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Elon hosts inaugural NC STEM conference

Science, technology, engineering and math professors share teaching strategies.

Alison Morrison-Shetlar, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences

Nearly 100 faculty members from North Carolina colleges and universities gathered at Elon Oct. 12 for the first meeting of the North Carolina Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) STEM network conference. Project Kaleidoscope is a project of the Association of American Colleges & Universities.

In the conference, titled "High Impact Teaching, Engaged Learning and Assessment in STEM," the faculty members examined the national development of Project Kaleidoscope and new ways of thinking about science education.

PKAL was founded in 1989 and has been a leading advocate for a building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). With an extensive network of more than 7,000 faculty members and administrators at more than 1,000 colleges and universities, PKAL is influencing STEM learning environments that attract and retain undergraduate students of all backgrounds.

The Elon conference was the largest of the state and regional STEM network meetings being held across the country.

Alison Morrison-Shetlar, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, organized the Elon event. She is the National Advisory Board Chair for AAC&U/PKAL.

Elon Provost Steven House welcomed the group and noted that Elon's freshman class includes 383 students who intend to major in STEM disciplines, which is about 63 percent of the students pursuing arts and sciences majors.

Keynote speaker was Lee W. Willard, associate vice provost for undergraduate education at Duke University. She told the educators that science education is important to every person in the American economy, and she challenged them to network with their colleagues and be "change agents" for excellence in teaching on their campuses.

Lee W. Willard, associate vice provost for undergraduate education, Duke University

Willard also talked about PKAL principles. "What works is learning that is experiential, investigative and steeped in investigation from the very first courses for all students through capstone courses," Willard said. "We advocate learning that is personally meaningful for students and faculty… and learning that takes place in a community where faculty are equally committed to undergraduate teaching and their own intellectual vitality – where faculty see students as partners in learning, where students collaborate with one another and gain confidence that they can succeed."

Conference attendees took part in a panel discussion and breakout sessions for a variety of disciplines. They concluded the session with a tour of Elon's developing environmental education center and a networking social.

Dan Anderson,
10/19/2012 10:26 AM