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Problem Statement

Scaling and sustaining equity practices on your campus requires that many strands of efforts: that you engage faculty in the equity agenda through creating an alignment between faculty development and institutional policies; that you attend to the effective development of staff as empowered agents of change in the equity agenda; that you have sustained processes for the evidence-based scaling of pilots and piloting at scale; and that you work across silos to integrate and streamline support services. To do all of this, it is essential to engage people, stakeholders from all levels - faculty, staff, and leadership - across the institution. These individuals will be critical forces in driving programs and practices of equity, including stakeholder engagement and professional development, course pedagogies, and programmatic and institutional policies.

In considering the above, we’ve mapped out a set of approaches. The first part of this kit aims to set up a high level framing that outlines a brief description of this challenge, some threshold concepts, and barriers that you may identify for your campus community to take on. Part two drills down into four subtopics that we view as critical to the success of the overarching mission of scaling and sustaining equity practices.

Scaling and sustaining the equity agenda on your campus

In order to create the right solutions, it is important to consider the true context of your institution and identify the challenges and barriers to scalable and sustainable change. The questions below are designed to guide your thinking as you consider how to create meaningful sustainable and scalable efforts.

  • How does your institutional mission align with the values and practices of equity?
  • What are the limitations of some of the current equity focused policies and practices? What will we need in order to continuously measure our progress towards bridging these gaps between current performance and our equity goals?
  • Where are the opportunities for innovation to address gaps between your current work on equity and identified measures of success?
  • Where do the values and practices of equity fit into your institution’s role within the surrounding community? How are they/are they not supported through your current role in that community? How can they be strengthened?
  • How can we scale equitable and inclusive practices that reach all institutional levels?
  • Is evidence of your equity values visible at all institutional levels? How can you your team ensure that a commitment to support equity flows from both bottom to top and top to bottom?
  • What regular habits or practices would indicate an understanding that equity is a priority to the university?”

Threshold concepts

  • For the equity agenda to become part of institutional culture, “accountability” must be widely distributed across the institution and not merely compartmentalized to an equity space.
  • And iterative process, and ongoing feedback loops for practice, evaluation, data and continuous improvement and innovation are necessary for sustained cultural change.
  • Equity is essential to the foundation of innovation; innovation can support equity.
  • Scalability is part of the innovation process. Programs and practices that work as pilots must then also be piloted at scale.
  • Cultural change requires clear and transparent intent, continuous reinforcement of the “why” (urgency and case-making), modeling of success and time.

The term ‘threshold concept,’ for those who are not familiar, comes from pedagogical theory. It is defined by Jan Meyer and Ray Land as “a concept that, once understood, changes the way that a person thinks about a topic…It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something” that makes possible further understanding, “without which the learner cannot progress” (Meyer and Land, “Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge,” 2003). Like thresholds in the doorway to a room, not recognizing a threshold concept can cause one to trip when trying to gain entry and make progress a new area of ideas. And like thresholds in the doorway to a room, once you know about the existence, you unthinkingly step over it and fail to recognize the barrier it might be for another person's entry. We use it here, analogously, to start identifying those essential concepts that are necessary for an institution to understand, in order to make further progress on equity.


