Communities of Transformation: Conclusion

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Section 13: Conclusion

As we entered this study, we were interested in understanding ways to scale efforts to improve STEM education. We leave the study with an appreciation that communities of transformation have and continue to play a central role by providing communities of support for individual faculty. Through participation in these communities, we saw lone innovators transformed into individuals who have the support, legitimacy, and camaraderie to continue their work to improve STEM within their own classrooms. We also identified how these communities support, although to a lesser extent, departmental and institutional changes as well. We charted ways that they are expanding their impact into disciplinary societies, into national groups and organizations, and even internationally. In this report, we have provided advice gleaned from our research to help communities expand their role in departmental, institutional, and even enterprise-level change.

By working on both individual and systems-level change at the same time, these communities play a unique role nationally in supporting the improvement of STEM. While their efforts currently are more effective at helping individuals, there is the capacity for these communities to grow to leverage increased change at the systemic level. Our study documented some of the systems-level changes taking place through these communities and several approaches that can be leveraged toward further impact in the future. Our research and reported findings are designed to help encourage work in this direction and to help provide a pathway for other communities that want to play a role in systems change.

However, it is important to note that, in some environments, a more systemic approach to change is not currently possible. On some campuses and in some environments, starting at a more local level, with a small number of faculty, may be the most viable approach. We also have evidence that the spread of good practices relies on support and connectivity offered to isolated innovators within status quo departments and institutions. The strategies of communities of transformation, namely empowering individual faculty members through enthusiasm and philosophical engagement, works from the ground up to complement other efforts to change reward structures or disciplinary values. As we consider institutional change in general, and STEM reform in particular, too often do we polarize our approaches between those aimed at individuals and those focusing on the system. Both of these approaches are required for change, and these communities of transformation offer a bridge between them. This is an important role that needs support in order to develop to its full capacity for impact in the future.