Who We Are


The SEISMIC Collaboration is a collection of educators, researchers, students, student support staff, and more who work in higher education and have seen the persistent problem of inequity and non-inclusion in STEM education.

 

Check out our SEISMIC Voices to Hear Directly from SEISMIC Participants

 

We came together in early 2019 because we needed to improve student experiences in our introductory STEM courses. Building equitable and inclusive campuses must begin with admitting that our universities and fields need to change. Our collaboration represents members from 10 public research universities in the United States that educate over 350,000 students each year.

10 SEISMIC Institutions
SEISMIC Institutions: Arizona State University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Purdue University, University of California Davis, University of California Irvine, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburgh

Universities are important hubs of innovation and knowledge, but they have also been—and continue to be—sites of exclusion, marginalization, and violence. As researchers and educators committed to increasing equity and inclusion in STEM, we must also commit to confronting and combating the racist violences that have been advanced in and through STEM. Put simply, we must actively advance an anti-racist future for STEM education. Institutionally, we affirm that SEISMIC will take concrete action to promote:

1. ANTIRACISM IN POLICY

Individually and institutionally, SEISMIC members have a responsibility to promote antiracist policies across scales—from our departments to our campus, and across our 10 institutions. We commit to learning how STEM courses, including our own, participate in and perpetuate racism. We will act on this learning by implementing antiracist policies and practices—and putting pressure on others to do the same. We must do so in our classrooms, our departments, our institutions, our professional societies, and beyond.

2. ANTIRACISM IN REPRESENTATION

Relatedly, we recognize the current lack of diversity in SEISMIC, and will increase the representation of people of color—and Black Americans, in particular. A collaboration that seeks to promote equity and inclusion must work to enact and embody those aims in the present—not merely work toward them in the future. We must do better, and we will. Within the collaboration, we will also use our positions of institutional privilege to honor, elevate, and amplify the contributions of Black scholars and educators, including in our invited seminar series.

3. ANTIRACISM IN RESEARCH

The project of promoting equity and inclusion in STEM cannot be colorblind, and it cannot ignore racist inequities. We will dedicate specific resources to projects that can provide data on racism and how to combat it. In our scholarship and teaching, we will actively resist explanations for educational inequalities that rely on racist narratives about student deficits. Instead, we will work to identify the structural factors and forces that manufacture inequality—and we will investigate how to counter them.

4. ANTIRACISM IN TEACHING & MENTORSHIP

We will support SEISMIC members in enacting antiracist teaching and mentorship. In our courses and departments, we will be mindful that curriculum sends messages about whose lives and experiences we think matter. As STEM educators, we are responsible for honoring and teaching students about the contributions of Black scientists and other scientists of color—and for drawing attention to the inequities that STEM has reinforced. We will also promote inclusive mentoring practices that support minoritized and marginalized students and colleagues in our fields.

Background & Theory for Change


Earlier efforts by some of our now SEISMIC institutions played a large role in the development of the SEISMIC project. In 2014, a handful of Big 10 institutions came together to conduct parallel data analyses in intro STEM courses. The question was simple, at first. A physics professor at the University of Michigan found gendered performance differences in his class and he wanted to know, is this just a problem in physics? From there he got access to institutional data [1] for other STEM classes at UM and found his answer – no, this is a problem in other STEM classes as well. The next question was whether this was just a STEM problem (it was), and from there, whether it was just a UM problem (it wasn’t). This professor teamed up with people at other Big 10 universities, including now SEISMIC institutions Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, and Indiana University, and found a pattern of gendered performance differences in STEM. This project allowed people to see how coming together across institutions around data can be valuable [2]. A few years later, that UM physics professor, Tim McKay, proposed the SEISMIC project. [3] Funding for the SEISMIC project has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and our SEISMIC Institutions. 

Our model for change is grounded in recent research exploring the reasons for the relatively slow adoption of evidence-based approaches to STEM education [4]. Beach, Henderson, and Finkelstein have categorized change strategies along two dimensions: ranging in design from prescribed to emergent, and addressing change at scales from individuals to environments and structures.

 

Adapted from Henderson, Beach, & Finkelstein, 2011

 

Many existing reform efforts, including most on the campuses of our partner institutions, focus on encouraging and supporting change at the level of individual instructors. These efforts often have real, but limited impacts [5]. Individual faculty members may not have the training or experience necessary to successfully implement evidence-based teaching strategies in their classrooms. Those who engage in reflective practice or Scholarship of Teaching and Learning without support for the extra effort required may be overwhelmed and return to traditional instructional practices. When instructors trained in evidence-based methods rotate out of teaching a course, it often returns to traditional modes of instruction.

Projects like the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiatives [6] work to advance beyond this, aiming to promote change within in an institution at the department level. This has the advantage of moving beyond individuals, working to create “a culture within academic science departments where research-based, effective teaching and course design were the new normal [7].” This approach has had both significant success and faced important challenges. A few departments have been transformed in potentially sustainable ways, with new norms of practice continuing after reform funding ended. Unfortunately, many quickly returned to pre-reform approaches to teaching. This happens in part because instructional norms, especially for foundational courses, are established in disciplines which communicate across the boundaries of peer institutions. It is difficult for Michigan to maintain an approach to introductory physics teaching which differs substantially from that offered at Berkeley, Virginia, UCLA, and UNC.

More recently, several projects have emerged which aim to unite reform efforts across entire institutions, working to explicitly connect reform efforts across disciplinary lines. Michigan’s Foundational Course Initiative acts in this way. Several other projects including the AAU STEM Initiative [8], the Bayview Alliance [9], and the HHMI Inclusive Excellence Program [10] aim to share ideas, inspire activities, and learn from experiments both across institutions and among groups of peer institutions. These broader projects have begun to create a shared vision of the importance of evidence-based approaches to STEM education.

