Our NSF funded project—Creating National Leadership Cohorts to Make Academic Change Happen (NSF 1649318)—represents a strategic partnership between researchers and practitioners in the domain of academic change. The principle investigators from the Making Academic Change Happen team from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology provide familiarity with the literature of practical organizational change and package this into action-oriented workshops and ongoing support for teams funded through the REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED) program. The PIs from the Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity at the University of Washington provide expertise in social science research in order to investigate how the the RED teams’ change projects unfold and how the teams develop as members of national leadership cohorts for change in engineering and computer science education. Our poster for ASEE 2018 will focus on what we have learned thus far regarding the dynamics of the researcher/practitioner partnership through the RED Participatory Action Research (REDPAR) Project.
According to Worrall (2007), good partnerships are “founded on trust, respect, mutual benefit, good communities, and governance structures that allow democratic decision-making, process improvement, and resource sharing.” We have seen these elements emerge through the work of the partnership to create mutual benefits. For example, the researchers have been given an “insider’s” perspective on the practitioners’ approach—their goals, motivations for certain activities, and background information and research. The practitioners’ perspective is useful for the researchers to learn since the practitioners’ familiarity with the organizational change literature has influenced the researchers’ questions and theoretical models. The practitioners’ work with the RED teams has provided insights on the teams, how they are operating, the challenges they face, and aspects of the teams’ work that may not be readily available to the researchers. As a result, the researchers have had increased access to the teams to collect data. The researchers, in turn, have been able to consider how to make their analyses useful and actionable for change-makers, the population that the practitioners are more familiar with.
Insights from the researchers provide both immediate and long-term benefits to programming and increased professional impact. The researchers are trained observers, each of whom brings a unique disciplinary perspective to their observations. The richness, depth, and clarity of their observations adds immeasurably to the quality of practitioners’ interactions with the RED teams. The practitioners, for example, have revised workshop content in response to the researchers’ observations, thus ensuring that the workshop content serves the needs of the RED teams. The practitioners also benefit from the joint effort on dissemination, since they can contribute to a variety of dissemination efforts (journal papers, conference presentations, workshops).
We plan to share specific examples of the strategic partnership during the poster session. In doing so, we hope to encourage researchers to seek out partnerships with practitioners in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice in engineering and computer science education.
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