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Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
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6

Leading and Sustaining Change

The complex pathways identified in Chapter 2 require many different interventions to support student STEM learning at all levels and among different groups—by departments, institutions, business and industry partners,

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
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as well as by accreditors and state legislators. As described in Chapter 3, institutions, departments, and professional organizations can take steps to improve the academic culture and instructional practices that students encounter. Chapter 4 details the policies that contribute to or inhibit students’ pathways to STEM degrees. In Chapter 5, we also review the cost and price factors that affect students’ progress. The many factors involved in STEM education argue for a systems approach to change, at the institutional level for issues related to articulation, at the federal level in terms of funding support, and at the disciplinary level for issues related to rewards and values among faculty. This chapter reviews research on a systems approach to change in higher education and forms the basis for the committee’s conclusions and recommendations.

STEM REFORM EFFORTS TO DATE

The empirical research summarized below illustrates that almost all research related to improving STEM education in 2-year and 4-year institutions has had a narrow focus on faculty pedagogy rather than a systems-level approach (Austin, 2011; Fairweather, 2008; Henderson et al., 2011), and there has been very little research on other issues addressed in this report, such as differential tuition or articulation agreements. Overall, STEM reform has been very narrowly considered, primarily focused on in-classroom innovation and the teaching-learning process, which also relates to the narrow way it has been studied as instructional reform (Fairweather, 2008). Drawing on the work by Seymour and Hewitt (1997), much of the research agenda outlined in reports by the National Research Council (see, e.g., 2003a, 2003b, 2012) or sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has focused on reforming STEM instruction in the college classroom. Fairweather (2008) and others note improved classroom instruction addresses only part of the laundry list of problems in STEM education, including the STEM “pipeline,” partnerships with business and industry to improve success in the professions, student advising, and other areas that have largely been ignored when considering change (see Anderson et al., 2011).

Research focused on why STEM reform efforts (particularly curricular and pedagogical innovation) have been so slow to show any effects has identified several barriers to scaling up known positive teaching approaches and curricular alterations. One of the most significant barriers to reform is that most efforts have been focused on individual faculty diffusion of practice, ignoring the context and ecology in which faculty work, as well as other factors that affect student success (Austin, 2011; Fairweather, 2008; Henderson et al., 2011). The NSF and other funders have largely supported individual faculty researchers to conduct curricular and pedagogical reform

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
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projects to provide evidence of efficacy. By disseminating the results of the research in a report or workshop, it was assumed other faculty would adopt the practices that support student success (Beach et al., 2012). Yet, after 30 years of funding individual faculty and disseminating results in research journals and at conferences, there has been no systematic adoption of the practices developed through these funded projects (Austin, 2011; Fairweather, 2008), and there are no nationally representative data available to track instructional practices at all 2-year and 4-year institutions.

SYSTEM-LEVEL APPROACHES TO CHANGE IN STEM EDUCATION

In this section of the report, we summarize the limited empirical research about system-level change in STEM to support student success. However, because the research focus in STEM has been quite narrow and does not touch on many of the issues identified in this report, we also draw on research outside of STEM about systemic change.

As detailed in Chapter 3, instructional reforms are typically carried out by individual faculty and at the department level. Only recently have a small number of universities begun to engage in cross-institutional efforts, many of which have been encouraged by other large-scale groups like accreditors, national higher education associations, or disciplinary societies, which can help support sustained change.

Also recently, some efforts have begun to work across larger institutional units, such as across departments or departments working with disciplinary societies. In addition, higher education associations, such as the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), have initiated efforts to improve undergraduate STEM education across their member universities and colleges.

One such effort that worked with disciplinary leaders to transform departments nationally is the Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics (SPIN-UP) project of the American Physical Society. The disciplinary leaders conducted case studies of departments that had been successful in supporting and graduating students and whose enrollments had grown in recent years.

