Planning and repurposing 21st century learning spaces: Responding to recommendations in national reports

The upcoming LSC webinar on National Reports spotlights the efforts of John Jungck (Director of the Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories at the University of Delaware) and John Marshall (Architecture & Urban Planning, Multidiscplinary Design Program at the University of Michigan). Each of these spaces- one new building and one repurposed room- illustrates approaches to addressing recommendations in ARISE 2.

The 2013 report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences—ARISE 2: Unleashing America’s Research & Innovation Enterprise—focuses on a particular challenge facing those responsible for shaping the future of research in STEM fields—that of moving toward transdisciplinary research… [recognizing that this] will require more than encouraging researchers from different disciplines to work together [and that a] critical next step is to provide incentives and remove barriers so that the tools and expertise developed within discrete disciplines are shared and combine to enable a deep conceptual and functional integration across the disciplines.

Why might this report, with its focus on the need for greater attention to basic and applied research (particularly in physics and engineering, biology and medicine) be relevant for those responsible for planning the physical environment for learning and research in STEM fields in the undergraduate setting?  To begin with, each of their specific recommendations to achieve the goal of integration can be used as starting points for discussions about the nature of 21st century learning and learning environment.  Those responsible should ask how their discussions and decisions about physical spaces will enhance their institutional capacity to: 

  • 1.1.  Develop and foster a massive “knowledge network” that enables investigators from different disciplines to identify opportunities, establish collaborative efforts, and focus disparate expertise and approaches on problems of common interests

  • 1.2  Expand education paradigms to model transdisciplinary approaches…

  • 1.3  Expand support for shared core research facilities…

  • 1.4  Ensure that appointments and promotion policies recognize, support, and reward contributions to collaborative and transdisciplinary research and education endeavors…

  • 1.5 Better enable transdisciplinary research by scrutinizing current administrative policies, revising them to optimize efficiency and effectiveness, aligning incentives appropriately, and incorporating dynamic evaluation into future policies.