Overview

Our long-term goal is to transform introductory STEM courses into equitable learning environments. To do so, it is imperative that faculty, administrators, and undergraduate students recognize the structural role that courses and departments play in student success. Department leaders, as key connectors with both faculty and administrators, are central to this process. The overall objective of this proposal is to establish STEM Equity Learning Communities (SELCs) in universities across the U.S. that will foster impactful approaches for engaging faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students in equity-minded discussions of their STEM courses. Our central hypothesis is that when SELCs use course equity measures, co-develop interpretations of the data and action plans, and present their findings to campus leadership, they will develop equity-mindedness and be well-positioned to promote this mindset in their departments. We are particularly well-prepared to undertake the proposed research because our Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) collaboration has engaged 10 large research universities in equity measurement and course transformation conversations over the past three years. One of the strengths of SEISMIC is that it has already built relationships across faculty, administrator, and student lines on each campus. In addition, several of the SEISMIC institutions have already organized their institutional data to facilitate parallel equity analyses across courses, departments, and institutions.

Project Leadership

 

What is a SELC?

Each participating institution will establish one SELC made up of (at minimum) four STEM faculty members, two undergraduate students, one institutional researcher, and one facilitator (evolutionary and political change perspective). The faculty members should have recent teaching experience in introductory STEM courses and a role in their department leadership or their department’s curriculum planning. We have found that faculty in these roles tend to be interested in accessing course equity data, learning how to bring this information to their departments in useful ways, and have the power to direct department conversations. Ideally, three to four STEM departments on each campus would be represented by these faculty members, resulting in impacts on 30 to 40 departments across the U.S. The participating faculty members will use past class email lists to advertise the student positions to students who completed their intro STEM courses in recent terms. We use the term “institutional researcher” loosely to refer to someone who is able to access institutional data and run R code. This type of person may have different titles at different universities. Besides accessing data, the institutional researcher will also make key decisions on how equity measurements are conducted and presented (social cognition change perspective). The facilitator can be a staff member in the local teaching and learning center, the office of diversity and inclusion, or another related unit with experience facilitating faculty conversations on equity. They will be the key contact between the local SELC on each campus and the project leadership team (institutional change perspective).

Objectives / Activities

The proposed project is our next step toward transforming STEM courses into equitable learning environments. The corresponding table ties the four key activities from our central hypothesis to our expected outcomes and the relevant change perspectives from our theory of change.

Through these activities, we will foster impactful approaches for engaging faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students in equity-minded discussions of their STEM courses. Further, our approach to SELCs will provide a consistent, but adaptable, platform for future cross-institution comparisons of implementation and impact. Participation in this project will be open to all 10 SEISMIC institutions. While the institutions involved through SEISMIC are all top-tier public R1 institutions, such institutions have tended to strongly hold on to academic traditions that contribute to perpetuating inequities in introductory STEM courses. These institutions also introduce thousands of students to STEM disciplines each year. By showing the engagement of this group of institutions in improving introductory STEM outcomes, and their paths towards successful changes, we believe we will have a firm footing to engage other similar, as well as different institutions in engaging in a similar process and together fostering substantial improvements from community colleges to private elite institutions. Our approach will include careful considerations on approaches to equity measurements, using these measurements in different institutional contexts, building institutional systems to engage in regular sharing of equity analyses, and prompting productive dialogue among faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students about student success.

Summer Institute

Our 2.5-day Summer Institute hosted by UC Davis in year one of the project will provide support for institutional researchers in making equity measurements and will officially launch the collaborative work of our SELCs. The Institute will provide opportunities to build community across institutions, especially between people with similar institutional roles, to learn about different methods for making equity measurements, to practice reviewing course equity data through an equity-minded lens, and to generate excitement for the upcoming year. By the end of the Summer Institute, each SELC will have a preliminary plan for the equity measurements—both the analysis and how it will be shared—that will be generated for their team later that summer, based on institutional researcher capacity and overall SELC interest. These measurements can look different for each campus, depending on what data tools and platforms are available. The key point is that each SELC will be able to review the course equity measurements they decided on in the context of department and institution data. The project leadership team will provide support for this process and will organize opportunities for institutional researchers to connect virtually across SELCs for additional support and community (institutional change perspective).

Public Talk Series

The central activity of the proposed project is a year-long series of meetings and events to support the work and goals of the SELCs. Our objective is to foster impactful approaches for engaging faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students in equity-minded discussions of their STEM courses. It is not enough to present evidence of inequities via course equity data. This data must be supplemented by facilitated discussions, one-on-one consultations, and other resources for individuals to recognize these inequities as due to systemic problems. The activities we propose will help each individual see strategies they can engage in, as well as reforms they can push for at higher levels, to make positive changes in their STEM courses. The following table summarizes the topics for the meetings and events described in this section, covering year two of this proposal.

Timelines

Timeline for Activities 1 & 2 – Establish SELCs and Develop
Menu of Equity Measures

Timeline for Data Collection for Evaluation