Departmental Action Leadership Institute (DALI)

The EP3 Guide is a tool that supports physics programs in defining and achieving goals to improve the education of their students. The Guide contains extensive information and effective practices related to all aspects of thriving undergraduate physics programs, sourced from members of the physics community. A core aspect of the philosophy that underlies the Guide is that vibrant physics programs engage in a cyclic process of self-reflection that guides their decisions and actions.

The EP3 Departmental Action Leadership Institutes (DALIs) are intended for departments facing a major challenge or opportunity (such as low enrollments or an upcoming program review) and/or wanting to make a significant change (such as implementing evidence-based instruction or developing a program-level student learning assessment plan). The DALIs are designed to help departments engage in a change process that will lead to sustainable improvements to undergraduate education and to a stronger culture of self-reflection and action. They do this by training department members to be effective change leaders.

A department participating in a DALI creates a “departmental action team” or DAT—a local group of people charged with leading the change effort in their department. Two representatives from this team are designated as “change leaders.” The change leaders participate directly in the DALI activities and lead the DAT in their department. Each DALI comprises representatives from three to five participating departments who commit to working with two DALI facilitators (and each other) for a minimum of one year. The DALI curriculum trains the change leaders to better understand the situations they face, engage in the steps necessary for creating sustained change, and work with their DATs to achieve their goals. The DALI consists of an in-person kickoff workshop and (approximately) 30 hours of video conferences throughout the academic year.

To learn more about the DALI experience, you can view this recorded webinar.

A core aspect of the EP3 philosophy is that successful physics departments engage in cyclic self-reflection on their own processes and outcomes to guide their decisions and actions. We believe that effective change efforts in a department are:

  1. Deliberately designed: driven by a clear understanding of the problem to be solved and current priorities.
  2. Context-dependent: driven by local goals, challenges, and contexts, rather than external mandates.
  3. Driven by a sense of ownership by department members of the process and outcomes, including a sense of collective responsibility for the health of the department.
  4. Driven by broad engagement, so that a range of stakeholders are involved, actions (even if driven by a champion) involve a collaborative process, and work is grounded in a commitment to equity and inclusion.
  5. Grounded in evidence, including an accurate understanding of the available evidence about the problem and decision-making based on appropriate interpretation of the evidence.
  6. Ongoing: change is not considered to be a one and done activity, but instead change processes include opportunities to revisit outcomes and decisions on a regular basis.

Additionally, we see successful change efforts as drivers of positive improvements to departmental culture. We propose that positive department culture:

  1. Embraces assessment as a driver of change, through collecting data from a broad range of sources and using the results to make decisions.
  2. Embraces experimentation by encouraging risk-taking and innovation and learning from failures and successes.
  3. Supports collective action and ownership by distributing power over decision-making in meaningful and equitable ways, supporting many stakeholders to work in partnership, and engendering good communication and trust.
  4. Includes shared stewardship, the understanding that everyone has a shared responsibility for supporting the well-being of the department as a whole.
  5. Includes a shared mission, including a shared understanding of what the department does and for whom, what it wants to achieve over time, and what it should do to achieve desired improvement.

DALI facilitators and change leaders work together to enact change in the member departments in a way that is aligned with this philosophy.

DALI membership is open to physics departments (or other departments or programs that include physics or astronomy) from 4 year colleges and universities in the United States.

The DALI is for departments that are facing challenges or opportunities and are ready to engage in a process of self-reflection that might lead to significant changes in their undergraduate programs. The DALI focuses on training and supporting a team in your department to catalyze change over time. Therefore, your department may not be a good fit for a DALI if:

  1. It is facing an immediate, time-sensitive, and/or existential crisis. (If you are, consider the Toolkit for Departments Under Threat.)
  2. It primarily needs project management support (i.e., it already has a well defined plan but needs help implementing it).
  3. It does not have the internal capacity to carry out a change effort.

Participating departments can expect to progress towards three main outcomes through their participation in a DALI:

  1. Departments will develop capacity to create and sustain changes to the department and its programs. This includes identifying goals and resources, developing plans, and implementing and assessing those plans.
  2. Departments will develop a culture of continuous self-reflection, assessment, and improvement.
  3. Departments will make meaningful progress toward addressing the challenges that led them to join the DALI. This will include development of a plan of action for carrying out the work of change in the department after the DALI has ended.

