Linda Dale Bloomberg holds the positions of associate director of faculty support and development, and full professor of education in the School of Education, Northcentral University, San Diego. Dr. Bloomberg received her doctorate in 2006 from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she completed the AEGIS Program in Adult and Organizational Learning. Her new book is titled Designing and Delivering Effective Online Instruction: How to Engage Adult Learners.
Part 2: Leveraging Organizational Capacity to Meet Transformational Goals
Student success is increasingly tied to equity-minded policies and practices that ameliorate postsecondary achievement gaps. Now, more than ever before, it is imperative that we implement teaching strategies that promote equity, access, inclusivity, and a sense of belonging for all learners, including those of diverse cultural backgrounds and minority or under-represented groups. This must be central to our quest to establish inclusive and equitable learning experiences for our diverse learner populations especially as learning contexts continue to rapidly diversify in both online and hybrid formats. This blog is Part 2 of a two-part series on ensuring equitable student success in higher education. In 2021 I published Designing and Delivering Effective Online Instruction: How to Engage Adult Learners, with the focus heavily on ensuring equity and inclusion. I also recently completed a course offered by The Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Institutes for Higher Education, Ensuring Equitable Student Success in Higher Education which was designed to provide higher education leaders with the tools and strategies needed to generate equitable outcomes for all students. The major disruptions of the past few years continue to reshape the education landscape and have illuminated racial and socioeconomic inequities at higher education institutions — upending student lives, deepening the digital divide, and diminishing persistence rates. Ensuring equitable student success is a central focus of education at all levels, particularly in terms of uncovering ways to support minoritized students and students from underserved populations. This endeavor indeed becomes an imperative if we are to indeed address the needs of today’s ever evolving and increasingly diversified student populations.
Leveraging Organizational Capacity to Meet Transformational Goals
To take the steps toward establishing a planning goal or initiative, we need to be clear upfront about the major challenges facing our institutions at this moment relative to equitable student success. We also need to be clear about the short-term and/or long-term strategies and responses that our institution is pursuing to address these equitable student success challenges, and whether and to what extent these strategies are working. We need to explore what specific resources are in place to achieve success, including finances, materials, human resources, training, professional development etc. And, we also need to ensure that policy is actually translating to practice through ongoing training and professional development for administration, staff, and faculty. Capacities that can help achieve collective impact, include the following:
- Assist faculty to learn more about best practices, including culturally relevant pedagogy
- Assist faculty and staff better understand the diverse student populations’ changing needs
- Make faculty aware of all available resources, practices, and evidence-based processes to support student success
- Gain a better understanding of the barriers facing your students, and identify strategies for identifying and addressing barriers and challenges
- Ensure that the institution is truly ready to embrace and address the need for equitable student success at all levels
- Synthesize ways to achieve buy-in and commitment from various stakeholders to develop a shared narrative, collaborate authentically, and move beyond siloed and compartmentalized efforts
- Identify the tools that can be used to better identify and understand who are accessing and using support services and identify those who are not
- Develop workable ways to meaningfully and efficiently allocate resources so that you can make the most of what you have to work with
- Articulate equitable student success interventions that allow for a clear focus on solutions, measures, and actionable outcomes
- Identify ways of measuring, assessing, and reporting data, and be intentional in using available data to implement real changes
Preparing to engage in equity work is an adaptive challenge and one that requires a transformed organization mindset. Essentially, this work warrants a collective effort across the many silos that make up an institution, to reflect on data, and thinking really carefully about the student’s experience and context. In the final analysis, to reach their true potential as “engines of equity”, universities must address two critical issues at once: They must take a student-focused view about positioning students for success beyond graduation. And they must also take a broader view, developing pipelines of the talent most needed to drive regional economic growth and, in so doing, ensuring that diverse workers have a stake in—and commitment to–their community’s prosperity. Figure 2 depicts a systems model based on collaborative buy in from stakeholders and enhance organizational capacity in order to ensure that equity work will indeed remain sustainable.
FIGURE 2: Systems Leadership for Equity Enhancement and Sustainability
- To what extent does your institution use clear, shared definitions of student success?
- How do you assess or evaluate success? What are the shared and agreed upon criteria?
- To what degree has your institution articulated a definition of equity and how this should be operationalized in the development and refinement of institutional policies and procedures, so that equity is fully integrated into the institutional culture?
- To what extent does your institution value understanding students’ life contexts and experiences in its institutional research priorities and activities?
- What channels of communication exits to ensure ongoing discourse around critical issues so that the work is meaningfully sustained?
- To what degree does your institution use data to identify, inform, address, and evaluate student performance gaps across student populations?
- How does your institution prioritize student success goals, including achievement of equitable student outcomes, and use data effectively to influence resource allocation decisions (financial, human, technological)?
Prioritizing and Actualizing:
- To what extent do institutional leaders prioritize achieving equitable student success grounded in research-based analysis of student success data?
- To what extent are offices, roles, and responsibilities across the institution explicitly organized to advance student success and equity priorities?
- Does your institution provide open the channels of communication to ensure ongoing discourse around critical issues so that the work is meaningfully sustained?
- Does your institution have academic and course support in place for all students through their chosen program from start to finish, including historically marginalized student populations?
- Are culturally responsive pedagogy and practices implemented throughout the institution and curriculum?
- Are processes and resources implemented to support access, readiness, and engagement for all learner populations across all learning environments (face-to-face, hybrid, and online) to promote equitable outcomes across all learner populations?
- Do faculty, staff, and advisors have opportunities for professional development to assist them in appropriately carrying out their roles?
Bloomberg, L. D. (2021). Designing and delivering effective online instruction: How to engage adult learners. Teachers College Press, Columbia University.
This publication was nominated for the 2021 and 2022 Division of Distance Learning (DDL) for the Association of Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), one of the premier international organizations for instructional design and ed-tech.