Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Navigating Change in Higher Education: The Partnership Experience of Department Faculty with an Organization Development Consultant

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Navigating Change in Higher Education: The Partnership Experience of Department Faculty with an Organization Development Consultant

Article excerpt

Abstract

How do university programs stay afloat? One way is to expect faculty to self-navigate. Another is to recognize when the winds of change call for process guidance from an external professional, a relatively new approach in higher education. This article describes such a change initiative within a department of education, using such O.D. tools as design teams, transition plans, change models, and guiding questions. Supported by leadership and developed as a grassroots effort, this intervention demonstrates one example of perhaps many potential change initiatives within the higher education sector and the applicability of such O.D. facilitation within other similar environments.

Introduction "When we shared the current vision process at Minnesota Association of Colleges of Teacher Education people were most interested in the idea of bringing an outside consultant in to guide the decision-making within the change process. That's the part that gets tricky because you're worried about hurting feelings: all that cultural stuff."

M.A. Marchel, Chair, Early Childhood Unified Program

How do university programs stay afloat in a continuous sea of change? Institutions of higher education tend to be perceived as organizations wherein change occurs at an extremely slow pace (Cohen, 2003; Lisk, 2004). These institutions are not immune, however, to increased pressures created by intense and ever expanding change drivers. The U.S. Federal Government is one such driver as evidenced by accountability calls for standardized testing to demonstrate student achievement, creating a means for comparison across institutions (Arenson, 2006; Coleman, 2006; Levine, 2006). Among other forces pushing change in higher education are diminishing financial resources (Gallos, 2002; Lisk, 2004); technology's influence on student learning practices (Silverstein, 2006); competition (Shapiro 2002, noted in Lisk, 2004) for student enrollment in an education market where online resources expand choice and diminish distance constraints; and the need for knowledgeable professionals in a world where demographics are changing and human resource development continues throughout careers (Levine, 2006).

This article describes an O.D. consultant-assisted change initiative within an education department at an institution of higher education. Supported by administration, this change project was developed as a grassroots effort. It demonstrates one example of perhaps many potential change initiatives at institutions of higher education with implications for other collegiate units. Given the intense pressures on colleges and universities, the authors of this article believe the time is ripe for O.D. professionals to reach out to the higher education sector with theories and practices that should facilitate desired change.

Context

The current Early Childhood Education Program in the Department of Education at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) prepares undergraduates to work with children from birth through third grade. The program is staffed by five academics with less than four years of employment at the university. Four are tenure-track faculty members and one is working under a yearly contract basis. These professionals replaced an entire faculty team who recently either found employment elsewhere or retired. This new team is responsible for the instruction and field (clinical) supervision of approximately 100 students from rural and urban settings who are typically full-time, "traditional" undergraduate students. Given faculty turnover and a need for the new team to develop a common purpose and direction, the timing was right for the development of a new program. Why did these individuals seek the assistance of an O.D. consultant?

Faculties at institutions of higher education are typically responsible for the revision of professional programs. This practice is a daunting task due to the swift forces of change impacting colleges and universities in today's competitive environment. …

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