  • Resistance: Once you have identified the key stakeholders and factors that will need to be involved in order to affect your change and focus on them, how might you develop constructive tools and methods that will help address resistance and convert those who oppose or are apathetic into allies?
  • Traditional culture of elitism over equity in Higher Ed: An acknowledgement of the position your institution occupies within its local (and perhaps also a larger community) may help to identify limitations and elements of the student experience that have been overlooked. How might you promote an awareness of these blind spots that can help make your strategy more precise and effective?
  • Decentralized campus units and departments: How might you be able to work within the current structure of departments/units to coordinate and scale equity initiatives?
  • Limited resources to support equity driven efforts: How might current projects or initiatives already taking place on campus that align with the mission of equity (and have more personnel and funding) help promote and support equity work in some way?
  • Lack of opportunity for the student voice to be heard: When and where are there opportunities for students’ voices to be heard? When, how and by whom are these needs then addressed? How might you promote a culture that is more open and able to respond to student voices and needs?
  • Lack of diverse leadership representation / cultural competency: Evidence of your equity values should be visible at all institutional levels. How can you your team ensure that a commitment to support equity flows from both bottom to top and top to bottom?
  • Insufficient or weak culture of feedback: In order for equity driven initiatives to be effective, implementation is only the beginning. This work requires consistent constructive review from as many individuals as possible. How might you create systems to help improve processes to evaluate and revise efforts to make them as effective as possible
  • Creating long-term change: How might you ensure that the mission of equity related initiatives is fully realized beyond the tenure of an individual, leadership regime or funding source?


What emerged from these sessions that could expand the Resource Kits?

  1. Urgency Resources: Problem Statement, Threshold Concepts, Barriers[How would you annotate or revise?]
  2. Core Library Resources: Examples, Cases, Readings[Please add, annotate readings or cases relevant to these sessions; or, reference literature or cases in the core library.]

Engaging faculty in the equity agenda – faculty development meets institutional policies

To transform the classroom and academic experience to achieve equity and inclusion requires the sustained engagement of faculty. Opportunities and barriers to faculty engagement lay in part within the bounds of institutional culture, which are often driven by institutional policies and in part within the bounds of international standards of disciplinary excellence. The role of faculty development in promoting a culture of teaching and learning is part of a broader framing that has come to be referred to as ‘educational development’ – a more holistic term that includes all categories of faculty, academic staff, and graduate students. In this session we will discuss a range of strategies for engaging faculty in the equity agenda, especially in contexts of institutional policies that can advance or inhibit their role.

Starting Questions:

  1. How are your institution’s goals related to equity and inclusion communicated to faculty across the institution? How well are equity and inclusion highlighted across different schools, offices, and departments encouraged or facilitated?
  2. How has your institution included investment in teaching and learning initiatives broadly and diversity work more specifically into faculty reward structures? Are all individuals who teach students included in these initiatives?
  3. What are examples on your campus where faculty are engaged in the work of transformation, renewal and educational enhancement? What aspects made them effective?

Extending the Conversation Questions:

  1. How might you create impactful educational development communities around equity work? How does (or would) the community inform policy and practice at your campus?
  2. What student success data could have impact on faculty engagement? How do you move faculty beyond anecdote?
  3. Where are the opportunities for faculty to draw on the expertise of staff to implement more inclusive practices, policies and programs to build towards more equitable outcomes?
  4. Where do graduate students – and the training of graduate students in teaching and learning – fit into your equity agenda?
  5. How might engaging undergraduate students as design partners in curriculum transformation be a strategy for including student voices in faculty development contexts?

Effective development of staff as empowered agents of change in the equity agenda

Staff members across campus touch all different aspects of the student experience both inside and outside of the classroom throughout the course of their journey from admission to graduation. Staff across campus are in unique and critical positions to act as levers of change by collecting important data, communicating critical perspectives on the successes and limitations of our current practices and, in the implementation of programs, practices and policies to tackle challenges to equity and inclusion. In this session we will discuss how to empower staff as both individuals and collaborative units to share feedback on the efficacy of current policies/practices and pilot strategies that address the specific challenges students face.

Starting Questions:

  1. How are your institution’s goals related to equity and inclusion communicated to staff across the institution? How well is equity and inclusion-focused work across different schools, offices, and departments encouraged or facilitated?
  2. What are examples on your campus where staff are engaged in the work of shifting your institutional culture to more equitable and inclusive practices? What metrics or measures of success are evident?
  3. Where are the opportunities for staff to work directly with faculty to implement more inclusive practices, policies and programs to build towards more equitable outcomes? How can staff be empowered to collaborate with faculty?

