As a land-grant university, UCI proudly serves the residents of California while reaching across the country and world. Inclusive excellence animates our research, teaching and service mission as a leading 21st century university. It is reflected in the diverse student populations that comprise the Anteater nation. Over half are first in their family to attend university. Nearly 40% are Pell eligible (or designated low income). The campus is proud to be a Minority Serving Institution; securing federal designation as a Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander Serving Institution and as a Hispanic Serving Institution. Nearly 1/3 of the undergraduate population are from historically under-represented racial and ethnic minority populations–African American, American Indian, Latinx, and Pacific Islander. Women constitute nearly 55%. International and out-of-state students account for 20%.

UCI is not only committed to recruiting a diverse student population, but also to scaffolding their success during their undergraduate careers and after they graduate. This commitment extends to the faculty. A commitment to inclusive excellence forms an integral party of the faculty recruitment and advancement processes. All applicants for faculty positions are required to discuss how their research, teaching or service contribute to UCI’s commitment to inclusive excellence. Incumbent faculty are invited to discuss their contributions to diversity during their scheduled personnel reviews for merits and promotion. The campus also funds grants to exemplary faculty research, teaching and service that advances diversity. These efforts recognize that faculty are the cornerstone of student success and a faculty culture that embraces inclusive excellence in teaching is essential. This document outlines some of the efforts at UCI that are aimed at achieving these goals through the lens of the instructional culture.

The focus on instructional culture is not meant to minimize the important student success efforts and general changes in culture that exist across campus. The purpose of this document is to provide a brief overview of activities in these areas that demonstrates the connections between this broad set of efforts, how the sum of these contributions creates a larger impact than any individual effort, and how this interconnected approach appears to be unique to UCI at this time and could provide a model for transformation in higher education.

I. Background: Culture Change for Student Success

UCI has embarked on an ambitious and wide-ranging structural approach to transforming the campus culture with the goal of helping all of our students achieve the American Dream. This approach is grounded in two fundamental elements of our Campus culture. First, UCI embraces academic excellence that is not defined by narrow criteria of selection but is broadly inclusive. Second, these elements combine to create an unprecedented imperative for creating a truly scalable, comprehensive, and sustainable approach to student success in which our faculty are essential participants and drivers of inclusive excellence.There are three main values that guide this approach.

1)         Broader Standards are not lower standards: A core value for faculty is maintaining standards of academic excellence. This should not change. However, there needs to be a fundamental shift from the primary faculty role as defenders of a single definition of academic rigor to defining and assessing broad standards of academic rigor that embrace excellence that is truly inclusive and not elitist.

2)         People and Structures Matter: Student success emerges from student’s interactions with a wide variety of individuals and groups at UCI throughout their academic career. This includes, but is not limited to, student experiences with faculty and peers in and out of the classroom, academic advisors, academic support programs specialists, and student affairs. The administrative structure that organizes and connects these individuals with each other and with students enhances the impact on student success.

3)         Data Matters: The utilization of data is critical for pursuing evidence-based practices and for providing the best possible recommendations to students, faculty, and staff. However, using data appropriately requires not just the right systems to acquire the data, but also the appropriate training and context for administrators, faculty, and staff who use the data.

II. Areas of Impact

UCI has been facilitating culture change at a fundamental level in a broad range of areas. In this document, I will highlight efforts in the following areas that directly or indirectly impact changes in the faculty/instructional culture:

1)         Administrative Infrastructure
2)         Physical Infrastructure
3)         Instructional Support
4)         Faculty Merit
5)         Visible Pedagogy Research/Experts
6)         Direct Student Support
7)         Data
8)         Academic Advising

Administrative Infrastructure: Critical to efforts of culture change is a structure that actively fosters and rewards culture change. The infrastructure changes involve both the relevant administrative positions and the specific policies and approaches of the leadership in those positions. A few elements of these changes at the campus level include:

1)   Creation of a Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. This position demonstrates the overall campus commitment to inclusive excellence at all levels and provides the foundation for transformation within the student success space.

2)      Creation of the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. This office has generated a campus-wide focus on issues of integrating evidenced-based teaching into the culture of the campus.

