Studying organizational change: Rigorous attention to complex systems via a multi-theoretical research model Conference

Bouwma-Gearhart, J, Sitomer, A, Fisher, KQ et al. (2016). Studying organizational change: Rigorous attention to complex systems via a multi-theoretical research model . 2016-June

cited authors

  • Bouwma-Gearhart, J; Sitomer, A; Fisher, KQ; Smith, C; Koretsky, M


  • The purpose of this paper is two-fold. We first explore the question how might we rigorously and completely study organizational change in response to postsecondary education improvement interventions? We identify the need for a multi-theoretical research model that allows us to more rigorously describe the potential for organizational change at the start of an educational change intervention in higher education and to document change over time. To accomplish the first purpose, we set the stage by describing characteristics of educational change interventions targeting formal postsecondary education organizations. Next, we detail findings from a targeted literature review concerning: (a) the nature of formal postsecondary education organizations upon which we grounded our ontological perspective of these organizations, and (b) literature on organizational change that contributes to an epistemological perspective for researching postsecondary educational change interventions. In response to this literature review we then propose a multi-theoretical research model that remedies noted ontological, epistemological, and methodological limitations to studying change in postsecondary education organizations, better attending to the multi-dimensional, multi-level organizational phenomena and factors we determined to be important. We then describe our research model's usefulness by addressing the following question: how can we study the potential for organizational change at a research university with respect to a campus-based STEM improvement initiative? We describe the data and analytical methods that allow us to ascertain the relative prevalence and strength of certain factors indicative of potential for organizational change. These factors underlie many postsecondary education improvement interventions' theories of action and take into consideration the context in which postsecondary initiatives are situated. Finally, we reflect on the practicality of our research model towards informing and revising an intervention's theory of action, as well as its feasibility for other efforts to improve and study related change in postsecondary education organizations.

publication date

  • June 26, 2016


  • 2016-June