Extending the Conversation Questions:

  1. Are there incentives for encouraging staff to innovate? Are there practices or policies that limit rather than support the innovative work on equity related initiatives?
  2. What equity and inclusion training is currently required or available for staff, especially in offices not typically associated with inclusion? ? Is it having a positive impact on the identified equity mission?
  3. If your institution already has an Office of Equity/Diversity/Inclusion, how does it currently meet the equity mission of your institution? If there are multiple units across different schools or divisions, how to do these groups work together and work with other student-facing units (study abroad, career services, advisors) to support the student experience?
  4. How are staff empowered to incorporate student input/ feedback to improve practices?

Evidence-based scaling of pilots and piloting at scale

Evidence-based scaling of pilots and piloting at scale is a strategy to help take individual examples of change and transform them into institutional policies that will reshape the role of equity in your institution's mission through practice. Too often we design small pilots without considerations of scalability, thus limiting their eventual utility in broader transformation efforts. Ensuring that these programs, pedagogical practices, and policies are all supported by clear and meaningful evidence supports campus stakeholders and change agents in creating a foundation on which to build in processes to affect change. In this session we will discuss how to use evidence-based scaling of pilots that promote and share feedback on the efficacy of current practices and pedagogies that address these challenges.

Starting Questions:

  1. Where are there examples of programs or pedagogies that have been scaled successfully? What evidence do you have of their success? Are there common factors that they share?
  2. Which area(s) on your campus might be ripe for a pilot program focusing on equity? What steps might you take in considering the development of a pilot in this area?
  3. What campus structures facilitate the sharing and adoption of practices between different units (e.g. center for teaching and learning)?

Extending the Conversation Questions:

  1. How can you facilitate collaboration among individuals and/or institutional units to align different efforts within the overall landscape of improving equity, to increase the likelihood that changes are to scale and be sustained? What additional resources and support are needed to scale or spread successful single initiatives?
  2. How can you share these successes with faculty or staff across campus in a way that makes them relevant and accessible to other departments and units? Who would best convey the importance of their contribution to this type of work and how?
  3. What evidence to support either successes or limitations from pilots would be most compelling to stakeholders?
  4. How can leadership provide structure and incentives for the type of long-range R&D work required for campus culture transformation?

Working across silos to integrate and streamline services

The fragmented structure of an institution often lends itself to disjointed efforts across campuses, hampering the effectiveness of equity-focused improvement. Working across silos to integrate and streamline services supports the development, implementation, and continuous improvement of effective programs, including pedagogical practices and policies. By creating innovative opportunities that help integrate and streamline services across a siloed campus landscape, one can encourage a stronger united effort and create shared accountability that ensures positive equity driven changes that will be felt on multiple levels. In this session we will discuss how to identify opportunities that require integrating resources from across the university and how to better utilize existing resources and networks.

Starting Questions:

  1. How is the equity-driven work going on across the institution--such as in academic advisement and student affairs--articulated with one another? What common or connected aspects of the student experience does their work address? What factors make this work important and possible that can be shared?
  2. How is equity defined and operationalized in different ways, in different parts of the campus? What could be done to generate a more broadly accepted, cross-cutting strategy, across campus units?
  3. How is the network of individuals and units across campus engaged in the work of improving equity connected? Where do you see opportunities – and gaps – for collaboration to create a cohesive network of support for the student? How can barriers be overcome?

Extending the Conversation Questions:

  1. How can an institution facilitate opportunities for individuals and groups to collaborate around equity challenges they face to develop effective and innovative solutions?
  2. How can you support initiatives and leaders already engaged in equity- work to reach areas of your campus that might not feel their own goals align with the equity mission?
  3. Where can we rely on existing practices and policies to achieve integration and where do we require new and innovative approaches?
  4. What are the most effective forms and contexts for reaching faculty and staff in compelling and consistent ways? How might you institutionalize these forms of communication?