Building Leadership Capacity for Transformational Change

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Title of Abstract: Building Leadership Capacity for Transformational Change

Name of Author: Susan Musante
Author Company or Institution: American Institute of Biological Sciences
Author Title: Education Director
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: None in particular
Course Levels: Faculty Development
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Leadership development
Keywords: transformational change, leadership development, professional development, change agents, departmental change

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Teresa C. Balse, University of Florida Charlene D'Avanzo, Hampshire College Muriel Poston, Pitzer College

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Vision and Change report describes the roles that professional societies have in ensuring that the recommendations for transforming the undergraduate biology experience for all students are understood, valued, and implemented. AIBS’s commitment to improving undergraduate life science education is focused on supporting those leading broad scale departmental change within context of the Vision & Change recommendations and principles. AIBS has investigated the needs of those with leadership roles and the extent to which the Vision and Change report’s recommendations has influenced departments at 2-year and 4-year institutions. In 2013, we are expanding our work through a research study supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to increase the community’s understanding of leadership needs, to gain an understanding of the key elements of effective leadership development programs, and ultimately describe an effective and sustainable program, grounded in research, to build faculty’s academic leadership skills. Ultimately, this project will allow AIBS to determine how best to structure and implement a leadership program that will build the capacity of life science department’s leaders to implement and evaluate changes within their departments to reflect the goals described in the Vision and Change report.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: AIBS Education Committee began last year by surveying those leading change within undergraduate life sciences departments. The results of that fall 2012 survey, with just over 490 respondents, revealed that faculty at a range of institutions would like to build their individual capacity to lead change and implement the principles of Vision and Change. Our current research study will allow AIBS to further increase our understanding about the leadership community and what is known about effective leadership development. We are currently investigating questions related to faculty leadership for change, the academic leadership skills faculty need and want, existing general higher education and disciplinary-specific leadership programs, and how AIBS might develop a program to support individuals leading institutional change. Our strategies include conducting interviews, holding focus groups, reviewing the literature, following-up with a second survey, and convening a meeting to synthesize findings with a diverse group of individuals involved in scholarship about leadership and implementation of leadership development programs.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: The current research study will result in an understanding of how existing leadership development programs evaluate their effectiveness and long-term impact. AIBS will develop its program and corresponding evaluation plan based upon what is learned through our research study to determine how a leadership program for faculty will be effective and have lasting impact.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: AIBS has not yet had time to have an impact, however we envision that as a result of our program, department chairs and others leading change within undergraduate department at two and four year institutions will successfully apply their leadership skills within their undergraduate departments so that all undergraduate students, majors and nonmajors, will to be able to experience the nature and process of science, understand core biological concepts, and attain key competencies. The department chairs and other leaders will be part of a community supported in further developing their leadership skills to implement new department-wide strategies, evaluating their impacts and reflecting on progress to learn and make decisions. These changes will be reflected in all aspects of the undergraduate program. Ultimately, as students at two and four year institutions successfully complete biology courses and degrees, they will put to use their biological knowledge and understanding of the scientific process to make informed decisions and solve real-world problems in their personal and professional lives, be equipped to make career choices, and become part of the STEM workforce.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: We have not yet encountered any unexpected challenges.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The results of the fall 2012 survey will be published in the July 2013 issue of BioScience in the “Eye on Education” column, written by Susan Musante. After the current research study is complete, AIBS will disseminate the white paper to the community. Results from the study will be shared so that the undergraduate STEM education community is aware of existing research about faculty change, leadership, and evidence about key elements of lasting change in leadership development.

Acknowledgements: The AIBS Education Committee, from 2011 through the present, chaired by Dr. Muriel Poston, has been actively involved in establishing the direction for the activities of the AIBS Education Office and in implementing the recommended action agenda. The guidance and efforts of the Committee have been integral to the progress to date and they will continue to play a role as we work on the research study.