships in industry, industrial involvement in designing and teaching college courses, and cooperative projects in undergraduate education all promote continuous interaction between educational and industrial partners. An emphasis on flexibility and core competencies would help ensure that institutions of higher education balance broad education with specific training. Hands-on learning, project-oriented courses, distance learning, and the delivery of courses at industrial sites would tie learning to the application of knowledge. Inquiry capabilities, including problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork are all basic to lifelong technical careers.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: COMPETENCY
Educating the next generation of science, mathematics, and engineering professionals
Two major themes characterize discussions of the education received by students majoring in science, mathematics, and engineering. The first is that, in a society characterized by rapid scientific and technological change, degrees in science, mathematics, and engineering can be gateways to a vast array of careers. In this respect, these subjects should properly be seen as an integral part of a liberal arts education, both for those who major in these subjects and for those who take science, mathematics, or engineering as part of other undergraduate programs (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1990).
At the same time, the needs of the work force are changing (American Society for Engineering Education, 1994; Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, 1995). Rapid shifts in the labor market are creating a paucity of jobs in some areas and exciting new opportunities in other areas. This dynamism in the labor market is putting a premium on students who have a broad knowledge of different subjects, skills in synthesizing and communicating information, and the ability to work in teams. Students educated with a narrow disciplinary focus and in solitary learning styles can have difficulties adjusting to such an environment. Indeed, such difficulties are a dominant theme in the complaints voiced by business leaders about contemporary undergraduate education.
Faculty members and departments are responding to the new needs of the workplace with a variety of innovations (National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, 1995). Close links between the offerings of different departments are enhancing understanding of the connections among subjects. Some departments are trying to move away from covering as much material as possible while emphasizing the basic concepts and practices on which students can build throughout life. Majors in some departments are doing senior projects grounded in real-world problems that instill skills they will need in their careers. Internships and summer work experiences are adding new dimensions to the undergraduate experience.
To contribute to the breadth required of science, mathematics, and engineering majors, every course should foster “orthogonal skills ” that all such majors need, such as communication skills, team participation, and preparation for lifelong learning. Notions of rigor and depth should be expanded to include exposure to these activities, and new forms
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: DEPTH
of assessment will be needed to measure success in achieving these outcomes. In addition, departments must emphasize the interdisciplinary links among subjects, which encourages students to develop the foundational knowledge that will be widely applicable during their careers. Each department also must ask whether students who major in science, mathematics, or engineering have too many required courses, leaving too little time for other courses.
Students majoring in science, mathematics, or engineering should have a close interaction with a faculty member on a topic of mutual interest, and not necessarily at the very end of a college career. Investigative laboratory experiences are one option, but there are many others, such as field work or cooperative programs between a college or university and industry.
Many majors receive less than adequate advising. Students need much more information about possible careers, job opportunities, and options for graduate education. Faculty members tend to have a lack of experience and knowledge about career counseling. Both they and their institutions need to provide students with more and better information about educational and career options. In addition, professional societies and businesses can help both faculty members and students learn more about the careers available within and outside a given field.
Finally, colleges and universities should not let the focus on raising standards for all students detract from the continued need to discover and nurture gifted students. This is a valuable group that needs special attention.
How can faculty and their departments contribute to the goals of undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology?
At any given time, a professor may be called upon to be a scholar, teacher, advisor, mentor, administrator, or surrogate parent. It is hardly surprising that so many feel pulled in so many directions at once.
In the face of these competing demands, the rewards associated with various activities can affect behaviors in ways that are both obvious and subtle (Boyer, 1987, 1990; Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, Committee on Professional Recognition and Rewards, 1994; University of California, Task Force on Faculty Rewards, 1991). The faculty member who minimizes teaching obligations to conduct research can be seen as responding to one set of rewards. So is the one who attends a session on research rather than teaching at a professional meeting, or the one who designs introductory courses predominantly to meet the needs of future scientists, engineers, and mathematicians rather than students headed for different careers.
In addition to overt rewards, the broader culture of a department, an institution, and a profession inevitably influences the education offered to undergraduates. In considering this culture, questions such as the following arise: Are faculty members encouraged to reexamine curricula and the effectiveness of their teaching? Are graduate students and adjunct professors given the support they need to be good teachers? Are means of assessment available that can guide teaching improvements? Do departments take collective responsibility for the quality of teaching? Are students given the support they need to succeed, or are they encouraged to switch majors if problems arise?
