Breaking Down Silos meeting contributes to the goals of Working Group 1

Daniel Reinholz
San Diego State University
Tessa Andrews
University of Georgia
Tessa Andrews (University of Georgia) and Dan Reinholz (San Diego State University)
published Feb 12, 2019 11:51am
Twenty-five researchers met for a 2.5-day meeting at the Center for Mathematics and Science Education at San Diego State University to discuss change theories. This working meeting was supported by a National Science Foundation conference grant (#1830897/1830860) and led by PIs Daniel Reinholz and Tessa Andrews. The meeting brought together early-career scholars to foster cross-disciplinary sense-making and collaborations around change theories. Meeting attendees included graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty of higher education, project advisors, and Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) faculty in the disciplines of mathematics, biology, physics, geoscience, chemistry, and engineering.

This meeting aimed to build collective research capacity by breaking down theoretical and disciplinary silos. Change efforts in undergraduate STEM education draw on theoretical frameworks from diverse areas, including organizational psychology, higher education, health sciences, and business management. The complexity and breadth of this literature makes identifying and understanding relevant theories challenging. It also makes it challenging to make connections across projects drawing on different theories. Furthermore, education researchers studying change are spread across STEM disciplines and higher education, and these scholarly communities are relatively "siloed."

The meeting was designed to create an inclusive and collaborative space for early career change scholars. Before the meeting, participants prepared their own electronic biographies and 2-minute talks about their work, all of which were shared on Google Drive. This helped build some additional familiarity amongst participants who otherwise did not know each other due to disciplinary silos. In addition, the meeting included sufficient breaks, informal time for conversation (e.g., over meals), and a wide variety of breakout groupings (e.g., by type of change, random jigsaws, affinity groups), which allowed each attendee to interact with a number of other participants more closely. Coupled with intentional norms, the goal was to connect new scholars and build collaborations that may last for years to come.

There was evidence that the meeting energized participants and sparked new collaborations. Building on the original goals of the project, one group took steps toward creating an organizing framework or taxonomy to distinguish among theoretical frameworks that serve different purposes and audiences. One area of early consensus included the recognition that some models provide step-by-step, actionable stages to achieve change and thus may be useful for change agents. Other models aim to explain how or why change occurs and can provide important theoretical grounding for change efforts and change research. Another sub-group of meeting participants developed a plan to apply a set of common theoretical frameworks to ongoing systemic change efforts in order to better understand the process of change and the strengths and limitations of particular theories. A third group recognized the potential for biases to become embedded in organizing frameworks and synthesizing reviews. They drafted a white paper to help researchers ensure that inclusion and diversity are seriously considered in these processes. In alignment with the goal of inclusivity, all of the project teams stated their commitment to using these guidelines to move their work forward.

The longer-term outcomes of the meeting remain to be seen, but preliminary feedback indicates that participants made connections to many other scholars, and have concrete plans to take the collaboration forward. Multiple participants reflected on the utility of creating such a space for early-career researchers who can really benefit from the focused time to build new working relationships with others. As products are created through these collaborations, they will later be disseminated through the ASCN network.

Following this conference, PIs Tessa and Dan will officially take over leadership of ASCN Working Group 1 to help further the efforts of these collaborative, cross-disciplinary groups. In addition, they will work with other meeting participants to present their progress in a symposium at the ASCN Transforming Institutions Conference in April.

Meeting hosts: Daniel Reinholz, Tessa Andrews

Meeting participants: Naneh Apkarian, Mahauganee Bonds, Brian Burt, Jessica Gehrtz, Elizabeth Holcombe, Raina Khatri, Antonio Martinez, Becky Matz, Evelin Munoz, Erika Offerdahl, Alice Olmstead, Mary Pilgrim, Kathleen Quardokus Fisher, Katherine Ryker, Lillian Senn, Amelia Stone-Johnstone, Emily Walter.

Meeting Advisors (Present): Noah Finkelstein, Cassandra Horii, Charles Henderson, Susan Shadle.

Meeting Advisors (Absent):
Andrea Beach, Mark Connolly, Jaime Lester.

Suggested Citation:

Andrews, T. & Reinholz, D. (2019, February 12). Breaking Down Silos meeting contributes to the goals of Working Group 1. Retrieved from

Comment? Start the discussion about Breaking Down Silos meeting contributes to the goals of Working Group 1