Making and Sustaining Change
Consideration of context
Deron, Linn-Benton Community College: Framing work in the context of your institution's strategic goals or college-wide initiatives is crucial for buy in. For me, one of the most powerful lessons learned as a change agent is how my work aligns with LBCC goals of student completion and increasing equity, or completion for all students. I really feel like I got college-wide buy in when I could frame my work in these larger goals with administrators, such as my dean and our vice-president. My advice is to start developing your goals, and then try to map them to your institution's priorities.
At the departmental level, I've found buy-in from other faculty I teach with. Currently, I work with eight part-time faculty, many of whom are recently out of graduate school. They are all eager to learn and willing to consider new innovative teaching practices supporting success of all students. I've tried to change the culture within our department that is largely made of part-time faculty that teach at multiple institutions, by being more inclusive in decision making and trying to build a community with some social events outside of work.
Shannon, Chemeketa Community College: The work done at Chemeketa Community College took place, I believe, because I had been a part-time instructor at Linn Benton Community College prior to working full-time at Chemeketa. Deron and I had already worked together and this program easily fit into the projects we had started together and wanted to pursue at Chemeketa. I think the timing, place and political setting of my position in Chemeketa's geology department made it a little easier to begin work on this project. I do not work on main campus, I haven't been a full-time instructor for very long, and there was only the beginning of work to create a cohesive culture and curriculum in my department. I believe these factors allowed me to sort of "act first and ask questions later." I work on a satellite campus and that gives me a bit of anonymity in terms of working on projects, a term YVC, my campus, refers to as "pilot project." In essence, the campus I work at is a small campus where we can try new programs and practices more easily than a larger department to see if they are effective. I also have a site director who is willing to let me try new things and has been very interested in the changes I've made through the SAGE 2YC program.
Things that worked well that we would do again
Deron: The two main goals of my project are: 1) increase the number of geoscience transfer students successfully transferring to Oregon State University, and 2) increase the number of STEM faculty using evidence-based teaching practices. Key aspects to creating success for goal 1 include developing a network of supporters at OSU. This includes building relationships with key faculty, administrators, and advisers. Additionally, the ability to gather and use data from both LBCC and OSU is crucial to evaluate success, and having these key players at OSU is necessary.
Key aspects leading to goal 2's success is to develop a culture of teaching and learning within the department. This involves offering resources and mentoring for new part-time faculty and providing opportunities for these faculty to "opt-in" to change. Resources include active learning posters (Acrobat (PDF) 3MB Feb6 19) developed by the SAGE 2YC project and articles that illustrate the effectiveness of implementing evidence-based teaching practices. Once part-time faculty "opt-in" they eventually become mentors to new faculty and this helps sustain the change. I think the key here is to understand that forcing change from "above" is not as effective as change from "within."
Shannon: Currently the two main areas that I have focused on have been 1) creating a more collaborative culture among the Chemeketa geoscience faculty and 2) increasing student participation and success across all geology courses. To create a collaborative culture among Chemeketa's geoscience faculty, the department has been meeting and have been in contact more frequently across campuses. These meetings have been helpful to connect faculty so that large projects, such as creating and editing lab books for certain geology classes, can be more easily facilitated. We have also created shared Google folders of curriculum associated with the new lab books that are accessible to all faculty and are essential for newly hired part-time faculty. This shared curriculum and the assigned lab books create an important thread that draws all related courses together across classrooms, which in turn provides consistency for students campus-wide. Strategies for student success across geology courses has included sharing institutional data so teachers are able to determine where work is needed to update and/or introduce teaching activities to increase student success, such as active learning strategies. I have also begun outreach to advisers to describe the content of my courses more to broaden participation across all demographics who would normally not think of geosciences as a viable class option.
Supporting faculty change
Deron: Building relationships with faculty at my institution is key. Most of my department is made of part-time faculty, and I've tried to be inclusive and let them know about professional development opportunities, such as local SAGE 2YC workshops, the regional NAGT conference, and the Earth Educators' Rendezvous. Some of these faculty attended past SAGE 2YC workshops locally and at GSA. I also try to utilize quarterly department meeting times to infuse what I call "quick hitters," or small changes one can make in the class that can lead to big impacts, such as adding a scientist spotlight homework, implementing think-pair-share activities, or adding minute papers in the closing minutes of a class.