This section of the convocation summary looks at those issues most directly under the control of faculty and their departments. It begins by examining the curriculum, shifts from “what” and “why” to “how” by discussing new pedagogical techniques and educational technologies, and concludes by looking at the education and professional development of college faculty.
The organization and structure of courses in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology
To ensure the integrity of the curriculum it offers, each science, engineering, and mathematics department needs to engage in a dialogue based on the question: “What should students know and be able to do as a result of the courses they take in our department?” This statement of scholarly mission should include an explicit statement of educational goals. The dialog should extend to individual courses and to courses of study and should embrace both majors and nonmajors. It should consider issues of content and pedagogy, and it must lead to assessments that can measure whether established goals are being met.
Departments have traditionally distinguished between courses that serve majors and nonmajors (Alliance for Undergraduate Education, 1990; National Advisory Group, 1989). But the distinction between the two groups is far from clear. Only about half of the first-year students in a four-year college who express an interest in majoring in science, mathematics, or engineering eventually major in those subjects—often because of difficulties they encounter in an introductory course (Seymour and Hewitt, 1994). On the other hand, according to one survey, about 20 percent of eventual science and engineering majors consist of students who did not plan in high school to major in those subjects (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1988). Even more students might transfer into these fields if not for the early commitment typically required of majors.
To reflect the interpenetration of these two groups, colleges and universities should consider the question of how all courses can serve as gateways to degrees in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Introductory courses still can be offered on many levels to accommodate a diversity in backgrounds, abilities, and interests of different students. But introductory courses designed to be the final course in a particular subject can be counterproductive in developing student skills and interests in these areas.
Introductory courses for all students should offer a serious encounter with both the processes and essential concepts of mathematics, science, engineering, and technology. The courses should be problem-driven, emphasize critical thinking, have hands-on experiences, and be taught in the context of topics that students confront in their own lives. Interdisciplinary courses can be particularly valuable in helping students see the links among disciplines and in placing subjects in broader personal, historical, cultural, social, and political contexts.
For majors, undergraduate programs should seek to balance broad exposure to important contemporary topics with significant opportunities for in-depth mastery through direct investigation. Curricular changes that could contribute to these objectives include a reduction in the number of courses required in a major, greater expectations for mastery of cognate courses outside a
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: CURRICULUM
discipline (e.g., physicists taking biology), courses that emphasize interdisciplinary links, a greater emphasis on writing (including revision and writing for different audiences), and the development of communication and collaborative skills.
At some point, questions of what is taught must give way to considerations of why something is being taught. With the explosion of knowledge in all disciplines, equating quality with the coverage of as much material as possible is fundamentally misguided. Students need the intellectual tools to explore new areas and topics throughout their lives so that they can respond to change rather than trying to anticipate it by increasing the bulk of acquired “knowledge” (Alliance for Undergraduate Education, 1990).
To gain widespread acceptance, curricular reform needs nucleating faculty members who are both interested in curricula and respected for their contributions within their disciplines. Tenured faculty must take a large share of the responsibility for leadership in reforming educational practices.
New approaches to teaching
As the goals of undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology expand to include such skills as the ability to define and solve problems and facility in oral and written communication, the forms of pedagogy that predominate today seem increasingly incomplete (National Research Council, Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, Draft). Large lectures, an emphasis on demonstration rather than investigation, and content disengaged from context can impart information, but they also can make students passive learners who absorb concepts and facts only long enough to get through the next test.
Many different approaches offer alternatives to straightforward lectures and tightly structured labs (Bonwell and Eison, 1991; McKeachie, 1994). Possibilities include cooperative learning, project-centered classes, investigation-oriented laboratories, courses centered on case studies, self-paced instruction, techniques that solicit immediate feedback on teaching and course content, and so on. These approaches allow students to analyze, criticize, and communicate, even in large classes. They help students take responsibility for their own learning. They also allow students to learn from each other, building communities of learners and teachers that extend beyond the classroom.
A particularly important challenge is to develop opportunities for all students to have direct experience with the processes of scientific investigation. These experiences need not be centered on the laboratory. For example, interdisciplinary courses such as environmental science can provide an effective vehicle for investigative learning.
