Faculty from 22 different institutions of higher education gathered at Elon University for the inaugural North Carolina Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Network Conference

The Oct. 12 conference brought together nearly 100 professors and administrators to discuss the best ways to educate students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

“Faculty and administrators need to be networking and sharing ideas,” said Alison Morrison-Shetlar, dean of Elon College, the college of arts and sciences. “That’s really important. It’s big for North Carolina and it’s big for Elon.”

Morrison-Shetlar has been an active member of PKAL, a branch of the Association of American Colleges and Universities that has focused on enhancing STEM education since 1997.  She organized the conference with the intention of forming a North Carolina PKAL network.

“We want to have a network so we can get together on a regular basis, share ideas and discuss what works,” Morrison-Shetlar said.

An important aspect of creating a successful network is including a diverse range of viewpoints, something that was taken into account when planning the conference, according to Morrison-Shetlar.

“We didn’t want there to be any boundaries in the types of institutions we invited,” she said. “So we had community colleges, large and small public institutions, and large and small private institutions represented.”

The conference began with a keynote address from Lee Willard, associate vice provost for undergraduate education at Duke University. A panel discussion on effective pedagogies and means of assessing their effectiveness followed the addressed

Kathy Gallucci, associate professor of biology at Elon, shared some of the findings of her case study on pedagogies.

Many of Gallucci’s students at Elon are non-science majors, and working with them has taught her the importance of creating an interactive and hands-on environment in the classroom.

“For many of the students I teach, this is the last lab they are going to take,” she said. “We want a learner to be able to experience science and understand it in a way that is different from reading about it in a book or hearing about it in a lecture.”

Being able to share her findings and hearing about the experiences of other professors was highly beneficial, Gallucci said.

“To share knowledge with other professors is always a positive thing,” she said. “It works well, and it is part of our mission at Elon to collaborate with other professors.”

In the future, Morrison-Shetlar hopes to see the North Carolina network to continue to grow through bi-annual meetings, and to increase awareness of resources PKAL can offer to STEM professors.

“For our next meeting, I want people to reach out to another institution that is not yet represented, or to faculty members at other institutions and bring them on board,” she said. “I would love to see an increase in the diversity represented. It’s a way to bring this information out, and to bring people to the network.”