Published: Oct. 22, 2020

A new book involving CU Boulder experts addresses implementing sustainable change by forming departmental action teams in any department.

Facilitating Change in Higher Education: The Departmental Action Team Model is one product of a five-year collaboration between Colorado State University and CU Boulder. Collaborators on both campuses have worked with interested departments to facilitate departmental teams to promote change.

At CU, the DAT model has been implemented in 11 departments in the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering & Applied Sciences. DATs typically consisted of students, staff, and faculty from one department and two facilitators who were external to the department. The DATs met every other week for two to four semesters and worked to implement sustainable changes in their undergraduate programs. DAT members worked with the external facilitators to use institutional data and education research to develop meaningful and achievable goals. Examples of DAT projects include improving the departmental climate for students in response to a departmental survey and developing a long-term assessment program of undergraduate major skills. 

Facilitating Change in Higher Education describes how to implement the DAT model to enact departmental change. The authors explain the theory supporting the model and provide practical guidance for using DATs to promote change. For example, the DAT model emphasizes that students should be partners in their education. This is enacted by including students as decision-making DAT members, ensuring the DATs work is informed by those who are impacted by the changes it plans to make. The book covers how to equitably include students in a DAT, from intentional recruiting to managing power structures within meetings. 

The book is supplemented by a website that provides free resources to those interested in making departmental changes. Such resources include handouts (e.g., overview of change models that can be used to inform change efforts), how-to guides (e.g., how to use interviews to guide a change effort), and slides (e.g., an overview of the DAT model that can be used for recruiting).  

The DAT model is flexible and accessible to a variety of contexts. The book and website can be used to inform change efforts to the specific needs of a department or institution. The authors share their own experiences facilitating DATs to illustrate many ways the DAT model can be implemented and effect change. Beyond the DAT model, the book and website can be used to support the development of change agency in individuals, which is relevant to many change efforts.