Follow-up report: How do we know and how can we convince colleagues that change is necessary?

'Setting goals for student learning' was a key theme for the workshops in Cluster I of the PKAL Summer Institute. In setting goals for student learning, often faculty and administrators are challenged with the following barriers:

  • How do we encourage those who are anxious about venturing out of the 'disciplinary silo' to do so?
  • All of this talk of defining learning outcomes for all students is fine, but it can't work at our institution because... (name your barrier here - size, diverse student body, etc.)

At a morning plenary session, in at-the-table working groups, participants suggested some ways to overcome these barriers. In all cases, it was recognized that the learning goals must be defined and then assessment tools needed to be developed to illustrate that learning goals are being met. The detailed discussion excerpted from the Institute's daily newsletter from June 5 is found below.

How do we know and how can we convince colleagues that change is necessary?

  • We need to define what "it" is. "It" is not just the number of graduates. "It" should be "Can all students accomplish the goals of our mission statement?".
  • Is the problem aptitude or attitude?

How do we know change is necessary?

  • Graduation rates, retention rates, accreditation comments.
  • Do our curricular goals match the goals for professional success in our field?
  • Do our models of success (i.e., high profile, successful programs like pre-med programs) support our institutional mission statement?
  • Ask alumni. Ask for ideas on how to fix it. (Ask the non-majors, community members, etc.)
  • Do we have common standards?

How can we convince them that change is necessary?

  • Make a convincing argument by doing the following: Identify goals, identify assessment tools, and use tools to gather data. If broke, fix it!
  • Offer examples of what does work.
  • Expose colleagues to best practices, i.e. take them to a PKAL meeting.
  • Don't focus on the most resistant colleagues, start by focusing on those on the verge of adopting reforms.
  • Get administrative "buy-in."
  • Allow people time to consider change.