Cognitive research has much to offer undergraduate education, both in its past results and its potential for further insights (Bok, 1986). Research on differences in learning styles among students, for example, can help instructors engage larger groups of students in learning. Studies of how extensive exposure to television, computers, and video games
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: PEDAGOGY
has modified the ways in which young people learn can help faculty take advantage of the particular skills undergraduates bring to the classroom.
Departments need to create an environment in which teaching is viewed as an activity worthy of study and improvement. Departments should have available a body of literature on effective teaching. Visiting lecturers could speak on pedagogy as well as research. Journal clubs can periodically be devoted to discussions of teaching. Students themselves should be encouraged to contribute to teaching innovations in the same way that they are encouraged to participate in scientific, mathematical, and engineering research.
The questions that surround pedagogical issues are central to the undergraduate experience. How quantitative should evaluation be? Can rules of evidence be developed for evaluating educational strategies? Research also can shed light on broader issues that relate to the culture of departments and institutions. How do faculty learn about new teaching techniques? How can they be encouraged to adapt and use them?
The potential for incremental and radical change in instruction
Although still in their infancy, computer-based information technologies already are bringing powerful educational experiences within the reach of every undergraduate (Jenson, 1993). Electronic networks are creating new forms of interaction among students and faculty, both locally and across great distances. An ever-increasing supply of easily accessible multimedia learning modules are allowing students to supplement or replace regular coursework. Electronic simulations are supplementing traditional laboratories, allowing students to experience science, mathematics, and engineering in new and often more accessible ways. And students are becoming involved in computer-based forms of research as faculties themselves increase their use of these technologies.
So far the changes wrought by educational technologies have been largely incremental. But these technologies also create the possibility of radical change in higher education. Communication technologies can dissociate learning from location. “Virtual universities” are taking shape that link students and faculty electronically, and the potential growth of such institutions is unlimited. Already, undergraduates are participating in interactive discussions from their homes, from offices, from satellite campuses, or from other learning centers. These technologies also can extend research experiences to many more people in many more places. Faculty and students alike would have access to the frontiers of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology both as observers and participants.
These more radical uses of educational technologies raise a number of difficult issues. Some question whether the dynamism of the teacher-student link will be lost if this link occurs electronically. Students value the human element in their education and will not willingly relinquish that element. Educational technologies also may not support all types of learning styles, and centrally dispersed learning may sacrifice the local adaptations that capture student attention.
Yet many insist that these drawbacks can be overcome. If properly structured, they contend, electronically mediated education can not only retain but strengthen person-to-person ties. Furthermore, technology can help reduce the repetitiveness of much teaching, freeing faculty members and students for more productive exchanges.
Software development often is a large-scale enterprise. Development teams need to include experts in pedagogy, content matter, hardware, and software. Such teams also benefit from including representatives of all educational levels—two-year and four-year schools, doctoral and nondoctoral institutions, and graduate schools.
Innovations are of limited value unless they are disseminated, both within a campus and among campuses. A useful model may be a nationwide center that can evaluate prototypes, examine past and current successes, and provide information on useful products.
Faculty members who want to increase their use of information technologies need equipment, training, and incentives if they are to take advantage of these powerful tools. Education of the administration is often equally necessary to develop the necessary infrastructure. The delivery, sup-
port, and incentives associated with educational technologies need to be an integrated system.
Despite rapidly falling prices, educational technologies inevitably raise questions of financing and equity. Hardware and software can be expensive both to buy and maintain. Though an increasing number of students own their own computers, some cannot afford them and some have very little familiarity with them.
In considering questions of access to computers, institutions and departments need to establish goals for computer literacy. What should all students know and be able to do with computers as a result of their experiences in college?
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGIES
PREPARATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Fostering teaching skills
The vast majority of doctorate recipients get their degrees from somewhat more than 100 research-intensive universities, but most of those who enter academia will not be employed in those institutions. They will work instead in the more than 3,000 other institutions of higher education, often focused much more on teaching than on the research they did in graduate school.
Most of these students have little or no preparation for the range of professional challenges they will face in academia. Professional schools generally offer some variant of “professional responsibility ” courses for law, business, and medical students, but graduate schools do little for the students they are training to assume positions of responsibility in higher education (Kennedy, 1995; National Research Council, Committee on High School Biology Education, 1990; National Research Council, Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, Draft). Such students arrive on the job with little guidance about how to make the transition from expert learner to novice teacher, or even about what is expected of them as professionals.