3)      Focus of the Vice Provost of Academic Personnel on the role of teaching in merit and promotion. One of the historical challenges in the space of transforming teaching has been the limitations created by the merit and review process. The support of leadership in integrating teaching in the merit process has provided critical support to the efforts of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning

4)      Creation of Division of Career Pathways: The elevation of career advising reflects our campus focus on broadening the definition of student outcomes and is part of an inclusive approach to education.

Within the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL), there are additional administrative structures that are also foundational. These include:

1)    Creation of three separate Divisions: Summer Session, Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI), and Undergraduate Education (DUE). This structure accomplishes two complementary purposes. First, through DTEI, we have elevated the role of evidenced-based instruction and now leverage faculty and graduate student professional development in support of student success. Second, we have created a leadership team that is able to integrate the classroom experience (DTEI and Summer Session) with direct student support (DUE) to provide a truly seamless approach to student success.

2)      Creation of COMPASS: Leveraging the leadership and connections of OVPTL, the creation of the COMPASS team uses staff from OIT, OIR, and OVTPL to make significant strides in the space of data driven decisions for student success.

Physical Infrastructure: Physical infrastructure is a well-established element of any culture. UCI is heavily investing in student success oriented infrastructure. The Anteater Learning Pavilion (ALP) is one of the best examples of the impact of infrastructure on culture. A fully active-learning classroom design was not easy to achieve, but after just one year it has proven highly successful.  During the first-year of usage, we assessed the bulk of courses taught in the ALP and identified three main categories of instruction: traditional lecture, Socratic lecture, and active learning. We are currently analyzing the data to determine the trends in usage, and will continue the assessment in 2019/2020.

Moving forward, the campus is committed to transforming space in the Science Library to create a Student Excellence Center that will highlight the campus commitment to undergraduate research, scholarship opportunities and an Honors experience that is truly inclusive and represents our diverse student body. In addition, a modernized student study space will enhance the overall student experience. Finally, the campus has started the design process for a dedicated Student Success Building that recognizes the importance of integrating student wellness, career planning, and instructional support as critical to student success.

Instructional Support: Here is a brief description of new instructional support initiatives that are having a direct impact on cultural change.

1)      Learning Assistant Program: Learning assistants are undergraduates who are integrated into the course-based instructional team of faculty and TAs. They are particularly effective in courses using active learning methods. First introduced nationally in STEM areas, UCI has implemented Learning Assistants (LA) across all campus disciplines. The program is one source of visibility for evidence-based instruction and is a growing solution to increased student enrollments. Currently, participation in the LA program requires:

  1. Faculty consultation with DTEI
  2. Commitment to active learning in either lecture or discussion
  3. Undergraduates must be integrated into weekly meetings with faculty and TAs
  4. TAs or Faculty must be present in all in-class experiences with LAs
  5. LAs are required to take a pedagogical training course during the first quarter in which they are an LA

At this point, the program is only three years old, and the growth in usage has been significant, as shown in the following table:

Academic Year Total LA Positions Total Students Served Total Courses Supported
2018-19 304 19280 65
2017-18 181 12876 38
2016-17 42 3029 11

The following charts provide information on usage by Schools in 2018/2019, confirming the broad reach at UCI. (It should be noted that the numbers are technically higher in Humanities than shown in this chart as lower division writing utilizes a similar program called “embedded peer tutors” supported by the Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication within DUE. The reason for the different name is one of historical convention at a national level.)

2)      Active Learning Institute: Supported by the new pedagogical potential generated by the ALP and requirements for priority scheduling in the ALP, the Active Learning Institute has received extremely positive support from faculty. One of the most impressive features of this Institute is the commitment required by faculty. It is a 12 week program that meets roughly every other week for 1.5 hours and includes assignments between meeting sessions. This is followed by classroom observations in subsequent quarters. Based on presentations at national meetings, this is arguably the most rigorous certification program, and still the numbers of faculty involved is impressive.

Attendee Position Fully Certified Certification in progress
Professor 61 106
Professor of Teaching 30 14
Adjunct Professor 35 38
Staff 7 13
Total 134 171

It is worth noting that one impact of the positive reviews of the program by faculty is that staff have voluntarily enrolled in order to improve their programming for students. Additionally, faculty from the ALI are 2.3X as likely to be observed using active learning in the ALP than non-certified faculty, and 0.4X as likely to be observed in a traditional lecture format. This strongly supports that faculty are implementing the practices learned in the ALI and not simply using the certification for the scheduling benefits.

