(345c) Collective Realities: A Discussion of Encultured Norms in the Context of Improving Learning and Workplace Justice | AIChE

(345c) Collective Realities: A Discussion of Encultured Norms in the Context of Improving Learning and Workplace Justice


Koretsky, M. - Presenter, Oregon State University
Bothwell, M., Oregon State University
Kelly, C., Oregon State University
Bobbitt Nolen, S., University of Washington
Montfort, D., Oregon State University
Students and faculty have encultured beliefs. These beliefs influence the way we teach and learn, experience our academic institution as a workplace, and create inclusive communities. Through an NSF RED grant, we have been involved in collaborative, focused work on organizational change. In this work, we have observed norms (or encultured beliefs) within the academic community. These subterranean norms guide practices and policies that can hinder improvement of teaching and learning and the cultivation of a just workplace. Our premise is that similar norms exist in other academic communities beyond our own. In this paper, we describe examples of these encultured beliefs and identify how we believe they create barriers to positive transformation of learning spaces and the workplace. We believe such articulation can facilitate discussion that leads to questioning and changing of the underlying norms that consciously or unconsciously guide policy formation and both formal and informal practices.

We took a sociocultural approach, initiated by the authors (who are leaders in several organizational change initiatives) sharing of their professional experiences. We identified common and observed values, and the encultured beliefs that emerged from these values. The authors are deeply integrated members of both engineering culture and that of higher education, and have a shared history over years of reflecting, discussing, and acting on norms propagated within these overlapping spaces, albeit within one particular academic institution. The set of norms that have arisen from this work therefore represent one particular case within one particular community, as seen by one particular group, but we believe similarities exist across academic institutions because engineering culture and that of higher education reach beyond our own lived experience within our institution.

We present examples of norms in engineering (e.g., the belief in meritocracy), norms in the classroom (e.g., authority comes from the instructor and the text), norms of faculty (e.g., mistakes in the classroom show a lack of competence), norms in the academic workplace (e.g., approbation and reward structures that elevate research endeavors above teaching, learning and mentoring contributions) and norms of inclusion and justice (e.g., demographics alone are a good measure of a community’s culture as it relates to belonging). We use these identified norms to stimulate discussion of their ramifications.