The researchers identified characteristics of model departments, and these characteristics were broadly shared across the country. Those characteristics included advising, opportunities for undergraduate research, revised courses, and, especially, introductory courses, faculty culture, and the socialization and preparation of students (Hilborn et al., 2003). This approach helped shape a transformation of physics departments nationally, which in turn increased enrollments and student success over time (Hilborn,

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

2012). The SPIN-UP example also demonstrates that earlier efforts aimed only at teaching ignore other factors critical to student success. Through the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), engineering has a long history of periodically examining the state of education and proposing system-level changes, dating back to the Mann Report (American Society for Engineering Education, 1918) and including the Grinter and Green reports (American Society for Engineering Education, 1955, 1994) and Creating a Culture for Scholarly and Systematic Innovation in Engineering Education (American Society for Engineering Education, 2012). Another effort in engineering resulted from pressure by the disciplinary accreditor—Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)—which led to national curricular and pedagogical changes (Lattuca et al., 2006). Working with accreditation helped to scale up the changes. The adoption of engineering education outcomes (Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, 1997) by engineering schools has been considered one of five major shifts in engineering education in the past 100 years (Froyd et al., 2012). Also, NSF funded the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education project that conducted research on engineering student pathways, engineering educator teaching practices, and methods to build capacity in the field to conduct engineering education research. Both findings and tools developed from this research have been used to improve engineering teaching at institutions across the country (Atman et al., 2012).

AAC&U’s Keck/PKAL STEM Education Effectiveness Framework Project1 has developed an institutional change framework to help campus leaders translate national recommendations for improving teaching and learning in STEM into scalable and sustainable actions. The framework also addresses other supports that have been recommended, such as advising, co-curricular programs, and transfer policies. Participating campuses in California contributed to the development of an institutional readiness audit and a rubric with benchmarking tools that colleges and universities can use to measure their effectiveness in promoting more learner-centered campus cultures in STEM. Results from the project demonstrated that campuses that used the framework were able to make more progress on their change efforts (Kezar et al., in press). These tools are intended to guide campuses through program, departmental, and, eventually, institutional transformation. The project pays specific attention to program and institutional data that can be used to evaluate student achievement, experiences, and progress (e.g., rates of transfer, retention, and completion) with a focus on minority student success. This project developed a framework to take research findings from this and other reports that can be put into action.

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1 For more details, see http://www.aacu.org/pkal/educationframework/index.cfm [June 2015].

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

SPIN-UP, the ABET criteria, and AAC&U’s Keck/PKAL have undergone systematic study. Other efforts are currently under way but have not been studied, and we review some of these, which demonstrate the rising understanding that STEM reform needs to work institutionally and across multiple institutions in order to scale up reform. The Bay View Alliance (BVA), the AAU, and the APLU have each created programs to implement and sustain systemic reforms across a number of institutions of higher education, and are connected to other programs.

The BVA is a consortium of research universities carrying out applied research on the leadership of cultural change for increasing the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices.2 The BVA does not focus directly on teaching methods; instead, it addresses issues related to leadership, motivation, organizational culture, and change management that support and sustain improved teaching practices. The work occurs in research action clusters that conduct research while member universities implement projects. Members of the consortium work together to identify and evaluate more effective ways for university leaders at all levels to inspire and enable improved teaching and learning. Research about the efficacy of the BVA is promising but just beginning.

The AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative3 seeks to achieve systemic and sustained improvements in STEM learning at its member institutions, which are major public and private research universities. The initiative supports 8 institutions directly, and 41 others focused on improving STEM education as members of the AAU STEM Network. The goals of the initiative include helping institutions assess the quality of STEM teaching on their campuses, share best practices, and create incentives for their departments and faculty members to adopt effective teaching methods. The initiative has developed a framework for systemic change designed to help institutions assess and improve the quality of STEM teaching and learning, particularly during students’ first 2 years of college. A demonstration program at a subset of AAU universities is implementing the framework and exploring mechanisms that institutions and departments can use to train, recognize, and reward faculty members who want to improve the quality of their STEM teaching. By 2017, data will begin to be available about the results of the project.

APLU’s Science & Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI)4 works with public universities to increase the number and improve the quality and diversity of science and mathematics teachers they prepare. SMTI has developed an “analytic framework” that allows faculty and administrators

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2 For details, see http://bayviewalliance.org/ [February 2015].