3)      Faculty Learning Communities: Faculty learning communities are a well-established best practice, and yet, they have often proved difficult to sustain or establish. Though still in early stages, we have seen a breakthrough in participation in learning communities emerging from the culture of faculty participation emerging from DTEI. This change has grown out of positive experiences of new modes of interaction between the staff support for professional development, especially our Director of Faculty Pedagogical Development, and faculty. In 2018/2019, we established four faculty learning communities, one each in Social Ecology, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities. There was a total of 41 faculty involved. This year, two of the communities are continuing and we have expanded to a total of six communities with ICS, Arts, and Physical Sciences having communities forming.

4)      First Quarter Fall Course Initiative: We are embarking on the second year of interacting with faculty teaching 15 key courses that impact over 90% of our first year students. The first year of the project focused on surveying students to determine some of their highest needs, and we determined that explicit discussion of study strategies was a top priority. This year we are comparing the relative effectiveness of a supplemental online module versus a specifically designed in-class experience that the instructor develops under guidance from professional staff. Additionally, the Vice Provost will be working directly with Associate Deans and Chairs of the relevant Schools and Departments to determine what next steps make sense within the different cultures to institutionalize these efforts. The full support of the Provost for this initiative is evidence of the Institutional commitment to this level of culture change.

5)      Online Course Development: UCI has traditionally been a leader in the UC system in online course development. As we move forward, we continue to refine our strategic approach in this area. We are also initiating efforts to partner with faculty on strategic development of hybrid courses. Both of these efforts have been enhanced through the structural integration of Summer Session within OVPTL.

6)      Provost Faculty Fellows Program: Entering its second year, the Provost Faculty Fellows program, a policy recommendation from the Provost Leadership Academy, has identified Faculty Fellows as an excellent leverage for culture change. In this program, faculty identify a key area within their School (or Department) that would benefit from a multi-year study and implementation. They are supported by data and staff within DTEI to ensure maximum impact of their projects. This year we have added one additional project within the School of Physical Sciences focused on integrating writing within the upper division curriculum. This is another example of a partnership that has been enhanced by the new administrative structure that eases collaboration between the DTEI, the Office of the Campus Writing and Communication Coordinator, and the Academic Units.

7)   Graduate Student Certification: With the creation of DTEI and the elevation of professional development for graduate students within Graduate Division, we have significantly increased the opportunities for pedagogical training for graduate students and post-docs. This has both a direct impact on instructional culture at UCI, as many TAs have significant freedom in how they approach their classes, and long-term impacts as our graduate students move on in their careers. One of the most recent additions to this initiative is the development of a mentor program for graduate students teaching in lower-division courses in summer session. Again, the development of programs such as this are in part possible because of the new structure that brings Summer Session, DTEI and the Academic Senate (through the connection with the Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning) into close partnerships.  Some of the programs in this space and number of participants for 2018/2019 are:

University Studies 390X (pedagogical training course):
Pedagogical Fellows:
Certificates of Teaching Excellence:
Course Design Certificates:
Consultations with staff:
TAs trained centrally:
CIRTL Associate Level (a national designation):

Faculty Merit: One of the major cultural challenges to implementation of this transformative vision has been the University reward system for faculty that has been spear-headed by Vice Provost O’Dowd. Working closely with the Academic Senate, UCI has made significant progress in this area. An additional side benefit of the conversation is a focus on rewards for teaching. Too often, review of teaching is viewed in the purely punitive mode with a focus on “bad teaching.” We have instead refocused our efforts on rewarding excellent teaching and providing mechanisms for improving teaching. This effort has also motivated a push to develop best practices around reflective teaching statements and the proper use of student evaluations. This has resulted in critical collaborations between the Office of Academic Personnel, the Academic Senate, OVPTL, and OIT. An immediate outcome has been a Senate revision of the Student Evaluation of Teaching and an assessment project within OVPTL to determine the effectiveness of the new form.

