Departmental Action Teams



Nationwide surveys report that fewer than 40% of students who enter college interested in a STEM degree actually complete a STEM degree. In an effort to improve STEM education and retain these students, many teaching strategies have been developed and disseminated, with the assumption that widespread adoption will follow simply because these new strategies have evidence to support their efficacy.

However, widespread adoption of teaching reforms has not been realized because traditional dissemination approaches ignore deep-rooted institutional structures and culture that can inhibit educational transformation. Our project seeks to avoid this issue by working directly with departments on change that attends to structure and culture through the DAT process. We draw on the organizational change literature, particularly literature about organizational culture, organizational learning, and organizational capacity, to support our theory-building, data collection, practical work with DATs, and interpretation of our findings.

Products of this project will include:

  • A theory of change that describes the conditions and processes necessary for DATs to create change in their departments, in alignment with our core principles. The theory of change will be developed and tested in the context of the departments with which we work.
  • A deeper understanding of the contexts, structures, and cultures that impact the work of a DAT and its likelihood of success, and the range of possible outcomes a DAT is able to achieve.
  • A deeper understanding of the ways in which individuals on a DAT think about and implement change and of how their capacity to act as change agents changes through their participation in a DAT.
  • A facilitator’s guide to support new groups who want to learn how to facilitate DATs on their campus.
  • A roadmap for institutionalizing DATs in teaching professional development units on campuses beyond CSU.
  • Tools for assessing the alignment of departmental culture with our core principles.

Related Resources

Resources for Facilitators

Collaborative Communities: A chart that describes the differences between DATs, Faculty Learning Communities, and Departmental Committees

Norms of Collaboration: Features of effective collaborative groups

Non-Refereed Writing

S. Wise, J. C. Corbo, G. M. Quan, and M. Gammon. Increasing the Capacity for Change at CU., white paper submitted to Academic Futures (2017).