To train their students for the full range of responsibilities that many of them will face, graduate schools need to place more emphasis on teaching. To earn a Ph.D., all graduate students should be required to demonstrate their ability and promise as scholars who can represent their field to others. To achieve this goal, departments should consider assigning a teaching mentor as well as a
research mentor to students, and dissertations could include a chapter on instructional innovations or scholarship undertaken by the candidate.
Graduate students aspiring to faculty positions should have opportunities for meaningful teaching experiences. Teaching assistants, for example, could redesign junior-level courses and teach upper division courses. Graduate teaching assistants need to receive both careful preparation and continuous evaluation from their departments. Institutions should emphasize, both inside and outside the institution, that having classes taught by teaching assistants is a necessary part of their training.
Departments should inventory and share the steps they are taking to train graduate students for teaching. Departments also could routinely survey their alumni to determine whether the training they provided is adequate for the responsibilities their alumni are assuming.
One change that would alter the dynamics of graduate education would be for graduate students to be supported to a greater extent through education/training grants to departments and to a lesser extent through research grants to individuals (Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, 1995). This change would help ensure that the education of students remains paramount during their graduate years. Federal agencies also should consider giving postdoctoral awards for scholarship on pedagogy and for teaching residencies.
The transition from graduate school or a postdoc to a first academic job is a critical juncture, both for its effects on training and practice. Candidates for faculty positions could teach a class, which has the effect of both screening candidates and sending a clear signal of what is valued. Candidates might be asked, for example, to develop a draft syllabus for a course they might be teaching, or they might be asked in an interview about how they would teach a difficult concept in the field. The number of papers reviewed for evidence of scholarship should be limited to emphasize the need for a balanced relationship between research and teaching.
Once a new faculty member has been hired, departments should ask that person what is needed in terms of instructional set-up money. Departments also should provide new faculty members with a start-up package of exemplary materials, syllabi, examinations, and other materials pertaining to the courses they will be teaching.
Faculty need opportunities to augment their skills as they progress through a teaching career. Many institutions have taken steps to offer instructional training to graduate teaching assistants and young faculty, including workshops, resource materials, centers for teaching and learning, and evaluations of teaching effectiveness. Such assistance needs to be available for all faculty members, and it needs to draw upon both local and national sources of expertise and experience.
Faculty need much greater access to information and new ideas about teaching and learning. Each discipline should have an archival literature on teaching and instruction that can be used by new and established faculty. Faculty should have internship opportunities available to them that are focused on instruction. Senior faculty could give talks on campus about their approach to teaching; for example, perhaps federal agencies could fund “distinguished teacher” lectureships. Workshops on promotion and tenure could clarify the reward structure for faculty, so that they do not mistakenly assume that only research is a consideration.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: PREPARATION AND DEVELOPMENT
How can institutional reforms contribute to the goals of undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology?
A wide array of constituents are demanding changes in undergraduate education (Wingspread Group on Higher Education, 1993). Businesses want students who are prepared to take jobs available today yet who are flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances. Parents and students want a high-quality education at a price that does not require them to assume huge debts. State and federal legislators call for more emphasis on undergraduate education, even as budget cuts further increase the pressures on faculty.
Many colleges have been responding to these forces through changes in programs and procedures. But change in higher education—where decision making is collegial and widely distributed—rarely happens quickly. Furthermore, much of the change is likely to be disruptive, in that it will alter expectations for students, faculty, and administrators.
This section of the summary examines undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology largely from the perspective of institutions. It looks at the reward system for faculty and at issues surrounding the resources institutions devote to undergraduate instruction in these subjects. It then looks at the transitions among educational institutions and between educational institutions and the workplace. It examines partnerships between higher education and schools, businesses, professional societies, and other organizations. Finally it discusses the role of federal agencies, foundations, and other organizations in catalyzing reform.
Recognition and rewards
One of the most pressing issues in undergraduate education is how to generate a sense of community, and therefore collective responsibility, for teaching (Massy et al., 1994). This sense of community must be rooted at the department level. It does not imply that everyone in a department does the same thing, but it does mean that the department as a whole does many things well. Institutions can act to further this attribute by rewarding departments rather than individuals with such benefits as office space, laboratory facilities, travel funds, and other things of real value to faculty.