Visible Pedagogy Research/Experts: Research indicates that one lever for driving culture shifts around teaching is the embedding of pedagogical experts within a Department.  Faculty need to see evidence-based decisions in teaching as the norm, with evidence drawn preferably from local research. For UCI, this has been achieved by a unique blend of Professors of Teaching and a robust partnership between OVPTL and the School of Education. The national recognition achieved by our faculty in the School of Education, and the integration of this work within many units across UCI, has provided truly unique opportunities. One recent example is the Mellon Foundation funding for our Next Generation Undergraduate Success Measurement Project. In addition to the faculty in the School of Education, the presence of the Professors of Teaching within the Departments provides a source of both education research and dissemination of best practices. In many cases, we have reached a critical mass of evidenced-based practices that makes it essentially impossible for colleagues to ignore the impact of these teaching innovations. The list of projects is too large to list here in detail, but they range from specific interventions driven by single faculty (Intellectual Virtues project of Professor Pritchard in Philosophy) to major funded research projects (Values Intervention Research led by Professor Eccles in Education) to collaborative research (Mellon Project, with Dean Arum and Vice Provost Dennin as co-PIs) to efforts within the Education Research Initiative (taking a lead on membership in SEISMIC, a 10 institution Sloan funded collaboration) to OVPTL Driven Research Projects (evaluation of active learning in the Anteater Learning Pavilion).

Direct Student Support: Direct student support is a critical aspect of student success. And it is certainly true that there are significant efforts in the area of student success that occur within the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE), Student Affairs, the Division of Career Pathways, and the academic units. Even more exciting is the high level of collaboration across these units. Again, there is not space in this document to highlight all of these efforts. Instead, it is worth highlighting a few projects that impact faculty/instructional culture. Within DUE, the development of the First Generation Faculty mentor program is an example of how a student support unit can influence faculty culture. DUE has leveraged staff expertise in inclusive practices to provide training for faculty in areas they already care deeply about. Much of the training in this area has applications within the classroom and goes well beyond traditional one-on-one mentoring. Another recent development is the proposed set of revisions for SPOP (our summer orientation for incoming students) that will consist of a collaboration between Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and the Division of Career Pathways. These revisions will enable enhanced faculty involvement in ways that continue to raise awareness of issues of inclusion and culture in the classroom. Another example is the interaction between the Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication (CEWC) and the Campus Writing and Communication Coordinator (CWCC), both of which operate out of OVPTL. The CWCC works with faculty across campus to integrate writing into all instruction, especially at the upper-division level. The CEWC focuses on direct support for student writing as well as research into evidenced-based practices for writing tutoring. The connection between these two efforts brings faculty into direct contact with evidenced-based writing instruction and issues of inclusivity in writing, especially for students for whom English is a second language or who came from underserved high schools. Finally, a structural element within DUE has been the creation of an integrated approach to Student Success Initiatives that includes multiple faculty advisors and is overseen by a faculty Associate Dean. This ensures a strong faculty involvement in connecting direct student support to classroom culture.

Data:  One of the most compelling opportunities for faculty to think critically about and reform classroom culture comes from the data that COMPASS has made available. The first phase of the COMPASS rollout focused on tools for Academic Advisors, and it had a significant impact on student success through direct student support. The next two phases of COMPASS have seen the development of tools for faculty and Departments. For the first time, faculty have easy access to data about the demographics of students in their courses, with direct links to information on the DTEI website as to how these demographics might impact their teaching. These demographic reports have been coupled with grade reports that will allow faculty to discover the gaps in performance by various groups of students. In piloting these tools, faculty are already surprised at some of the gaps and starting to ask the right questions about how best to transform the learning culture in their classrooms. Additionally, Department Chairs now have access to a broad range of tools, including statistics on change of majors and other useful data that have revealed interesting trends, not just in gaps in retention within a major, but on what majors students change to when they leave. This information is the starting point for a recognition that classroom and department cultures matter for student success.

Academic Advising: The appointment of an Executive Director of Advising within OVPTL has many implications for direct student support, but it will also play a role indirectly in influencing instructional culture. Many of the academic advising practices, such as withdrawal from courses, academic holds, probation, and change of major, have significant impact on classroom culture and are shaped by faculty attitudes. The creation of this position has created the opportunity to review advising policies and their implementation across campus. In light of our rapid growth in both overall numbers and in international students, this review is extremely timely. Though one size does not always fit every discipline, the strains on the system from growth are similar across units. Also, the ability to facilitate this conversation will create a closer dialogue between advising and instruction in a way that will only serve to benefit our diverse student population.