The DAT project is driven by a set of Core Principles that guide our work. In essence, these principles describe the kind of culture we are trying to create in the DATs that we facilitate, and, by extension, the kind of culture we argue departments should strive to enact. These principles are also central to our research, by guiding our research questions, theory of change, and instrument development. For a deeper dive into the Core Principles, please see this paper and this blog post.
PRINCIPLE 1: STUDENTS ARE PARTNERS IN THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS.
Students are empowered to make meaningful decisions about their own education and to impact broader decision making around undergraduate education. Faculty and staff actively seek out student input on the group’s activities and structure on an ongoing basis. Students see themselves as having a say in how the group’s decisions are made. There is continuous student involvement to meet the needs of the current student population.
PRINCIPLE 2: WORK FOCUSES ON ACHIEVING COLLECTIVE POSITIVE OUTCOMES.
Group members use a shared vision to guide work aimed at achieving change. The process of developing the group’s vision includes a diversity of relevant stakeholders. Focusing work around outcomes of the long-term vision, rather than immediate problems, allows the group to be more creative, cooperative, and flexible.
PRINCIPLE 3: DATA COLLECTION, ANALYSIS, AND INTERPRETATION INFORM DECISION MAKING.
The group collects multiple forms of evidence about undergraduate education (e.g., institutional data, research literature) on an ongoing basis. Group members actively identify and avoid bias in interpreting data by distinguishing observation from inference, developing multiple interpretations of the same data set, considering both systemic and individual factors, and working toward individuals’ cultural proficiency and understanding of others’ perspectives. These interpretations, rather than personal preferences or idiosyncratic anecdotes, are what drive decision making.
PRINCIPLE 4: COLLABORATION AMONG GROUP MEMBERS IS ENJOYABLE, PRODUCTIVE, AND REWARDING.
All members of the group are collaborators with equal access to contributing to decision making. The group develops community through activities such as eating together and having celebrations. Members of the group interact with one another in functional and productive ways.
PRINCIPLE 5: CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT IS AN UPHELD PRACTICE.
Group members view change as an ongoing process rather than an event (e.g., they recognize that complex problems do not simply stay solved on their own). Members regularly reflect on how the department can be improved and explicitly attend to long-term sustainability when making changes to the department. Incremental accomplishments are incorporated into the change process to support internal momentum and communicate success to maintain external support.
PRINCIPLE 6: WORK IS GROUNDED IN A COMMITMENT TO EQUITY, INCLUSION, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE.
Group members recognize the existence of systemic oppressive power structures, so they actively mitigate power imbalances and work to create anti-oppressive structures. Group members consider the impact of their decisions on marginalized groups. Group members feel a sense of individual responsibility toward improving inclusion in the department. The group intentionally recruits a diverse membership.