In addition, a sense of collective responsibility needs to extend beyond the faculty. It should encompass graduate programs, professional societies, and federal funding agencies. For example, the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering could make consideration of teaching issues a more integral part of their activities.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: ACCOUNTABILITY
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: RESOURCES
The federal government also should consider ways to have teaching accomplishments and priorities reflected in research awards. Reviewers could be asked to take teaching activities into account where appropriate. Grant recipients should emphasize and publicize the substantive outcomes of their educational products, which would help legislators and the public to associate educational value with dollars spent.
Collective responsibility for teaching does not necessarily imply reducing the autonomy of individuals, but it does imply a closer evaluation of teaching. Self-assessments, student evaluations (from both current and former students), and—most especially—careful peer evaluations of teaching can combine to create a composite measure of teaching effectiveness. Change, risk taking, and teaching improvements should all be assessed and rewarded.
In general, institutions must move toward a broad and continuing series of rewards and recognition for teaching that parallel what is given to recognize research. They must empower a group of individuals who can spearhead change among larger groups. Educational change will rarely endure if it arises through the “lone ranger” model, where one faculty member works virtually alone on educational issues.
Good teaching occurs in many different ways. The professor who inspires individual students by involving them in research can be as important to a department's education offerings as someone who can make science, mathematics, or engineering come alive for hundreds of students in a lecture hall. Monolithic adherence to a single style of teaching is dangerous no matter what the style.
By the same token, American science, engineering, and mathematics will continue to prosper in a system in which active researchers are faculty at colleges and universities. The challenge is to improve undergraduate education while maintaining the research excellence that nourishes education.
Institutional support for undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology
Changes in undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education need not be expensive, but they can call for additional resources. Smaller and more interactive classes can cost more, in both materials and personnel, than lectures to large groups of students three times a
week. Curriculum development—for example, the writing of new textbooks or educational software —also can require extra resources, as can the development of new teaching skills in faculty members or the provision of additional computer centers and software.
As has been the case throughout higher education, departments of science, mathematics, and engineering have had to deal with constrained resources in recent years (Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable, 1992, 1994; National Science Board, Task Committee on Undergraduate Science and Engineering Education, 1986). Faculty numbers have not kept pace with enrollment increases, forcing larger classes and greater use of adjunct faculty, teaching assistants, and other non-tenured instructors. Laboratory experiences remain constrained, in both quantity and quality, because resources are inadequate.
Changes in the broader culture of teaching also face funding obstacles. For example, travel support, though available for research, is generally absent for education. In addition, funding agencies and other sources need to consider whether institutions should be able to recover the full costs of educational programs they undertake with outside support, rather than assuming that administrative costs and other forms of overhead will be covered essentially as matching grants.
Each stakeholder in undergraduate education has a unique role to play in providing support. Colleges and universities have to prioritize their needs and balance short-term and longterm objectives. State and local governments can recognize the needs of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education, develop partnerships to supplement resources, and implement other incentives to encourage support. Industry can support colleges and universities in ways that meet their own long-term goals. Foundations can target their support to areas that leverage other resources and that would not be funded otherwise. And the federal government can look beyond the straightforward provision of research support to the broader set of policies needed to build the human resources needed for the 21st century.
Facilities and equipment need special attention. Instructional equipment, instrumentation, and facilities need to be upgraded to reflect the professional environments students will be entering upon graduation. This responsibility is shared by institutions, business and industry, and government.
Accountability is related to resources. One innovation that might generate additional resources is a national ranking for educational quality that would confer prestige upon the institutions that are especially successful in this respect.
Finally, instructional technologies—which are already being used to stretch available resources—could dramatically affect costs through the restructuring of higher education.
Articulation among educational institutions and with the workplace
Education, like learning, needs to be a seamless process, with new knowledge and skills extending and consolidating what has been learned in the past. But the educational system today contains marked discontinuities among educational institutions and between those institutions and the workplace. The result is a substantial loss of human resources. About half of the students who enter four-year colleges and universities do not earn their bachelor's degrees within five years. An even greater proportion of the students who enter Ph.D. programs fail to earn their doctorates (though many earn master's degrees). Many students who transfer from two-year to four-year colleges drop out before receiving their bachelors degrees. And the transition from any of these institutions to the workplace often is marked by an extended period of underemployment and uncertainty.
