Departmental Action Teams

Core Principles


The DAT project is driven by a set of core principles that guide our work. In essence, these principles describe the kind of culture we are trying to create in the DATs we facilitate, and, by extension, the kind of culture we argue departments should strive to enact. These principles are also central to our research, by guiding our research questions, theory of change, and instrument development.

Students are empowered to make meaningful decisions about their education and to impact departmental decision-making around undergraduate education. Faculty and staff actively seek out student input on the department on an ongoing basis. Students see themselves as having a say in how departmental decisions are made. There is continuous student involvement to meet the needs of the current student population.

Department/DAT members use a shared vision to guide work aimed at achieving change. The process of developing the department’s/DAT’s vision includes a diversity of relevant stakeholders. Focusing work around outcomes of the long-term vision, rather than immediate problems, allows the group to be more creative, cooperative, and flexible.

The department/DAT collects multiple forms of evidence about undergraduate education (e.g., institutional data, research literature) on an ongoing basis. Department/DAT members actively identify and avoid bias in interpreting data by: distinguishing observation from inference, developing multiple interpretations of the same data set, considering both systemic and explanatory factors, and working toward individuals’ cultural proficiency and sense of others. These interpretations drive decision-making, rather than personal preferences or idiosyncratic anecdotes.

All members of the department/DAT are collaborators with equal access to contributing to decision-making. The department/DAT develops community through activities such as eating together and having celebrations. Members of the department/DAT interact with one another in functional and productive ways.

Department/DAT members view change as an ongoing process rather than an event (e.g., they recognize that complex problems do not simply stay solved on their own). Department/DAT members explicitly attend to long-term sustainability when making changes to the department. Department/DAT members regularly reflect on how the department can be improved. Incremental accomplishments are incorporated into the change process to support internal momentum and communicate success to maintain external support.

The department/DAT intentionally recruits a diverse membership (e.g., with respect to gender identity and race and ethnicity). Department/DAT members recognize the existence of systemic oppressive power structures, so they actively mitigate power imbalances and work to create anti-oppressive structures. Department/DAT members consider the impact of their decisions on underrepresented populations. Department/DAT members feel a sense of personal responsibility toward improving inclusion in the department.