Our Approach

SEISMIC builds on prior efforts in two important ways. First, we use access to and analysis of institutional data as the launching point for our multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary STEM education research and practice collaboration. Building on a prior successful multi-institutional effort using parallel data analysis, this collaboration supports participating institutions in their efforts to gather their own local data and put it to work in world class ways.

 

Stay Tuned for our Story of SEISMIC Blog Post to learn about prior efforts and what it took to launch the project (not posted yet)

 

In this way, we ensure that the evidence being used to motivate change is local, and hence clearly relevant in context. Second, we aim to motivate changes to long-established practice with something more than the possibility of marginal improvements in learning. By focusing on equity and inclusion as our central metric for success, we harness a higher level of collective passion from the students, faculty, staff, and administrators who participate.

The SEISMIC project works primarily within Henderson, Beach, and Finkelstein’s higher level categories of environments and structures. Developing a shared vision of how to measure and characterize equity and inclusion in foundational STEM courses is the project’s first goal. Implementing these consensus measures across our institutions and sharing the results will make it much easier for our community to identify effective approaches to equity and inclusion. It will also help us to better understand which are appropriate in different contexts. Building on this body of knowledge, we can explore the development of policies which encourage and enable the changes we find we need.

Structures & Activities


Participants of SEISMIC come together to share ideas, coordinate work, and discuss new possibilities in many different ways. Following the lead of other multi-institutional collaborations, like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, SEISMIC uses a Collaboration Council (CoCo) to lead the project and Scientific Working Groups to complete the actual work required to achieve its goals. We also have a SEISMIC Central, which consists of our SEISMIC Director, Project Manager, Evaluation team, and Event support. SEISMIC Central works to make sure the collaboration is well organized, our events are effective, we engage in continuous improvement, and the overall collaboration runs smoothly.

Visit our Leadership Page to Learn More About the CoCo, Working Group Co-Chair Role, and Advisory Council

 

Working Groups

SEISMIC participants currently work together through four Working Groups: Measurement, Experiments, Implementing Change (formerly Structures), and Constructs. Each Working Group focuses on a specific aspect of equity and inclusion in STEM education. Our Measurement group uses institutional datasets and parallel data analysis to identify inequities in STEM classrooms related to performance, representation, and persistence. Our Experiments group works with STEM instructors to try classroom innovations and interventions to address inequities and problems of inclusion. Our Implementing Change group looks at the programs and tools influencing student experiences in STEM to identify strategies that best support reform in STEM education and practices that harm these efforts. Our Constructs group studies the diversity of ideas that undergird efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in foundational STEM courses, helping us to be explicit about what we mean when we aim for equity and inclusion in STEM education. These four Working Groups represent the bulk of SEISMIC activity and meet face-to-face and virtually throughout the year to accomplish the key goals of our collaboration. 

More Info on Our Working Groups

 

Annual Meetings

Our Annual Collaboration Meetings are intended to build community across SEISMIC and advance the efforts of the Working Groups. Face‐to‐face meetings play an important role in establishing the social ties needed for any successful collaboration. This is especially true when the community is diverse; coming from many institutions, disciplines, and roles in higher education, with various interests, goals, and identities. SEISMIC has all these traits, which is why annual meetings are a centerpiece of this project. Aligned with the cycle of the academic year, these summer meetings provide important structure for collaboration activities. Working Groups and institutional teams plan their work with these meetings as deadlines for significant stages in their work. Active participants in SEISMIC are encouraged to attend these meetings. SEISMIC pledges to support the hosting of 4 participants from each member institution.

More Info on Our Annual Meetings

 

Speaker Exchange Program

Every year, each member institution pledges to bring 6 or more speakers to their campus to accelerate research, build community, enhance the spread of ideas, and reinforce our focus on equity and inclusion as a central metric for STEM reform success. Over the course of the collaboration, more than 180 speakers will travel between campuses, sharing their work and recommendations. Speakers will primarily be from member institutions, although this program is open to anyone speaking on topics of relevance to our SEISMIC efforts. More details about the Speaker Exchange Program at each institution can be found on the Institutions pages.

More Info on Our Speaker Exchange Program


References

[1] More information on the creation of the Learning Analytics Architecture (LARC) dataset at the University of Michigan: Lonn, S., Koester, B. P. (2019). Rearchitecting data for researchers: A collaborative model for enabling institutional learning analytics in higher education. Journal of Learning Analytics, 2019(2), 107-119.

[2] Matz, R. L., Koester, B. P., Fiorini, S., Grom, G., Shepard, L., Stangor, C. G., … & McKay, T. A. (2017). Patterns of gendered performance differences in large introductory courses at five research universities. AERA Open, 3(4), 2332858417743754.

[3] More information on the University of Michigan process toward learning analytics work: Lonn, S., McKay, T. A., & Teasley, S. D. (2017). Cultivating institutional capacities for learning analytics. New Directions for Higher Education, 2017(179), 53-63.

[4] Beach, Andrea L., Charles Henderson, and Noah Finkelstein. “Facilitating change in undergraduate STEM education.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 44, no. 6 (2012): 52-59.

[5] Henderson, Charles. “Promoting instructional change in new faculty: An evaluation of the physics and astronomy new faculty workshop.” American Journal of Physics 76, no. 2 (2008): 179-187.

[6] http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/

[7] Wieman, Carl. Improving how universities teach science: lessons from the science education initiative. Harvard University Press, 2017.

[8] https://www.aau.edu/education-service/undergraduate-education/undergraduate-stem-education-initiative

[9] http://bayviewalliance.org/

[10] https://www.hhmi.org/developing-scientists/inclusive-excellence