Considerations of articulation begin in the precollege years. Today, the preparation many students receive in high school is inadequate for college courses in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Many students quit taking science and mathematics courses early in their high school years. Because of a lack of agreement on what constitutes proper college preparation, students enter
college with widely varying expertise in these subjects. Colleges and universities often fail to communicate their expectations to entering students, or they set those expectations too low to spur better student preparation.
Transitions between two-year and four-year institutions present another source of difficulty. Smooth articulation does not mean conformity, since identical curricula can hamper innovation and change. But obstacles to smooth articulation need to be identified and studied, preferably by teams that have representatives from all the institutions involved. A study of the states in which formal articulation structures are in place could provide much valuable information. How many students desire to transfer from two-year to four-year institutions? How many make that transition successfully? Where did the graduates of four-year institutions begin their college careers?
When students leave college and enter the workplace, their education should have prepared them for many of the challenges they will face. Yet many employers claim that graduates lack certain key skills, such as working in teams, dealing with ambiguity, solving ill-defined problems, and communicating with others. Access to workplace experiences as undergraduates can help impart these skills. Internships and cooperative programs, for example, give students a sense of professionalism, purpose, and community in the workplace. Similarly, students can work on real problems from industry, with the solutions being delivered to an industrial client. Faculty sabbaticals or summer work in industry can foster a greater appreciation for the needs of the workplace, though such programs can be expensive. Industrial employees also can work for a time in colleges and universities to reach students. Faculty development programs can support the teaching of competencies that are needed in the workplace. These experiences should be reflected in the reward structure for faculty and in credit arrangements for students.
Transitions among educational institutions and between those institutions and the workplace are becoming more varied and more complex. Many students return to college after a period of work to learn additional skills or earn a different degree. Modern workplaces require employees who can learn new skills and information continually, whether informally as part of their job or formally in training and development programs. To encourage the lifelong education a rapidly changing society requires, the expenses of education required for changing careers could be made tax exempt.
Schools, businesses, professional societies, and higher education organizations
What makes for a successful partnership? Each partnership is unique, but the ones that work best are those where all partners have a stake in the outcome. All partners should be equal and treat the other part-
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: TRANSITIONS
ners with respect, should participate actively in planning the partnership and setting its missions and goals, and should receive a share of the benefits.
Many different kinds of partnerships between institutions of higher education and other organizations meet these criteria (American Association for Higher Education, 1994). For example, just as colleges and universities can be extremely valuable resources for precollege teachers—providing them with classes, seminars, laboratory experiences, field trips, workshops, summer institutes, technology (including Internet access), and technology training—so, too, can that part of the education community concerned with K-12 education offer much to college and university faculty. Immersed in the challenges of teaching, secondary and elementary teachers possess pedagogical expertise and experience that can have great value at the collegiate level.
Business and colleges also have much to gain from each other. By supporting good teachers, offering internships and technical support, contributing equipment and facilities, and supporting local efforts to secure funds for education, business and industry can strengthen undergraduate education. In return, they gain better access to prepared candidates for work, to faculty members, and to information that can create an advantage in the marketplace. In developing partnerships with industry, colleges and universities need to be aware of both the changes going on in industry (e.g., downsizing), and of concerns within their own faculties that close ties with industry could affect academic freedom. Tax provisions, cooperative programs, and degrees custom tailored to industrial needs can all encourage ties between colleges and businesses. Industrial advisory boards also can help colleges and universities keep up with the rapidly changing needs of the workplace (such as the need for flexibility in job assignments or the need for employees to be more entrepreneurial).
Because many faculty have a closer affinity to their disciplines than they do to their own institutions or departments, professional societies can act as powerful forces for change within the academic disciplines. They can involve broad constituencies in discussions of important issues. They can develop programs to recruit and retain women and underrepresented minorities. They can recognize and reward important innovations in education and extend public understanding and communications. They can develop guidelines for partnerships among institutions, provide opportunities for networking between institutions interested in starting partnerships, encourage institutions to provide appropriate awards for faculty and administrators who establish and run partnerships, and assist in breaking down institutional barriers. Societies themselves can form partnerships, as between science and engineering societies, to pursue issues of common interest, including education.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: PARTNERSHIPS
Professional societies also can erect barriers to educational improvements. For example, by holding major research meetings in the middle of the school year, professional societies ignore the plight of faculty who have to cancel classes or persuade colleagues to fill in for them if they are to attend. By ignoring educational issues, professional societies send powerful messages about what is valued in a profession.
