PROCESS: What makes a good client

Here is one story from the field about the role of leaders in focusing on the future in planning learning spaces, captured in the 1995 Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Report: Structures for Science. The setting is the office of the relatively new President. The purpose of the meeting was to present a vision of the future for the sciences at this undergraduate institution drafted by a faculty leadership task force. The problem was that this task force really had nothing to report. They had spent months trying to address all the “yes, but’s” responses from individual people and departments about the need for information about current practice and future visions. There were competing visions of the future, excuses of “too many existing commitments” to take on new responsibilities relating to planning new spaces. As a result of that meeting, this memo was sent to all faculty who would be using the new spaces, with an admonition that this information would be needed before moving forward.

This story resonates with one of the more persisting themes emerging from the 2016-2017 roundtables—that attention must be given to the yardstick for planning

 

MEMO:

We need information for our architect and consultant.

One of our most urgent priorities in moving the science facilities planning along is to get the best information we can about our needs to our architect. Various departments have prepared statements of need in response to earlier, in-house requests. We now need to work that material into a form that the architect, and our consultant, can use to prepare a program for the facilities we are planning. Please work as a department to prepare your material in the following format.

  1. Aims of the department. In the context of the department's role in the college. what are the aims, expressed as student outcomes or otherwise, that are the fundamental purposes of the department's work?

  2. Philosophy of education. What is the theory underlying the department's teaching? For example, how do the concepts of a community of learners, about the personal, participatory nature of the learning experience, and about the contextualization of science resonate within your department?

  3. Pedagogy. What are the methods to be used to implement the theory? For example, is there to be emphasis on faculty/student contact. a lab-rich environment, investigative or discovery labs, study groups. mentoring, etc.?

  4. Curriculum. What is the structure of courses, labs, tutorials, seminars. undergraduate research experiences, and so on through which the pedagogy is carried out?

  5. Facilities and spaces. What physical spaces are required to offer this curriculum? How many offices, classrooms, laboratories, storage and service spaces, and (for all of these) of what sort and size, are needed? What adjacencies should be built in to such spaces?

This departmental information will be used by the architect and consultant to develop various options for building configurations.

This memo gave us pedagogical and curricular specifics for every ele-ment in the building designs, and prepared us for discussions with the architect. If we were to cut this lab or that space, we knew exactly what the programmatic consequences would be. Everything was on the table and we did it with our eyes open. Did the memo-process help us to clarify our work? Yes. We had all had enough of yes-but.