These outcomes for participating departments and programs will be facilitated by the following outcomes for the departmental change leaders:

  1. Departmental change leaders will learn to effectively lead a local departmental team and strengthen the capacity of that team to create and sustain change.
  2. Change leaders will help their department to identify goals, to identify resources available to achieve those goals, and to develop a plan to create and sustain the desired change.
  3. Change leaders will learn how to help their departmental teams implement and assess their plans.
  4. Change leaders will help to cultivate a culture of continuous self-reflection, assessment, and improvement in their own departments.

The participation of a department or program in a DALI requires the commitment of a department’s change leaders to engage constructively with all aspects of the DALI for at least one year. Expectations include:

  1. Participating departments and change leaders will engage productively with the principles underlying the EP3 Project.

  2. The time commitment and level of effort required of each of the change leaders is roughly equivalent to that of a one-semester, 3 credit university-level course (approximately 45 contact hours plus 1 to 2 hours of outside work preparing for DALI meetings) spread over one year, in addition to the time change leaders spend facilitating their DATs. Specific expectations include:

    1. Change leaders will attend an in-person kickoff workshop typically held in the late spring in the Washington DC area.

    2. Change leaders will attend approximately 30 hours of video conferences throughout the academic year. They will come prepared and engage productively with the other participants and the facilitators.

    3. Change leaders will engage in work between DALI meetings to support their own learning and the work of the DATs that they are leading. This may include readings assigned by the DALI facilitators, collecting and analyzing data, working with their local DATs, reflecting on their progress, and so on.

  3. DATs and change leaders will be well-positioned for success by their department. This includes departments providing the resources necessary to sustain the work of the teams (e.g., sufficient people on the DAT, release time and financial support based on the project), change leaders being empowered and supported in their roles within the department (e.g., the support of the chair, recognition of their roles in the department), and change leaders and teams meeting regularly to engage in their work.

  4. The EP3 Project has a research component that aims to understand how assessment and change efforts work in departments through empirically documenting assessment and change processes. These research findings will be used formatively to improve the EP3 project and DALIs. Change leaders’ contact information will be shared with the research team, and they will be invited to participate in this research study. They will have the opportunity to opt-in to having their work product from the DALI shared with the research team, being interviewed, and responding to periodic surveys. For more information about this research study, please contact Chandra Turpen.

  5. The DALI may collectively decide to continue after one year. Continued participation is welcome but not expected.

All participant expenses for upcoming DALI cohorts will be covered by support from the EP3 Initiative. If your department is accepted to participate in a DALI, we will cover travel costs within the United States to the Washington, DC area, meals, and lodging for two DALI change leaders from your department.

DALIs start with a kickoff workshop and run for a year. Final determination of the exact dates and location for the kickoff workshop are made prior to application period for each cohort.

Application materials include:

  • Department information: name and location
  • Chair information: name and contact information
  • Change Leader information: name(s) and contact information
  • Narrative: No more than four pages addressing institutional and departmental context, history of educational change efforts, project ideas, DAT membership, available resources and support, and rationale for participation in a DALI
  • Chair Letter of Support
  • Dean Letter of Endorsement

Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  1. Evidence of departmental willingness to engage in self-reflection to better understand where the department currently stands with respect to the issue(s) it faces and why.
  2. Evidence of departmental and institutional willingness to engage in a substantive change process.
  3. Evidence of adequate resources to support the success of the departmental change leaders and the local DATs, including evidence that the change leaders have been empowered to lead change in the department.
  4. Evidence that the change leaders and the department are willing to engage productively with the principles underlying the EP3 Guide and Communities.
  5. Coherence and feasibility of the proposed outcomes.
  • Baldwin Wallace University
  • Bradley University
  • Brock University
  • Campbell University
  • Lawrence Technological University
  • Rhode Island College
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • South Carolina State University
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  • SUNY Buffalo State
  • SUNY College at Plattsburgh
  • Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • University of La Verne
  • University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  • University of Mary Washington
  • University of Utah
  • University of Wisconsin-Parkside
  • Utica University
  • Valdosta State University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington University in Saint Louis
  • West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Please feel free to contact David Craig and/or Joel Corbo with any questions or comments about the DALIs.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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