Partnerships among different types of institutions in higher education deserve encouragement. Higher education organizations offer natural linkages that can help make education reform cumulative and self-sustaining.
Federal agencies, foundations, and other organizations as catalysts for reform
Many organizations have an interest in helping to improve undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. But the isolation that plagues efforts to improve teaching afflicts these organizations as well: rarely are their efforts jointly planned or well coordinated. For example, eight different federal agencies spend approximately a half billion dollars each year solely to support undergraduate education, but there is very little joint planning or overall evaluation among these agencies (Expert Panel for the Review of Federal Education Programs in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology, 1993).
Making educational objectives an integral part of research proposals would help different agencies develop explicit policies and coordination on this issue. It would also provide for more sustained financial support of undergraduate education. Funders need to identify and support leadership by creative individuals, thus helping faculty gain a reputation for teaching activities, and should work to institutionalize isolated innovations. This kind of outside funding can have a significant catalytic role in shaping how institutions spend and use money and which programs they decide to support.
Educational programs need to be evaluated as rigorously as are research programs. Without such evaluation, it is difficult or impossible to improve programs, decide whether to retain or expand them, or provide for accountability. Evaluations also make it possible to publicize the results of educational programs to demonstrate the links between financial support and educational outcomes.
Over the years, foundations also have contributed significant funds and energy to improve undergraduate instruction, and their efforts have had a major impact. When federal funding has flagged, foundations have continued to be a valuable source of support. But the impact of foundation support can be attenuated if programs are of limited duration or if foundations support solutions that do not mesh with institutional needs. Unless reforms are built into the institutional structure, they may wither when funding disappears, individuals leave, or initial enthusiasms fades.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: FUNDERS
Making the whole greater than the sum of the parts
Undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology has seen many successful reforms in recent years (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1993, 1994, 1995; National Research Council, Board on Engineering Education, 1995; National Research Council, Committee on Mathematical Sciences in the Year 2000, 1991; National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, 1995; Project Kaleidoscope, 1991, 1993; Tobias, 1990, 1992). Yet these successes also highlight the difficulties associated with broader change. Innovations are rarely coordinated, so as to build on each other to produce a self-sustaining and expanding community of innovators. Individual programs are continually at risk from a loss of key personnel or funding. Innovations that could make a difference in other settings remain confined to a single institution, department, or instructor. The contrast with scientific innovation is particularly striking. Scientific knowledge is quickly shared and extended, whereas knowledge about teaching and learning is often neglected or lost.
Large-scale reform can be considered along several dimensions. Within individual institutions, such reform can be thought of as engaging and coordinating different departments and many different aspects of undergraduate education, including curriculum, facilities, instruction, student research, faculty development, and support services. This does not, however, necessarily mean that institutions will be successful in their efforts to achieve comprehensive reform by doing a little bit of everything. Experience with systemic reform in K-12 education has shown that some changes are more significant than others. A few major problems within the system may need to be attacked before other changes can be made.
Across institutions, large-scale reform requires coherent efforts at many different sites to build self-sustaining communities of reformers and to combat the “not-invented-here” syndrome.
QUESTIONS DISCUSSED AT THE CONVOCATION: CONCLUSION
These linkages might be among institutions of the same kind (as in the colleges joined in Project Kaleidoscope), among institutions in the same region (as in the clusters of colleges and universities supported by the Pew Science Program in Undergraduate Education), or among university programs in the same discipline (as in NSF's Engineering Education Coalitions or in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's support for undergraduate biology education).
Change also needs to be sustained over time. Many promising past reforms have foundered when funding expired or interests changed and the inertia of the system reasserted itself. Reformers need to find some way of institutionalizing the process of change, so that the system itself is changed. Regular feedback on a national level —for example, an annual report card on institutional change, or ratings of undergraduate educational programs—could contribute greatly to the momentum of change.
Colleges and universities have been presented with a unique opportunity to remake undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (Presidential Young Investigator Colloquium on U.S. Engineering, Mathematics, and Science Education for the Year 2010 and Beyond, 1992; President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 1992). The reassessment of national goals set in motion by the end of the Cold War, the demographic changes occurring in the country, the financial constraints affecting many institutions, and the rapidly growing influence of new technologies have contributed to an environment in which fundamental principles are being reexamined. This reexamination will inevitably change higher education. Toward what end depends on the decisions that colleges and universities make today and on the support they get to carry out those decisions in the future.