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Title: Developing a Faculty Community of Practice to Support a Healthy Educational Ecosystem
We STEM educators often hear that so many of our students fail because they are not college ready. But interventions at various levels, despite the hard work of implementation, have not resulted in dramatic improvements. What if, instead, the problem is that the institutional system – including instructional approaches and policies – is not student ready? The goal of our NSF supported project, called “Eco-STEM,” is to establish a healthy STEM educational ecosystem that allows all individuals within the ecosystem to thrive. The context for our work on STEM educational ecosystems is a Very High Hispanic Enrolling Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) at California State University, Los Angeles, where the majority of our students are also low-income and first-generation college students. Guided by an ecosystem paradigm, the project aims to: 1) create a supportive and culturally responsive learning/working environment for both students and faculty; 2) make teaching and learning rewarding and fulfilling experiences; and 3) emphasize the assets of our community to enhance motivation, excellence, and success. Currently, many STEM educators have a mental model of the education system as a pipeline or pathway, and this factory-like model requires standard inputs, expecting students to come prepared with certain knowledge and skills [4]. When the educational system is viewed as a factory assembly line (as shown in Figure 1), interventions are focused on fixing the inputs by trying to increase students’ preparedness, which contributes to a prevailing deficit-focused mindset. This not only hinders student growth but also makes educational institutions less inclusive and teaching less rewarding for faculty. Increasingly, equity-minded educators and researchers employing the framework of community cultural wealth suggest that we need an asset-based mindset if we are to help all students achieve success in STEM. Research on ecosystem models offers a new way of thinking. In contrast to pipelines or pathways, which focus on student outcomes, an ecosystem model is centered on the learning environment, communities, and the experiences that diverse students, faculty, and staff have in the system as active agents. The Eco-STEM project proposes to: 1) shift the mental models of STEM faculty from factory- based to ecosystem-based so that they will intentionally establish healthy classroom ecosystems that facilitate learning for all students regardless of their backgrounds; 2) change the mental models and develop the capacity of department chairs and program coordinators so they can lead the cultural changes needed to create a healthy ecosystem at the department level; and 3) revise the teaching evaluation system to promote faculty development and enhance the student experience, which will help to create a healthy ecosystem at the institution. One fundamental aspect of this project is the Eco-STEM Faculty Fellows Community of Practice (CoP), which is designed to help foster these changes. As a work-in-progress paper, this paper presents the design and structure of the Eco-STEM Faculty Fellows CoP and seeks input from the faculty development community on our approach to fostering a healthy educational ecosystem for the majority marginalized student population we serve.  more » « less
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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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