Using measures of the social structure of science departments to shape emergent change strategies

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Monday, 3 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Kathleen Quardokus, Western Michigan Univ., Kalamazoo, MI; and C. Henderson

Handout (442.3 kB)

University departments strive to provide first-rate educational experiences for both major and non-major students. Ideally, undergraduate students would be engaged in learning through research-proven educational practices such as active learning lectures and inquiry-based laboratories. These student-centered teaching practices prepare students to be successful in science careers or to become scientifically informed citizens. Education change agents are challenged to help faculty members learn these techniques, develop discipline-specific applications, and implement them in the classroom. In higher education, faculty members typically have the freedom to make instructional decisions. Even if the general topics of the course are discussed among the members of the department, the teaching methods are often chosen by the individual. Furthermore, these individuals are balancing the demands of teaching with other demands on their time, namely research. Therefore, change agents must partner with these individuals to encourage the development, sharing, and use of research-proven teaching practices. Partnering with the faculty members to encourage this process of development is an emergent change strategy in that the desired outcome is not known in advance. Instead of demanding that faculty members implement specific practices (a prescribed change strategy), emergent change strategies are informed by the development of knowledge through interactions between individuals. This study describes how knowledge of the structure of faculty interactions (based on self-reports of discussions about teaching and advice seeking about teaching issues) can be used to encourage emergent change within a department. The characteristics of emergent change will be discussed, including the role of the change agent and participants. Data from six academic departments will be used to show how faculty members' personal relationships may be used by change agents to encourage emergent change.