How Academic Associations Seek to Improve Undergraduate Education Reforms in STEM: Case Studies of Six Leading Associations

Rebecca J Griffiths, University of Pennsylvania


National leaders have called for improvements in STEM undergraduate education to improve student outcomes and to raise success rates for increasingly diverse students. Evidence indicates that reforms in curriculum and pedagogy can deepen conceptual understanding, improve academic achievement, and help to close achievement gaps. Traditional methods and curriculum, however, continue to prevail in undergraduate STEM courses. Major reform efforts that focus on policy and institutional transformation often fail to penetrate classrooms. Academic associations play a critical role in shaping norms and setting standards in their disciplines, but their role in undergraduate education reforms has not been systematically examined. Through case studies of six leading associations in four fields, this study sheds light on how these organizations seek to improve undergraduate education. This study found that these associations have all incorporated undergraduate education into their missions, but their historical engagement and current types of activities vary widely. Several associations have led significant efforts to strengthen undergraduate programs and foster more inclusive environments in their fields, while others have taken more tentative steps to engage with education. This study revealed incongruities between these associations’ missions, organizational structures and processes, resources, and activities. These incongruities may become more pronounced as information technology jeopardizes the value of some core activities and as member needs evolve. Opportunities for improvement include deeper integration of education and education research in conferences and publications; elevating education and education research more consistently and prominently through official statements, awards, and communications; building competencies in network development and collaboration; enabling activists to mobilize existing structures; and modernizing organizational structures and processes. Associations can also consider strategies to pursue reform initiatives that are larger in scale, that aim towards deeper changes in departmental culture and programs, and that address the needs of more diverse faculty members.

Subject Area

Higher education|Science education|Higher Education Administration

Recommended Citation

Griffiths, Rebecca J, "How Academic Associations Seek to Improve Undergraduate Education Reforms in STEM: Case Studies of Six Leading Associations" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28000062.