Understanding the Impacts of DATs on Departmental Change and on Undergraduate Success

Joel Corbo, Ph.D.
Senior Research Associate, Center for STEM Learning
University of Colorado Boulder

Educational change initiatives have been criticized for not accounting for cultural barriers to change, leading to low adoption. The Departmental Action Team (DAT) model addresses these barriers with groups made of staff, faculty, and students. DATs are guided by a Theory of Change and a set of six Core Principles, which are in turn grounded in a diverse literature drawing from institutional change, change management, diversity and inclusion in higher education, and education research. The DAT Model was developed and tested with 17 DATs in 15 disciplines at two R1 institutions (the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University). In our current IUSE project, we are focused on understanding the long-term impacts that DATs have on their departments. We plan to collect qualitative (e.g., student and department member interviews) and quantitative (e.g., survey responses) data in several departments that hosted DATs. We will analyze these data for evidence of impact on the department and students’ experiences in the undergraduate program. This work will supply direct evidence of the impact of the DAT model on departments, which will support its implementation at other institutions. Identifying the ways in which a DAT’s impact on students’ experiences are linked to student success will support administrators and funders in investing in change efforts, particularly those that have indirect impacts on students. Finally, knowledge of the ways DAT members continue to behave as change agents in the department after participation on a DAT can be used to increase support for change agents in other contexts.