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ERIC Number: ED502685
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Sep
Pages: 84
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 91
A Final Case Study of SCALE Activities at UW-Madison: The Influence of Institutional Context on a K-20 STEM Education Change Initiative. WCER Working Paper No. 2008-6
Hora, Matthew T.; Millar, Susan B.
Wisconsin Center for Education Research (NJ3)
This qualitative case study reports on processes and outcomes of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators (SCALE) project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). It addresses a critical challenge in studying systemic reform in complex organizations: the lack of methodologies that incorporate technical, social, cultural, and cognitive elements. Guiding questions include (a) how the institutional context influenced the project, (b) whether project activities affected science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction, interdisciplinary collaboration on preservice programs, and inter-institutional collaboration on in-service programs, and (c) if and how change initiatives are accepted and incorporated. In-depth interviews (N = 47), relevant documents, and observation data were collected in early 2006 and late 2007. Contextual factors relevant to SCALE were assessed. Findings identified several factors that supported and several that inhibited achievement of SCALE goals. Supportive factors included the presence of a cohort of faculty and academic staff who were previously engaged in STEM education reform; inhibiting factors included pervasive beliefs (and their structural instantiations) that discourage teaching innovations at the expense of research productivity. Into this context, SCALE introduced nine primary activities, involving 25 STEM faculty, 8 education faculty, 15 graduate students, and 14 academic staff as designers and implementers, and 867 K-12 math and science teachers as participants in professional development activities. The most promising activities--two interdepartmental committees charged with revising math and science course requirements for teacher candidates; science immersion unit design and implementation--engaged the designers and implementers in cross-institutional forums for forging new social networks, surfacing deeply held assumptions, and developing new STEM curricula and policy. An enduring lesson from this study is that efforts to change the culture of teaching and learning in STEM departments should focus on illuminating and then shifting the pervasive cultural schema that faculty hold for teaching and learning. To accomplish this, leaders are encouraged to (a) create officially sanctioned venues in which a skilled facilitator or "culture broker" leads individuals from different disciplinary backgrounds to focus on commonly shared pedagogy-related challenges and (b) become aware of and constantly take into account the deeply entrenched nature of cultural schema and the ways in which these are embedded in the local institution. (Contains 4 tables, 5 figures, and 22 footnotes.)
Wisconsin Center for Education Research. School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1025 West Johnson Street Suite 785, Madison, WI 53706. Tel: 608-263-4200; Fax: 608-263-6448; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Authoring Institution: Wisconsin Center for Education Research
Identifiers - Location: Wisconsin