Ambassadors for Curricular Change

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Title of Abstract: Ambassadors for Curricular Change

Name of Author: Gary Reiness
Author Company or Institution: Lewis & Clark College
Author Title: Professor and Associate Dean
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development
Approaches: PULSE program promoting systemic adoption of Vision and Change
Keywords: Facilitators, Departmental Change, Resource Toolkit

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: To support and promote the changes in life science education recommended by the Vision and Change (V&C) report, NSF, NIGMS, and HHMI created the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE) and identified a cadre of 40 Vision & Change (V&C) Leadership Fellows who were charged with developing strategies to accelerate adoption of the recommendations in the V&C report. The Fellows have distributed themselves into various working groups to develop a series of strategies to promote widespread adoption of the V&C recommendations in the US. One working group is developing a mentoring program for departments who wish to adopt the V&C recommendations but are stymied by obstacles, with the intended outcome of supporting them with personal guidance through the process of embracing V&C. This working group, entitled Spreading the Pulse (StP), comprises Edwin Barea-Rodriguez (University of Texas, San Antonio), Heather Belmont (Miami Dade College), Bill Davis (Washington State University), Betsy Desy (Southwest Minnesota State University), Alix Fink (Longwood University), Rick Gonzalez (University of San Diego), Sharon Gusky (Northwestern Connecticut Community College) Nitya Jacob (Oxford College of Emory University), Michael Kelrick (Truman State University), Karen Klyczek (University of Wisconsin, River Falls), David Marcey (California Lutheran University), Kathy Miller (Washington University), Joann Otto (Western Washington University), Gary Reiness (Lewis & Clark College), Mary Smith (North Carolina A&T State University), and Akif Uzman (University of Houston, Downtown).

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The StP group has devised a program for recruiting, training, and organizing a group of facilitators, called V&C Ambassadors, who will be available to assist departments in instituting curricular change. To this end, we developed methods for recruiting individuals with the interest, experience, and interpersonal skills to be effective Ambassadors. We are also creating a multiday program to train Ambassadors to effectively use the tools and resources available to support the recommendations of Vision & Change and to practice the effective interpersonal and organizational approaches necessary to catalyze and sustain departmental change. In collaboration with another of the working groups, we have been gathering print and online resources to serve as a portable, web-based ‘toolkit’ that Ambassadors can provide to interested departments. We are currently seeking funding to inaugurate this program during the 2013-14 academic year. Departments will self-identify as being interested in adopting the recommendations of Vision & Change (or having begun the process, as wishing to move further towards institutionalizing it). The department would complete a self-assessment of its activities to date, where it has achieved successes, and what barriers it may have encountered. This will enable us to partner the department with a team of two or three Ambassadors who have expertise in surmounting the barriers, or promoting the changes, that the department wishes to accomplish. This ongoing partnership will involve a campus visit by the Ambassador team to meet with faculty, administrators and students to learn about the departmental culture and to provide advice, guidance, and resources that will advance the department’s goals. Subsequent to the visit and a written report from the Ambassadors, the team will be available to the department for regular follow-ups by phone or videoconference, with at least one return visit to campus about a year after the initial visit.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: We plan to use a set of self-evaluation rubrics, based on the V&C report, that are being developed by another PULSE working group, for departments to assess their situation, prior to their engagement with the Ambassadors program and one year after the initial Ambassadors visit. We anticipate that the departments will show significant gains on at least some of the metrics; these evaluation rubrics will also identify areas where further improvement is possible and further mentoring could be of value.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Our plan is to work with about 20 institutions per year over 5 years to implement the V&C model, thus affecting at least 100 life science departments. Because curricular change is not only an intellectual but also a social endeavor, we believe that faculty members are more likely to adopt changes if they have the guidance and encouragement of people known to, and respected by, them. By developing a program to recruit, train, and vet such Ambassadors, we will provide these respected guides who can be effective in helping departments embrace Vision & Change. Our goal is promote department change in the service of student learning of life science.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: None to date, as this project is in the early stages.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The PULSE Fellows conducted a webinar on their activities on June 4, 2013 (available at: and by numerous presentations during the past year by PULSE Fellows at national and regional meetings of professional societies and institutional consortia.

Acknowledgements: The PULSE Fellows project has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.