What Lies Beneath? A Systems Thinking Approach to Catalyzing Department-Level Curricular and Pedagogical Reform Through the Northwest PULSE Workshops


  • Alyce DeMarais University of Puget Sound
  • Gita Bangera Bellevue College
  • Claire Bronson Viz-spark
  • Steven Byers Helping Human Systems
  • William Davis Washington State University
  • Nalani Linder N.P. Linder Consulting
  • Jenny McFarland Edmonds College
  • Erika Offerdahl Washington State University
  • Joann Otto Western Washington University
  • Pamela Pape-Lindstrom Harford Community College
  • Carol Pollock University of British Columbia
  • Gary Reiness Lewis and Clark College
  • Stasinos Stavrianeas Willamette University
  • Mary Pat Wenderoth University of Washington


curricular change, systems thinking, Vision and Change, workshop, professional development, department transformation


We have developed and tested a dynamic approach to assist positive, department-wide change at institutions of higher education. Here we describe a workshop strategy designed to empower faculty as agents of change. This strategy incorporates tools and concepts including systems thinking, visual facilitation, and action planning to drive transformation at the department/program level. Although our workshops were developed for life sciences faculty, the processes we adopted, and the lessons learned from the project, provide a framework for the faculty of any STEM discipline at any type of higher education institution to develop skills to effect changes in approach and pedagogy that will improve learning outcomes. While our workshops were carried out in person, we describe approaches that can be adapted for online use.