A Departmental Action Team (DAT) is an externally-facilitated working group of 6 to 10 faculty members, staff members, and students that is created by a department to achieve two goals:
- to create sustainable change around a broad-scale issue related to undergraduate education in the department by shifting departmental structures and culture
- to help DAT participants become change agents through developing facilitation and leadership skills
DATs support their participants not only in making meaningful, positive change in their department, but also in developing their own capacity to continue leading change in the future. To meet these goals, the DAT is supported by external facilitators who have expertise in STEM education, facilitation, organizational culture, and education research. Additionally, a core feature of DATs is that participants choose their DAT’s focus; in the past, these have included both curricular concerns (e.g., restructuring a course sequence) and cultural concerns (e.g., improving undergraduate sense of belonging).
Because the DAT project follows an action research paradigm, it has two main components: supporting the implementation and institutionalization of DATs at colleges and universities and researching DAT process and outcomes to refine the model and better understand how change happens in higher education. Both components are driven by a set of Core Principles that guide the work of our project team.