Connecting Project Principles and a Theory of Change to Practice: Departmental Action Teams
Every change effort needs a solid foundation in order to achieve its desired impacts. We have found that project principles and a Theory of Change (TOC) provide such a foundation for the Departmental Action Team project, which brings together departmental faculty, staff, and students to enact consensus change in undergraduate education.
Project principles are grounded in theoretical and empirical knowledge, but are abstract enough to be adapted to many contexts. We will give illustrative examples of how principles have been used to guide Departmental Action Teams and discuss how principles can apply to different change efforts.
A Theory of Change (TOC) presents an abstract, idealized sequence of intermediate outcomes needed to achieve a long-term outcome. The DAT TOC describes how to enact change equitably and sustainably in a departmental setting. Change efforts are enacted by people who are embedded within communities, so the DAT TOC directs attention to people's capacities, building relationships with the department, growing individuals' ability to make change, and functioning well as a team. By describing relationships between components, the DAT TOC presents a more nuanced way of describing change than most TOCs.
For those of you engaged in change efforts already in progress, we hope our principles and TOC draw your attention to aspects of change you may not have considered, but could address. For those of you who have already engaged in change efforts, we hope these tools can help you analyze the successes and challenges of your work. We believe project principles and TOCs can help the field construct a deeper understanding of how to enact change in higher education.