Sustaining change towards racial equity through cycles of inquiry
Keywords:race, equity, educational policy, data, inquiry, postsecondary education, organizational change
Many national, state, and institutional policies and initiatives advocate for change in higher education through structured forms of data use. The case study of “Old Main University” presented in this article shows how local reformers (n=9) drew on data and data use tools provided by a long-term action research project implemented at the university to advance racial equity goals at their university. The case narrative utilizes practice theory, cultural historical activity theory (CHAT), and narrative inquiry to illustrate how administrative leaders and faculty at Old Main University coordinated their efforts in a sustained manner through two cycles of practitioner inquiry that was responsive to policy goals. The findings show that data use is productive to promote racial equity when data and data use protocols are used iteratively and in interaction among practitioners who use them to identify inequities rooted in their own practices. The findings support the conclusion that, to sustain change efforts as long-term (mesogenetic) projects, policy makers and local reformers should plan to iteratively redesign data tools, practices, and policies to institute changes in everyday (microgenetic) work practices. Such purposeful redesign holds potential to re-structure professional interactions, sustain motivation and organizational learning, and acculturate practitioners to equity as a standard of practice.