The STEAM-Active (Project Number: 2021-1-ES01-KA220-HED-000032107) project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Team-based instructional change in undergraduate STEM: characterizing effective faculty collaboration

Partners' Institution
Kaunas University of Technology
Year of publication
Educational stage
University Level
Journal name
International Journal of STEM Education
Thematic Area
STEAM intervention (teaching strategies, evaluation...), Sustainability and circular economy
The study is focused on processes that ensure the successful outcomes of the instructional change teams. Instructional change teams usually consist of instructors and other stakeholders (e.g. students). The aim of the teams is to improve existing courses or to create the new ones which would ensure the coherence across a series of courses.
The research question is formulated as follows: What are specific team processes and emergent states that shape instructional change teams’ collaboration and can lead to favorable team outcomes?
The research is a second phase of three-phase research. The first phase was focused on the nature of instructional change teams’ collaboration. The second phase is dedicated to identifying subcategories of team processes and emergent states. The third phase is planned to analyze the relationships of the identifies categories. The diversity, goals, work, and processes of four instructional change teams in the field of physics, material science, biology, and engineering were overviewed. The data was collected in a form of interviews of team leaders and some of team members.
The paper presents a model of instructional change teams with three emergent states and five team processes. The identified emergent states were: shared vision, psychological safety, team cohesion. The identified processes were: egalitarian power dynamics, team member commitment, effective communication, clear decision-making process, safety leadership. The authors state that strategic leadership is the process which influences other four processes and therefore the successful outcomes of the team work.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
The authors state that special attention should be given to STEM education by applying new teaching practices in order to provide students with deeper understanding of the subject matter. To apply these teaching practices in a coherent way across a series of subjects, the instructional change team is usually formed. The research was focused on the nature of team collaboration in the context of undergraduate STEM.
The research data was collected in a form of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with team leaders and team members. Twenty-three team members from four teams at three institutions across the USA were interviewed. The teams were from the departments of biology, physics, material science, and engineering. The detailed overview about the initial goals, development, perspectives, decision-making processes, outcomes was provided for each team. Additional demographic information about participants was also provided.
The transcripts of the collected interviews were analyzed line-by-line. This analysis enabled to identify similar patterns in team processes and emergent states. The axial coding was enabled to identify the inter-relationships among the subcategories and the team outcomes. The team outcomes are defined as sustainability and quality of instructional changes, collaboration and individual changes.
A model of instructional change teams with defined team inputs, emergent states, processes, and outcomes is provided in the paper.
The study identifies emergent states which refer to team members’ point of view to their collaboration:
- Shared vision: a collective understanding of a teams’ goal and mission
- Psychological safety: sharing their opinions and actions in the team do not cause professional risk
- Team cohesion: team members have a strong interpersonal connection and share a sense of accountability to the team goals
The study also identifies team processes which are defined as acts that convert team inputs to team outputs:
- Egalitarian power dynamics: team members welcome, value, and consider contributions of each team member in equal manner.
- Team member commitment: team members show high levels of engagement and interest to implement team’s task.
- Effective communication: team members share information, work through conflicts, openly discuss the issues and communicate in a way to achieve understanding between the team members.
- Clear decision-making processes: the process by which the decisions relevant to the team are made.
- Strategic leadership: the process in which one or more team members (usually the formal leader) engage in the problem-solving related to conflicts in the team, achieving team goals, identifying long-term perspectives and threats.
The authors discuss the relationship between the states and the processes. For example, they state that shared vision is influenced by the effective communication and clear decision-making process. Similarly, egalitarian power dynamics contribute to psychological safety. It is stated, that the strategic leadership influences all other processes. The actions of this process are usually initiated by the formal team leader and cover selecting team individuals, assigning tasks that fits the members’ competences and interests, creating inclusive working environment. The suggested model helps to identify strengths and weaknesses of the instructional change team.
Point of Strength
The paper provides a model for instructional team collaboration in the context of STEM disciplines. This model provides a view of nature of these teams, emergent states, and team processes which are important for successful collaboration. The model can also be applied in other disciplines to identify strengths and weaknesses of the instructional change teams.
Instructional change, Teams, Grounded theory, Leadership, Faculty, STEM