Pullias report identifies communities of transformation in STEM education

February 23, 2016

Kezar and Gehrke PhD ’15 author NSF-funded report on STEM reform

Adrianna Kezar

Dr. Adrianna Kezar

As the study of STEM fields has grown more pivotal over the past two decades, scholars have been trying to determine which methods for conducting STEM reform are most successful. In the new report Communities of Transformation and Their Work Scaling STEM Reform from the Pullias Center for Higher Education, Principal Investigator and Professor for Higher Education Adrianna Kezar details the significant role that learning networks play in facilitating STEM education.

“This is a really unique mixed methods study that gathered data about a phenomenon that had largely not been studied,” said Kezar, who is also co-director of the Pullias Center.  “We were delighted to identify how these communities operated in meaningful ways to create deep and lasting reform. In addition, we discovered ways to help them sustain themselves over the long term and improve their impact.”

Sean Gehrke

Sean Gehrke PhD ’15

As part of a four-year National Science Foundation-funded project, Kezar and Co-Investigator Sean Gehrke PhD ’15, director of Institutional Planning, Research and Assessment at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewistown, Idaho, examined the impact of four STEM communities of practice: BioQUEST, Project Kaleidoscope, the POGIL Project and SENCER. Through a mixed-method research methodology including interviews, archival research and participant observation, Kezar and Gehrke identified a unique variant on communities of practice that exists within the STEM field: communities of transformation. According to the study, these communities “focus on exploring philosophically, in deep and fundamental ways, how science is taught…[and] create innovative spaces that have the potential to shift institutional and disciplinary norms.”

These communities transform power to significantly impact the field of STEM education, benefiting individual faculty as well as their institutions and significantly increasing networking opportunities and credibility for women faculty and faculty of color.