3 For details, see https://www.aau.edu/policy/article.aspx?id=12588 [February 2015].

4 For details, see http://www.aplu.org/page.aspx?pid=2776 [February 2015].

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
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to analyze policies, processes, and practices that support effective preparation of science and mathematics teachers. An understanding of the factors required for sustained institutional change, including top leadership commitment and faculty ownership, is key to SMTI efforts on campuses.

The AAC&U, AAU, BVA, and APLU have partnered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Research Council to create the Coalition for Reform of Undergraduate STEM Education. The coalition’s goal is to bring about widespread implementation of evidence-based practice in undergraduate STEM education. The coalition will share data and approaches, monitor progress nationally on metrics and models for institutional change, analyze for gaps, encourage action on gaps, and work to attract funding to this agenda. The coalition is also working to build ongoing capacity within the several partner organizations and their respective STEM educational programs to advance the adoption of evidence-based STEM practices on college, university, and community college campuses.

In addition to the primary outcome of using exchange of information to strengthen the ongoing work on members’ initiatives, specific outcomes of the Coalition for Reform of Undergraduate STEM Education have included preparation of an initial matrix of relevant national-level activities and a meeting of practitioners and funders, supported by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the Sloan Foundation.5 The meeting explored ways to deepen and scale needed reforms. Moving forward, the Coalition will strive to focus on mapping the space for reform and promoting commitment to the systemic changes needed to achieve widespread implementation of evidence-based practices.

In line with research on organizational reform (Austin, 2011; Fairweather, 2008; Henderson et al., 2011; Kezar, 2011; Manduca, 2008), the efforts of BVA, AAU, AAC&U, and APLU are designed to create change at multiple levels (institution, discipline and department, and program), rather than focusing on individual faculty or even single departments. The design of the reform efforts is in line with research showing how through departments, leaders can reshape entire curriculum and create professional learning communities focused on new pedagogy (Austin, 2011; Fairweather, 2008; Henderson et al., 2011; Kezar, 2011; Manduca, 2008). The reform efforts also align with research findings that illustrate the importance of conceptualizing STEM reform as part of a complex ecology—departments, institutions, disciplines, national organizations, foundations, accreditors, state policy makers, and other groups that can be leveraged for change (Austin, 2011; Kezar, 2011; Zemsky et al., 2005).

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5 For a summary of the meeting, see Achieving Systemic Change at https://www.aacu.org/pkal/sourcebook [June 2015].

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
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Both SPIN-UP and engineering reforms through ABET also highlight how changes in teaching should not be seen in isolation and that success for students means examining student support, departmental climate, and other issues. While these two initiatives did not focus as directly on institutions as the site for change, they allude to many issues related to student success that are beyond departmental control and would require, instead, institutional policies (around incentives, for example), practices (e.g., values supported by awards), and leadership to create meaningful changes for student success.

In addition to the inherent flaw in the narrow approach to scaling change by simple dissemination of information about good practice, there are other identified barriers in institutions to STEM reform that have led to systemic reform strategies. Those barriers are related to how institutions relate to each other and how they affect society. For example, a collaborative effort to scale up a developmental mathematics reform movement in Texas, the New Mathways Project,6 focused on how the various institutions with a stake in higher education in Texas (state governments, colleges, funding organizations) interact with each other. A major finding from this work was that many institutions are optimizing for legitimacy (or to be perceived as authoritative) rather than for quality (Rutschow et al., 2015). Since institutions tend to seek prestige and status and to copy their peers, incentives for change include making teaching and student success a measure of prestige as is being developed in the AAU initiative. The AAU initiative also tries to create groups of peers or networks that will influence each other over in the long run.

Both the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have funded projects intended to catalyze change at the institutional level. These projects show promise for models that could be adopted or adapted at multiple institutions and can lead to large-scale change.

