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STEM Workforce Development STEM Workforce Development  Broadening Participation in STEM Broadening Participation in STEM

ADVANCE and Beyond: Understanding Processes of Institutional Change to Promote STEM Equity and Education

Effective Years: 2021-2025

ADVANCE and Beyond: Understanding Processes of Institutional Change to Promote STEM Equity and Education

This research has significance in seeking to provide evidence-based support to scholars and practitioners who are working to promote systemic institutional change in STEM higher education. To solve stubborn problems that lead to inequitable outcomes, such as biased faculty tenure and promotion processes, uneven leadership opportunities, and hostile departmental climates, requires more than a single intervention. Because these problems are embedded in complex higher education systems, taking a systemic approach means deploying multiple levers for change and combining these interventions strategically. The research team will study processes of organizational change in order to fill the gap between broadly conceived organizational change theories and practical implementation of processes and interventions in specific institutional change efforts to advance STEM equity and education. Improved understanding of these essential change processes will help to link change theories, goals, and interventions in ways that strengthen the outcomes of such efforts. With robust research findings to guide their work, change leaders can better promote, connect, and sustain the particular change interventions they have designed; engage leaders and stakeholders; and respond to resistance or setbacks.

The goals of the study are to characterize important scaffolding processes that support and link a suite of specific change interventions into comprehensive change plans, thereby enhancing their synergistic effects and deepening institutional impact. The research team will analyze projects supported by NSF's ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) program, which have developed portfolios of interventions to address the multi-faceted sources of gender inequity on STEM faculties. Because these projects already draw on a well-established body of interventions that identify “what to do,” they serve as good study sites to learn “how” such change work can best be accomplished. Using documents, interviews, and interactive focus groups that we call Structured Expert Enquiry Dialogues, the study aims to identify, analyze, and explain scaffolding processes as seen in equity-directed change projects. The research team members will then deepen and test their understanding of these processes with experienced change leaders of equity-directed change projects both within and beyond ADVANCE, thereby exploring the transferability of this new knowledge. The research findings will emphasize processes that facilitate institutional transformation toward full and equitable participation of diverse faculty, and the roles of both formal and informal organizational factors that may encourage or inhibit inclusion in the academic workforce. Communication of the results in conferences and journals will target scholars who can connect new theory about scaffolding processes to studies of other STEM education change projects. Dissemination through workshops, webinars, and the web-based StratEGIC Toolkit, in partnership with the Science Education Research Center, will target change agents who carry out work on faculty-based institutional change to improve STEM education and broaden participation, whether through projects similar to ADVANCE or those that address student experiences such as ineffective teaching, disengaged learning, and exclusionary environments.

This project is funded by the EHR Core Research (ECR) program, which supports work that advances fundamental research on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.