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When Reaching Consensus is Hard:  Delivering a workshop to meet faculty challenges

Colleges and universities know their faculty must provide cutting-edge instruction, in both basic and advanced disciplines, for their undergraduate science majors to succeed at obtaining Ph.D.’s and careers in scientific research. However, many undergraduate institutions struggle to offer contemporary curricula, whether it is due to conflicting philosophies, small faculty size, limited resources, or lack of a clear strategic plan. Several of these factors were responsible for the struggle within one historically minority university science department.

We were asked by this department to deliver a faculty workshop that would build consensus on a revised curriculum that met the learning needs of their science majors. By using our innovation tools and providing structure for faculty to express concerns, opinions, and frustrations, the faculty quickly focused on their passion to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed for success. Once they identified the essential elements of a contemporary biology curriculum, the faculty reached a group consensus about a new curriculum outline, which they began implementing shortly thereafter.

A revitalized commitment to their students, and to communication with each other, started this science department down a path of academic change—which will help prepare students for career and personal success in our rapidly changing society.