As discussed above, there are many barriers to change. In a meta-analysis of studies of STEM reform, Henderson and colleagues (2011) identified incentives, reward systems, disciplinary values, and institutional support as key barriers. However, none of the studies they reviewed addressed whether strategies to overcome these barriers—such as new recognition and reward systems—had led to positive change. In addition to barriers (see Fairweather, 2008), there are factors that can influence adoption of new teaching techniques, such as faculty workload, faculty rewards, sequence of courses in curricula, leadership, and resources. Fairweather (1996) provides evidence that the reward system systematically continues to devalue teaching for people in tenure-track positions in 4-year and graduate-level

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6 This is a collaborative effort among the Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

institutions, a major detriment to change. Furthermore, the increased use of part-time faculty to teach introductory STEM courses also inhibits reform as faculty are cycling in and out of classes (Kezar, 2013).

Looking across the available research, four major weaknesses in previous reform efforts have been identified:

  1. Focusing too narrowly on individuals rather than the entire system, which leads to small-scale and short-lived changes.
  2. Not leveraging multiple levels—individual, department, institution, disciplinary society, business and industry, government and policy—for change.
  3. Focusing too narrowly on pedagogical and curricular changes while not also considering other aspects related to student success.
  4. Focusing on a single area, such as undergraduate research, rather than looking at the entire system.

OPPORTUNITIES IN STEM REFORM

There has been relatively little research to provide guidance on what factors promote reform, both generally and specifically in STEM. As noted above, studies have been framed so narrowly that a complex array of student success factors has been tried in few situations and rarely studied.

In their meta-analysis of approaches to reform (related to pedagogy and instruction), Henderson and colleagues (2011) identified four categories of approaches to change that suggest directions for moving forward: (1) disseminating curriculum and pedagogy, (2) developing reflective teachers, (3) enacting policy changes, and (4) developing a shared vision. However, STEM education researchers largely write about change only in terms of disseminating curriculum and pedagogy, and this strategy has led to minimal change. While this strategy has poor efficacy, Seymour (2001) points out that one reason that it may persist is that it is often reflected in proposal requirements of funding agencies.

The least used strategy for change found by Henderson and colleagues (2011) (only 8 percent of articles they reviewed) with the most efficacy is developing a shared vision for the change, often through the creation of learning communities, organizational learning processes, and/or culture change (see below). Moreover, most studies of change provide minimal evidence to support whether the change strategy worked. For example, only 21 percent of the articles that reported on implementation of a change strategy were categorized as presenting strong evidence to support claims of the success or failure of the strategy. They conclude (Henderson et al., 2011, p. 1): “[T]he state of change strategies and the study of change strategies

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

are weak, and that research communities that study and enact change are largely isolated from one another.”

Effective instructional change strategies have the following characteristics: they are aligned with or seek to change the beliefs of the individuals involved; they involve long-term interventions, lasting at least one semester and often longer; they require understanding a college or university as a complex system, and they design a strategy that is compatible with this system. In the rest of this section, we present findings from other higher education research that documents approaches to creating systems-level and sustained changes focused on learning communities, organizational learning and data-driven decision-making, and faculty development. We also consider issues of institutional support, multilevel leadership, and multifaceted approaches to change. It is important to note that many of these strategies are aimed at cultural change, and in recent years there has been growing awareness that enhancing STEM learning environments requires a change in the values and beliefs of faculty and academic and disciplinary leaders.

Learning Communities

Various studies in higher education support the idea that changing individual belief systems through discussion and deliberation is important to change and for scaling up interventions (Gioia and Thomas, 1996; Kezar, 2001, 2012, 2013). By changing faculty and staff beliefs, changes are deeper and sustained (Kezar, 2012). One way to support changes in beliefs is learning communities and reform networks.

Most research on learning communities has been conducted on K-12 education, but there is a growing research base that faculty learning communities also lead to change in practice and work to scale up changes across departments (Quardokus and Henderson, 2014). Kezar and Gehrke (2015) found that large national STEM reform networks have the potential to spread reforms across thousands of faculty, as well as help them become change agents who can reshape departments and colleges (see also American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2015).

