published May 1, 2007

SENCER E-Newsletter, May 2007, Volume 6, Issue 8

SENCER as Science Reforms

Karen Kashmanian Oates - Co-PI, SENCER

Soon we will be preparing for a new academic year. For many of us this also means preparing to integrate a SENCER initiative on the campus for the first time. A new initiative is associated with a change from the normal operating procedures for a department or program, and, by its nature, can be viewed as a threat to those who are satisfied with the status quo. To successfully launch a course or larger program, then, it is not enough to have just a good idea. Even if the plan is grounded by evidence and assessment data, reform goes beyond the good idea and must be backed by considerable attention to the tactical and strategic planning for change.

As the SENCER approach and SENCERized courses continue to be disseminated across more and more campuses, I have compiled a list of 10 lessons in effective science reform. In most cases, these lessons seem like common sense, but I assure you that without careful attention to human nature, even good ideas can fail.

Kim Kashmanian-Oates

Leading Change: 10 Campus Lessons in Science Reform

1. Link reform to the university mission and vision statements. Values such as civic engagement and community connections are often ideas embedded in institutional missions and vision statements.

2. Consider the unique culture and climate of the institution. There may be special programs or centers of excellence that can be used to highlight results of reform and disseminate the best ideas.

3. Develop a sense of urgency by communicating what is at stake if change does not occur, as well as the possibilities for growth on campus if reform/change does takes place.

4. Create a guiding coalition that includes members of the administration, faculty, and student body. Traditional leadership is directed by the university president; however, a successful reform process includes people from the community at large.

5. Be prepared for a successful change by creating a robust faculty development program. Invest in the people who will carry out the reform.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Use a variety of methods and media. Celebrate what you have already achieved, as well as those who made the small successes possible.

7. Remember: that which gets measured, gets better. Develop local assessment methods specific to your program, and when possible, participate in nationally normed quality assurance programs.

8. Reward early adopters and provide a route to tenure and promotion for those who engage in important university reform. A formal and informal system of acknowledgement by an administration shows respect for faculty who take the risk to further systematic reform.

9. Bring students and alumni into the discussion and give them a role. Both offer different, yet valuable, perspectives on education reform. Alumni represent those with a vested interest in the institution, as well as the interests of their industries or employers. Students often have a reality different from faculty that must also be considered in reviewing a proposed change.

10. Create external advisory boards with members who champion progressive strategies, creativity, and positive change. Choose members with influence who may be able and willing to provide resources in support of the reform.