Making and Sustaining Change
Consideration of context
When we began this project, there were significant changes in the works for the Lone Star College system that dove-tailed with our goals for the SAGE 2YC project. We became aware of these changes when we met with our respective Vice Presidents of Instruction. Since Lone Star College consists of six different campuses, there are certain policies and procedures that are at the system-wide level, and there are others that can be dealt with at individual colleges. From a system-wide perspective, our goals aligned almost perfectly with the initiatives that were promulgated from the System Office. Although we are one system, each individual campus has its own culture and governance and organization. Our Change Agent Team involved two faculty members from different colleges within the bigger system. We will discuss our campuses separately.
At Lone Star College - Tomball, although we are 30 years old and still have a few charter faculty remaining, our President and Vice Presidents are developing a plan to change the culture of the college. Research suggests that students will adopt the belief system of their college when it is explicate and well-crafted. If the college believes that the students belong and faculty demonstrate and reinforce that belief, students will persist and succeed at a greater rate. Currently, that drive to change culture is slowly trickling down to faculty. In Fall 2019, the college will begin a major push to develop a culture that creates a belief system which improves student persistence and success. Therefore, participation in the SAGE 2YC project is perfectly timed. As a Change Agent, I (Kristie) am prepared to successfully run professional development workshops and help change the campus culture from below. I am a department of one; but, there are other science faculty with whom I can work. SAGE 2YC has prepared me to be able to advocate for making changes in teaching such as including active learning, creating inclusive classrooms, removing structural barriers to success, etc.
Lone Star College - University Park is the youngest of the six Lone Star Colleges. Because we are such a young college, new ideas are greatly welcomed. There is no "You can't do that because we've never done that before." The culture is more of a "Try it and let's see if it works!" With this mindset, presenting and incorporating the goals of the SAGE 2YC project to the University Park campus was encouraged by the dean and vice president of instruction. Our campus focuses on innovative ways to improve our students' experience and creating a positive culture on campus. Our department consists of me (Bryn) and one other full-time faculty, as well as seven adjuncts. All but one of the adjuncts started after the project began, so for them, they easily accepted the project since it was a pre-existing part of our department.
Things that worked well that we would do again
The most important aspect of the program that has improved our teaching and engagement is understanding how our actions directly impact students. Learning about the way in which students learn and how faculty can leverage that in the most effective manner has lead us to incorporate, in our own classrooms and share with our colleagues, active learning techniques and effective teaching strategies. In addition, we learned how to talk to non-faculty colleagues within our colleges, how to seek out partnerships, and utilize existing programs to assist us reach our goals.
The project has also made us closer with those that have participated in our workshops. We now have a much stronger and extended network for idea sharing. The advantage of this network is that it lessens the feeling that we are on own and left to fend for ourselves as we work to improve our classes.
Supporting faculty change
As of spring 2019, we held four workshops and one virtual book club. In order to encourage faculty to attend, we offered professional development credit for Lone Star College employees. In addition, we worked to offer the faculty something that would be interesting to them. By planning the workshop around topics that are likely to be of interest, we can also work in topics that can help change culture. It is through both of these tactics that we were able to attract faculty and keep them coming back year after year. Furthermore, the workshops created a greater level of comfort and familiarity with one another that has led to more interactions between workshops.
Strategies for overcoming challenges
We found that the biggest challenge is finding time to work out how best to make and implement change. Making too many changes to a class or within the department or taking on too many responsibilities at once in one's enthusiasm for the project can lead to overload and anxiety. Although you might be ready for a rapid change, those around you or in your classes may not. It is best to work out a larger goal and then develop short term goals and small changes to work, over time, toward the final goal.
We also learned that we needed to be in communication with upper administration so that we knew what they were working on in order to reduce duplication and avoid conflict when timing of implementation mattered for larger goals. For example, when the project started, we were ready to jump in and work on pathways to four-year universities. We quickly learned that upper administration already had a much larger project to create articulation agreements that was nearing completion, and they were not ready for us to jump into the mix at that point.
Things to think about before you start this type of project
The most important thing is to understand your college's culture and what is currently happening at both the administrative level and the departmental level. If there is a way to align your goals to the college's goals, it is possible to ride the wave of momentum to make the desired changes. It is also helpful to know who within the college has the data needed or the inside knowledge of how things work behind the scenes. Knowing who can be leveraged to assist with attaining the goals of the project and having administrative buy-in will lead to greater success of the project.
Leveraging our system's initiatives has given us greater visibility and made the change in culture more durable. With continued faculty engagement, others within the department are drawn in and can be influenced to make adjustments to their classes that reflect the goals of this project. It is also very important to check in with faculty as they make changes to support them through the process. It is easy for anyone to lose steam over time so to speak as making changes can be difficult.