Learning communities reflect the characteristics found in the Henderson and colleagues (2011) meta-analysis: they engage individuals in changing beliefs, over a long time, and help faculty members understand barriers and facilitators for change in their institutions. When designed appropriately, these networks can help spread and sustain change. There have been few efforts to create regional or national learning communities for STEM reform, but research on reforms in higher education outside STEM suggests that networks and learning communities have been among the most significant vehicles for scaling up such changes as service learning or undergraduate research (Kezar, 2011, 2013; Smith et al., 2004). The importance of learn-

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

ing communities is also demonstrated in Kezar’s research on the three key qualities that lead to scale in higher education: provide opportunities for sustained deliberation of change; support ongoing networks and communities for change agents; and develop intermediary organizations to provide incentives, support, and rewards (Kezar, 2011). The creation of learning communities develops both networks and opportunities for sustained discussion, two of the critical elements that can lead to large-scale change. Centers for teaching and learning can also offer an institution-based tool/ resource to support these changes.

Organizational Learning and Data-Driven Decision Making

While STEM reform research has until recently ignored organizational and institutional approaches to change, the notion of learning communities can be connected to research about organizational learning (Fulton and Britton, 2011). Learning communities essentially provide opportunities for groups to learn and change together. When this group approach to learning is institutionalized and expanded into the larger organization, it is labeled organizational learning. Organizational learning has been identified in the broader literature on change as one of the most robust strategies for creating change (Kezar, 2001, 2013; Smith, 2015; Sturdy and Grey, 2013). Organizational learning is a key way to address change since the STEM education problems will vary by institution, and no one can know all the individual issues affecting policy or culture (Kezar, 2013). The introduction of “broader impacts” as one of the review criteria for award of NSF research and education funding has led some institutions to construct institution-level infrastructure (capacity) to support principal investigators. Various units within NSF provide examples of efforts that would fall into the category of broader impacts. Efforts to use the examples from NSF to build “local options” that build on institutional and principal investigator assets have been a powerful driver for change in some institutions.

In general, research on change suggests that organizational learning promotes change by helping prompt doubt in people about their beliefs by presenting data and evidence to guide decision making and thinking (Kezar, 2001, 2012; Senge, 1990). Organizational learning also helps create context-based solutions. For initiatives on student success, research has demonstrated that collecting and analyzing data on students by differences in demographics, majors, course-taking patterns, and pathways and using these analyses to develop interventions has helped increase student success (Bauman, 2005; Bensimon and Malcom, 2012). Chapter 2 detailed the complex pathways in STEM education. Institutions also need to collect and review data about their own students in order to develop appropriate interventions. Data-informed decision making is not without challenges as many

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

organizations lack the infrastructure to collect, aggregate, and interpret the needed data. In addition, data-driven decision making is complicated by the need to focus on success of all students, which would require examining system changes from a variety of perspectives. The recent initiatives noted above, such as the AAU and AACU/Keck Framework projects, use data, metrics, and organizational learning to develop appropriate policies.

Faculty Development

Research studies also support the role of robust faculty development efforts to improve STEM education. Policies created at the national, regional, or institutional level are particularly important for changing faculty instructional practices. As an example, the Physics and Astronomy New Faculty Workshops (NFW) Program, sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers, American Physical Society, and American Astronomical Society, and supported by NSF, has offered 17 workshops, each lasting 3 or more days. There is strong evidence to suggest that the NFW Program has been very successful at increasing participant knowledge about research-based instructional strategies and motivating participants to try these strategies (Henderson et al., 2012). In a national survey of randomly selected U.S. physics faculty, those who had attended NFW had the largest correlation of 20 personal and situational variables indicating a respondent’s knowledge about and use of at least one research-based instructional strategy (Henderson et al., 2012). But the survey results also show that faculty members who attend professional development but then return to their campuses to find an unfavorable environment for change do not continue reforms.

The AAU, AACU, and Bay View Alliance projects all build on this research and incorporate in-depth faculty development programs into their projects. Faculty development efforts from these organizations also seek to foster a more supportive environment or climate within STEM departments. Institutional-level efforts, such as centers for teaching and learning, can also support a more favorable environment for reform.