Shannon: To get faculty on board with these changes, the full-time faculty has tried to be as inclusive and transparent as possible in terms of changes being made to courses and access to shared curriculum. Though it is hard to meet with all faculty every single term, I make a very concerted effort to send out detailed emails to faculty about meetings that have taken place and curriculum changes that are being adopted. We have also allowed instructors to incorporate their own labs and have updated curriculum based on feedback from part-time instructors so that they feel like they have some ownership of the work they use in their classrooms.
Strategies for overcoming challenges
Deron: Early on in the project, I met with my previous dean to inform her about the project, and she was interested in the idea, but I didn't sense a ton of enthusiasm. However, when I returned and rephrased my goals in the context of the college's strategic goals, her enthusiasm became contagious! I think this goes to show the importance of understanding the perspective of administrators. This has really allowed me to see my administrators as colleagues in creating and sustaining change.
Shannon: Large scale challenges during this project have mainly been about faculty buy in. In the past 3 years the Chemeketa geology department has seen the hiring of 3 new full-time faculty members and the incorporation of new lab books into what was previously a lack of departmental cohesion and a sort of free-for-all in terms of course content. As a result, many part-time faculty don't understand why the curriculum that they had created themselves and have been using for years needs to be changed to mandated labs that they did not personally create. I have empathy for their position because I used to be a part-time faculty at Chemeketa. As a result, I have gone out of my way to make sure faculty understand the reasons for mandating certain course materials and also allow them to participate in the changes we make as much as they would like.
Smaller challenges are mainly just maintaining the small, daily or quarterly changes I have made to my own courses so that they become habit. For instance, I like to write a essential questions on the board for lecture so students are aware of the content they will be responsible for in the future. Sometimes I forget, sometimes my students have to remind me, sometimes I write a note to myself before class to remember the essential questions. To remember these changes I have begun keeping a very detailed weekly schedule that I check before every class to make sure I am remembering the activities I learned through SAGE 2YC and hope eventually these practices will become habit.
Things to think about before you start this type of project
Deron: My advice is to 1) identify problems you want to address, 2) develop goals to address those problems, and 3) create strategies that help you reach those goals. In hindsight, setting aside 1 hour a week to focus on creating and sustaining change would be great. I wish I would have blocked a one hour chunk of time to focus on journaling and brainstorming what I was doing. Setting self-imposed deadlines helps work get done. I've also found that having a colleague to bounce ideas off of is very useful. I am very grateful for working with Shannon and her ability to help me sort through my thoughts in a clear and concise manner.
Shannon: Things I sort of wish I had thought about before this project began is how to incorporate part-time faculty into the project from the very beginning. If all faculty feel like real stake-holders in the change process then perhaps moving the project forward would be a little easier. I would also make sure that I had better communication with my subject dean as opposed to just having great communication with my site director. The more people that know what you are doing, or attempting, the more you are able to create a network to help you navigate your college system. I would also suggest looking for others, whether inside or outside of your program or school, who have attempted similar work. They may have suggestions that are invaluable to your work.
Deron: Currently, my work with SAGE 2YC will be institutionalized in two ways. First, I'm in the process of working with our Center for Teaching and Learning to secure funds to support a STEM professional learning community. This model will encourage new faculty, both full-time and part-time, to participate in a year long professional learning community focused on three SAGE 2YC goals: supporting the academic success of all students, supporting transfer students, and highlighting geoscience careers.
Secondly, the college has supported me in developing a new type of geoscience course, G 209 Environmental Justice. This course meets the general education requirement for difference, power, and discrimination, and is articulated to Oregon State University. My main course objective is to use geoscience data and observations to study issues related to environmental justice. I hope this course will appeal to a wide array of students that may not take a traditional geoscience course, and help STEM majors understand the important intersection of science and society.
Finally, I am working with LBCC administrators, and faculty and administrators at OSU's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, to continue to support and create new opportunities for geoscience transfer students. This includes sustaining LBOS-Geobridge by developing and institutionalizing new programs and systems that help geoscience transfers engage in field and lab based research and develop cohorts to support each other during the transfer process.
Shannon: Much of the work that has been done during this project aligns well with our school's strategic goals and the updates our department needs to make for accreditation purposes. As a result, some of the changes that my department has begun to incorporate have become mandatory changes for current and future faculty. Other changes, like those made individually in my own classroom, have been highlighted by administration officials as examples of effective teaching strategies. I have been asked to present aspects I have learned from this project with colleagues both at my campus and school-wide ensuring that I must "practice what I preach."