Dr. Sean Gehrke to Deliver SSI 2016 Opening Plenary Defining SENCER as a “Community of Transformation”

SSI 2016 Opening Plenary Will Define SENCER as a “Community of Transformation”

Dr. Sean Gehrke, director of Institutional Planning, Research, and Assessment at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, will give the first plenary address at the 2016 SENCER Summer Institute. His talk will outline the conclusions of an NSF sponsored study of national STEM reform initiatives that identified SENCER as a “Community of Transformation.” Gehrke, who was co-author of the study, will provide an overview of how key communities of practice in STEM reform have developed into Communities of Transformation, a new type of educational community exemplified by SENCER. He will also review the broader research findings, which suggest ways that members of these communities can leverage their assets and resources to transform learning on their home campuses.

Communities of Transformation may begin as communities of practice that advance a particular strategy or method, but they are distinguished by their adoption of certain characteristics of social movements in that members are more deeply connected and motivated by shared “values, preferences, goals, or ideas.” The defining elements of Communities of Transformation are (1) a compelling philosophy, (2) lived integration of the philosophy through all of the activities and communication of the community, and (3) broad peer support for applying new ideas and sustaining momentum for change once an individual returns to the home environment.

The study entitled “Achieving Scale for STEM Reform” was a four-year initiative funded by the Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science (TUES) program of the Division of Undergraduate Education of the National Science Foundation (NSF DUE-1226242). Dr. Adrianna Kezar, professor in the Rossier School of Education and co-director of the Pullias Center, served as the Principal Investigator of the study, and Sean was co-Principal Investigator. In addition to SENCER, the STEM reform communities examined by the study included Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning Project (POGIL), and the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium. In addition to defining and analyzing communities of transformation, the study included recommendations and considerations for the communities as they move forward.

This report provides important new research affirming the effectiveness of SENCER as a national reform movement, and its implications for NCSCE’s future development will be a major theme of the Institute.

Prior to joining Lewis-Clark State, Sean Gherke earned his Ph.D. in urban education policy and higher education from the University of Southern California. His research focuses on organizational issues in higher education relating to social networks, leadership, organizational change, and educational reform, as well as how the college environment and student experiences influence learning and development. His experience as an administrator and researcher has contributed to his expertise in outcomes-based assessment, strategic planning, STEM reform, and leadership development.

An executive summary of the report on the Communities of Transformation is available here. The report is available in its entirety here.

You can still register to participate in the SENCER Summer Institute to learn more about Communities of Transformation from Sean.

Please register here
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