Institutional Support

Findings from Fairweather (2008) and Austin (2011), among others, suggest that creating change mechanisms like learning communities or offering professional development without addressing the incentive system and values in academia will largely result in only short-term change. This research suggests even if good practices and changed beliefs are spread, they are unlikely to be sustained if the overall culture and structure of the institution does not support changes. Although there are no long-term

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

studies of whether changes supported by learning communities remain over time, the implication from Fairweather (2008) and Austin (2011) is that current practices are divorced from addressing systemic barriers and will not be successful.

Some, but not all, learning communities address institutional barriers. Organizational learning approaches simultaneously try to identify and address both barriers and solutions. But change efforts aimed at addressing systems barriers, such as rewards for teaching that are embedded into the recent AAU Initiative, are likely pivotal to scale change. Leadership on campus is critical to engage to change reward and incentive systems.

Multilevel Leadership

Research on change in colleges and universities demonstrates that systemic change occurs when leaders across multiple parts of the system work in concert toward a solution (Kezar, 2013). The type of changes outlined in this report will likely not be initiated and sustained unless there is leadership capacity at multiple levels. Leaders can shape and change incentives and rewards, and create more robust systems to enhance data-informed decision making. Leaders are critical to altering the culture by reshaping values and what is considered normative.

Department chair leadership programs have been shown as instrumental to other types of STEM changes, such as getting more women and underrepresented minorities into STEM disciplines as faculty (Rosser, 2009). Chairs can help implement support for students at the departmental level and support instructional and curricular changes. Individual campuses are increasingly offering chair training because they recognize that these individuals are critical to policy implementation, but recent studies (McClelland and Holland, 2015; Quardokus and Henderson, 2014) also demonstrate their role in change.

Deans, provosts, presidents, trustees, and regents are needed to examine policies around tuition, articulation, and course credit. Institutional leaders are known to be significant players in implementing changes, but they are not generally brought into STEM reform efforts (Kezar, 2013). Pressure from external players such as accreditors, legislative bodies, government agencies, and business and industry leaders has also been instrumental and can be used as a lever for STEM reform (Eckel and Kezar, 2003).

Disciplinary leadership is needed to examine ways that professional societies can encourage support for improved teaching, new instructional methods, and strategies to increase student success rates. Disciplines set norms about who is considered a scientist or engineer, and many disciplines may remain unwelcoming places for some STEM students. Disciplinary leadership has been studied less than institutional leadership, but even the

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

STEM research examples above (e.g., SPIN-UP and the ABET criteria) demonstrate the role leaders have played in certain fields.

The creation of a national group, network, or organization that would bring together STEM reform leaders could help in fostering changes in STEM education at a high level. Organizations such as the Council for Undergraduate Research and Campus Compact bring together leaders across multiple parts of the enterprise in support of these practices. Research demonstrates that interaction has furthered the spread of these practices (Hollander and Hartley, 2000). The recent development of the Coalition for Reform of Undergraduate STEM Education will further increase collaboration among various STEM reform efforts and reform advocates.

Capacity for leadership could be provided through disciplinary societies, national organizations, and individual institutions. For an example of the latter, see Box 6-1. Project Kaleidoscope7 has a Summer Leadership Institute for department chairs, faculty, and other academic leaders to help them in working to create needed changes. A few disciplinary societies (e.g., American Society for Engineering Education, American Physical Society) have also created leadership development initiatives (see Chapter 3). Studies of leadership development demonstrate the value of understanding the local (institutional) context and the value of learning from individuals in other contexts that can provide a broader (disciplinary) perspective and national view on issues. Both kinds of opportunities are likely the most beneficial.

Leadership for change might be encouraged through the development of a prestigious prize or honor created that is given to a campus or department for exceptional leadership to support student success in STEM. A foundation, association, or agency might be encouraged to develop an award similar to the American Mathematical Society’s Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department.8 Awards have been found to motivate changes among leaders and alter cultural norms (e.g., the Baldridge and Aspen awards). Awards can also draw attention among the multiple levels of leadership in the system and create a sense of focus for change.

