Book Review: ‘Facilitating Change in Higher Education’

Facilitating Change in Higher Education: The Departmental Action Team Model introduces a model designed to support meaningful change in higher education. The book is one product of a five-year collaboration between Colorado State University and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Collaborators on both campuses have worked with interested departments to use facilitated departmental teams to promote change. I spoke with one of the book’s 10 authors, Courtney Ngai, about the Departmental Action Team (DAT) model and how this book can be used to support improved education.

At CSU, the DAT model has been implemented in multiple departments. Each DAT consisted of students, staff, and faculty from one department and 2–3 facilitators who were external to the department. The DATs met every other week for 2–4 semesters and worked to implement sustainable changes in their undergraduate programs. DAT members worked with the external facilitators to use institutional data and education research to develop meaningful and achievable goals. Examples of DAT projects include improving the departmental climate for students in response to a departmental survey and aligning programmatic student learning outcomes with external accreditation standards.

The new book describes how to implement the DAT model to enact departmental change. The authors explain the theory supporting the model and provide practical guidance for using DATs to promote change. For example, the DAT model emphasizes that students should be partners in their education. This is enacted by including students as DAT members so that the DAT’s work is informed by those who are impacted by the changes. The book covers how to equitably include students in a DAT, from intentional recruiting to managing power structures within. The book is supplemented by a website that will provide free resources to those interested in making departmental changes. Such resources include handouts (e.g., overview of change models that can be used to inform change e orts), how-to guides (e.g., how to use interviews to guide a change e ort), and slides (e.g., an overview of the DAT model that can be used for recruiting).

As Ngai notes, the book and website can be used to adapt change efforts to the specific needs of a department or institution. In this manner, the DAT model is flexible and accessible to a variety of contexts. In the book, the authors share their own experiences facilitating DATs to illustrate many ways the DAT model can be implemented and effect change. Beyond the DAT model, the book and website can be used to support the development of change agency in individuals, which is relevant to many change efforts.

The book is set to be published at the end of October 2020. More information is available at the website