Faculty member awarded funds to launch equity-focused faculty learning community

Roderick Lee
Credit: John Whitehead

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Roderick Lee, associate professor of information systems in Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Business Administration, was awarded a SPEAK (Specialized Presentations to Enhance Awareness and Knowledge) seed grant from the Office of Research and Outreach at Penn State Harrisburg and an Interaction Grant from Penn State’s Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. The grants will support Lee’s project “Architecting Culturally Inclusive and Psychologically Safe Growth Mindset Cultures in STEM Classrooms: A Vision for Advancing Equity for All.”

The project includes launching a faculty learning community focused on designing classroom environments for equitable student success and hosting an expert to facilitate a professional development workshop and deliver a research talk.

Lee will collaborate with Jeremy Blum, associate professor of computer science in the college’s School of Science, Engineering, and Technology on the project.

Lee’s project is grounded in research that demonstrates that frequent and high-quality interactions between faculty and students is one of the most significant predictors of student motivation, sense of belonging, retention, and success.  More importantly, quality faculty-student interactions have salutary equity effects for students from structurally disadvantaged backgrounds such as first-generation, low-income, students of color, and women in STEM.

According to Lee, “faculty are also critical partners in student success and equity work, as much of what our students experience on our campuses is mediated by the faculty and the classroom. Moreover, pedagogy and curriculum are two of the most significant levers we have for improving equitable student outcomes.”

The Faculty Learning Community will provide a space for faculty to collaboratively investigate factors affecting student motivation, engagement, and learning, and to develop actionable strategies for addressing opportunity gaps in student outcomes through intentional course design and equitable and inclusive teaching practices. 

Lee said that it is particularly important to address disparities in student outcomes in STEM gateway and high-enrollment courses which pose the most significant challenges for structurally disadvantaged students. “One target outcome of the FLC is to create an equity-minded syllabus to include messaging and language proven to increase sense of belonging and convey a growth mindset about student abilities,” said Lee.

Funding from the grants will also be used to host Mary Murphy, the Herman B. Wells Endowed Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the founder of the Equity Accelerator at Indiana University on April 11 on campus. Murphy will facilitate a growth mindset workshop and deliver a livestreamed research presentation that bridges educational equity research and practice. Participants in the workshop will gain a broader understanding of how the evidence based on situational cues and mindset culture can be leveraged to create more inclusive and equitable learning environments.  

Lee also has been named by Penn State Harrisburg Chancellor John M. Mason Jr. as an equity pedagogy scholar for the University’s Equity Pedagogy Network. In this role, he will communicate about the development of his SPEAK and Interaction Grant projects and collaborate with peers engaged in similar work by sharing resources to develop and assess the implementation of equity pedagogies and culturally sustaining curricula.

“I am pleased to have Dr. Lee represent Penn State Harrisburg on this very important initiative,” Mason said. “His knowledge and expertise will serve to help build a more equitable, transformative learning experience for our students.”