Multifaceted Approaches to Change

As noted above, STEM reform change studies have generally not examined multiple factors at the same time—undergraduate research, advising, and instructional reform. As a result, there is no evidence on whether addressing multiple factors leads to greater student success. However, research in higher education on student success initiatives outside of STEM

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7 This is a project of the AAU. For details, see https://www.aacu.org/pkal [June 2015].

8 For details, see http://www.ams.org/news?news_id=2632 [July 2015].

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

demonstrates that a multipronged strategy for addressing student success leads to greater persistence and higher rates of retention and graduation for students (Bean, 2005; Braxton, 2000; Kuh, 2008; Tinto, 2006). Thirty years of research on student retention and success demonstrates that student success is a complex puzzle that requires attention to college preparation and transition, advising, financial aid, faculty-student interactions, faculty’s use of high-quality pedagogy, articulation and transfer polices, engagement in high impact practices, and the like (Bean, 2005; Braxton, 2000; Kuh, 2008). While not every approach may be addressed in each reform effort, focusing more broadly across institutional factors (culture, faculty teach-

Suggested Citation:"6 Leading and Sustaining Change." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Students' Diverse Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21739.
×

ing, financial aid, articulation and transfer) and enterprise factors (rewards, disciplinary norms, prestige seeking, competition between institutions) will likely lead to greater student success over time (Tinto, 2006).

SUMMARY

In this chapter, we illustrate the need for reform efforts to address systemic barriers of disciplinary and institutional value systems. Systemic and lasting reform in education, including STEM education, requires an approach that addresses multiple levels of leadership: department, institution, discipline, government, and business and industry.

Strategies for successful undergraduate STEM reform that emerge from the available research include supporting learning communities and networks (disciplinary, national, and regional) that help change faculty belief systems and practices and that are aimed at creating leaders and change agents who can scale up and sustain changes; developing ongoing national, regional, and disciplinary faculty development programs; providing faculty and academic leaders the capacity to use data to create and improve reform efforts; and creating intermediary organizations or supporting a coordinating entity, such as the Coalition for Reform of Undergraduate STEM Education, to focus and support reform.

To better understand the effect of such reform efforts, research is needed on reform strategies that are broader than just instructional reform and that examine the interlocking qualities of student success, which include preparation, advising, supplemental instruction, pedagogy, faculty culture, and articulation between 2-year and 4-year institutions. A shift toward funding and studying reform efforts that focus on multiple levels could yield significant benefits for all who are involved in undergraduate STEM education.

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Nearly 40 percent of the students entering 2- and 4-year postsecondary institutions indicated their intention to major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 2012. But the barriers to students realizing their ambitions are reflected in the fact that about half of those with the intention to earn a STEM bachelor’s degree and more than two-thirds intending to earn a STEM associate’s degree fail to earn these degrees 4 to 6 years after their initial enrollment. Many of those who do obtain a degree take longer than the advertised length of the programs, thus raising the cost of their education. Are the STEM educational pathways any less efficient than for other fields of study? How might the losses be “stemmed” and greater efficiencies realized? These questions and others are at the heart of this study.

Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees reviews research on the roles that people, processes, and institutions play in 2-and 4-year STEM degree production. This study pays special attention to the factors that influence students’ decisions to enter, stay in, or leave STEM majors—quality of instruction, grading policies, course sequences, undergraduate learning environments, student supports, co-curricular activities, students’ general academic preparedness and competence in science, family background, and governmental and institutional policies that affect STEM educational pathways.

Because many students do not take the traditional 4-year path to a STEM undergraduate degree, Barriers and Opportunities describes several other common pathways and also reviews what happens to those who do not complete the journey to a degree. This book describes the major changes in student demographics; how students, view, value, and utilize programs of higher education; and how institutions can adapt to support successful student outcomes. In doing so, Barriers and Opportunities questions whether definitions and characteristics of what constitutes success in STEM should change. As this book explores these issues, it identifies where further research is needed to build a system that works for all students who aspire to STEM degrees. The conclusions of this report lay out the steps that faculty, STEM departments, colleges and universities, professional societies, and others can take to improve STEM education for all students interested in a STEM degree.

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