Working Group 1: Guiding Theories

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Mission Statement

People involved in STEM Education change often don't consider change theories and models or forget to consider the larger system in which they seek to make a change. This working group seeks to help people engaged in change efforts to understand change theories and models that could profitably inform systemic change work. One long-term goal of this work is to build a common framework and language, with the ultimate goal of building and sharing a strong knowledge base for change in STEM Education.

Knowledge Claims and Established Ideas

We claim that there are several ideas that are fairly well-established in the literature on change in STEM education:

  1. Change is happening, and this change is both intentional, and unintentional
  2. Change is influenced by rewards, motivation, leadership, time, and resources
  3. Change theories must take into account a systems perspective, including addressing the relationships between multiple components in the system
  4. Change involves learning at both the individual, and organizational levels
  5. Change requires coordination across multiple levels of an organization and the system
  6. We know a lot about change, but not as much about implementing change. There is a large gap between what we know and what we practice. Knowledge on change can help change processes, but often theories of change are not used intentionally to drive change efforts

Key Questions

1. How do people come to understand change?

2. What knowledge best helps people trying to effect change?

3. Because change depends a great deal on one's local context, to what extent can theoretical frameworks be generalized into concrete actions?

4. How can change agents translate theory so it can inform (but not dictate) practice?

5. What can we learn from what is already happening? How do successful activities get generalized for others to use?

6. What change theories and models of change are in current use, both explicitly and implicitly?

Potential Outcomes or Products

While the group is still determining its' long-term goals, some potential outcomes that have been discussed are:

  • Create curated resource list on theories and models of systemic change, and how to use them to effect change, with higher administrators as one potential consumer
  • Develop a theory of action for the ASCN itself, and study the influence of the network
  • Develop a list of example change projects, and use these as case studies for contextualizing how a theory of systemic change can influence project development and implementation
  • Develop or compile resources or toolkits for practitioners, providing guidance in using systemic change theory to develop and implement change projects, including practical applications of theory such as flow charts and decision trees.
  • Develop projects and proposals as a group of researchers, to identify open issues and engage in a collaborative, interdisciplinary research community.

Action Plan for Moving Forward

This working group has chosen to begin with an effort to gain clarity about how one might connect theories/frameworks and action by creating "Theory of Action" statements. The goal is to generate some examples of how people might think about these connections. We intend to engage ourselves (and anyone outside the group that would like to participate) in some reflective writing around our own change efforts, or efforts with which we are familiar. Our guiding question at this stage is "Your theory of action is your idea of what actually works to make systemic change. Describe your theory of action. Use examples from change efforts you know."

Group Leaders

  • Mark Connolly, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Susan Shadle, Boise State University

Group Members

  • Ann Austin, Michigan State University
  • Jeanne Century, University of Chicago
  • Alicia Dowd, Penn State University
  • Noah Finklestein, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Charles Henderson, Western Michigan University
  • Geoffrey Herman, University of Illinois
  • Matthew Hora, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Mary Huber, Bay View Alliance
  • Ellen Iverson, Carleton College
  • Linda Johnson, University of Maryland–East Shore
  • Adriana Kezar, USC
  • Jaime Lester, George Mason University
  • Cathy Manduca, Carleton College
  • John Matsui, UC Berkeley
  • Rachel McCord, The University of Tennessee
  • Olga Pierrakos, James Madison University
  • Tom Rudin, National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine
  • Gabriela Weaver, University of Massachusetts–Amherst