EP3 Departmental Action Leadership Institute (DALI)

The EP3 Guide (ep3guide.org) is a tool that supports physics programs in defining and achieving goals to improve the education of their students. The Guide contains extensive information and effective practices related to all aspects of thriving undergraduate physics programs, sourced from members of the physics community. A core aspect of the philosophy that underlies the Guide is that vibrant physics programs engage in a cyclic process of self-reflection that guides their decisions and actions.

The EP3 Departmental Action Leadership Institutes (DALIs) are intended for departments facing a challenge or opportunity (such as low enrollments or an upcoming program review) and/or wanting to make a significant change (such as implementing evidence-based instruction or developing a program-level student learning assessment plan). The DALIs will help departments engage in a change process that will lead to sustainable improvements to undergraduate education and to a stronger culture of self-reflection and action. They will do this by training department members to be effective change leaders.

A department participating in a DALI will create a “departmental action team” or DAT—a local group of people charged with leading the change effort in their department. Two representatives from this team (or possibly one in a smaller program) will be designated as “change leaders.” They will participate directly in the DALI activities and lead the DAT in their department. The DALI will consist of representatives from 3 to 5 participating departments who commit to working with two DALI facilitators (and each other) for a minimum of one year. The DALI curriculum will train the change leaders to better understand the situations they face, engage in the steps necessary for creating sustained change, and work with their DATs to achieve their goals. The DALI will consist of an in-person kickoff workshop and (approximately) bi-weekly video conferences throughout the year.

(COVID-19 Update: The kickoff workshop for the first DALI, scheduled to begin in January 2021, will be offered virtually.)

What is the philosophy behind the DALIs?

A core aspect of the EP3 philosophy is that successful physics departments engage in cyclic self-reflection on their own processes and outcomes to guide their decisions and actions. We believe that effective change efforts in a department are:

  1. Deliberately designed: driven by a clear understanding of the problem to be solved and current priorities.
  2. Context-dependent: driven by local goals, challenges, and contexts, rather than external mandates.
  3. Driven by a sense of ownership by department members of the process and outcomes, including a sense of collective responsibility for the health of the department.
  4. Driven by broad engagement, so that a range of stakeholders are involved, actions (even if driven by a champion) involve a collaborative process, and work is grounded in a commitment to equity and inclusion.
  5. Grounded in evidence, including an accurate understanding of the available evidence about the problem and decision-making based on appropriate interpretation of the evidence.
  6. Ongoing: change is not considered to be a one and done activity, but instead change processes include opportunities to revisit outcomes and decisions on a regular basis.

Additionally, we see successful change efforts as drivers of positive improvements to departmental culture. We propose that positive department culture:

  1. Embraces assessment as a driver of change, through collecting data from a broad range of sources and using the results to make decisions.
  2. Embraces experimentation by encouraging risk-taking and innovation and learning from failures and successes.
  3. Supports collective action and ownership by distributing power over decision-making in meaningful and equitable ways, supporting many stakeholders to work in partnership, and engendering good communication and trust.
  4. Includes shared stewardship, the understanding that everyone has a shared responsibility for supporting the well-being of the department as a whole.
  5. Includes a shared mission, including a shared understanding of what the department does and for whom, what it wants to achieve over time, and what it should do to achieve desired improvement.

The DALI facilitators and change leaders will work together to enact change in the member departments in a way that is aligned with this philosophy.


Who should apply to be part of a DALI?

Physics departments (or other departments or programs that include physics or astronomy) that are facing challenges or want to make significant changes in their undergraduate programs are invited to apply to be members of a DALI. Currently, membership in a DALI is restricted to 4-year colleges and universities in the United States.

What will the outcomes be for participating departments?

Participating departments can expect to progress towards three main outcomes through their participation in a DALI:

  1. Departments will develop capacity to create and sustain changes to the department and its programs. This includes identifying goals and resources, developing plans, and implementing and assessing those plans.
  2. Departments will develop a culture of continuous self-reflection, assessment, and improvement.
  3. Departments will make meaningful progress toward addressing the challenges that led them to join the DALI.

These outcomes for participating departments and programs will be facilitated by the following outcomes for the departmental change leaders:

  1. Departmental change leaders will learn to effectively lead a local departmental team and strengthen the capacity of that team to create and sustain change.
  2. Change leaders will help their department to identify goals, to identify resources available to achieve those goals, and to develop a plan to create and sustain the desired change.
  3. Change leaders will learn how to help their departmental teams implement and assess their plans.
  4. Change leaders will help to cultivate a culture of continuous self-reflection, assessment, and improvement in their own departments.


What are the expectations for participating departments?

The participation of a department or program in a DALI requires the commitment of a department’s change leaders to engage constructively with all aspects of the DALI for at least one year. Expectations include:

  1. Participating departments and change leaders will engage productively with the principles underlying the EP3 Project.
  2. Change leaders will attend the in-person kickoff workshop. COVID-19 Update: The kickoff workshop for the first DALI, scheduled to begin in January 2021, will be offered virtually.
  3. Change leaders will attend approximately bi-weekly, 90-minute video conferences. They will come prepared and engage productively with the other participants and the facilitators.
  4. Change leaders will engage in work between DALI meetings to support their own learning and the work of the DATs that they are leading. This may include readings assigned by the DALI facilitators, collecting and analyzing data, working with their local DATs, reflecting on their progress, and so on. We expect this will require approximately five hours per month, with the understanding that additional commitment of time may be necessary depending on the exact nature of the change project.
  5. DATs and change leaders will be well-positioned for success by their department. This includes departments providing the resources necessary to sustain the work of the teams (e.g., sufficient people on the DAT, release time and financial support based on the project), change leaders being empowered and supported in their roles within the department (e.g., the support of the chair, recognition of their roles in the department), and change leaders and teams meeting regularly to engage in their work.
  6. The EP3 Project has a research component that aims to understand how assessment and change efforts work in departments through empirically documenting assessment and change processes. These research findings will be used formatively to improve the EP3 project and DALIs. Change leaders’ contact information will be shared with the research team, and they will be invited to participate in this research study. They will have the opportunity to opt-in to having their work product from the DALI shared with the research team, being interviewed, and responding to periodic surveys. For more information about this research study, please contact Chandra Turpen (turpen@umd.edu).
  7. The DALI may collectively decide to continue after one year. Continued participation is welcome but not expected.
How much do DALIs cost?

The cost for participation in a DALI is $5200 per department, which includes food and lodging for the kickoff workshop and expert facilitation at the workshop and virtually for the subsequent year. Note that travel to the workshop for the change leaders is not included in this cost.

The EP3 project has applied for funding to assist departments who wish to participate in a DALI. We hope to know for sure whether this funding will be available in the next few months. We will update this page as we learn more.

COVID-19 Update: There will be no cost to departments for participating in the first DALI, scheduled to begin in January 2021. This is because (1) it will start with a virtual workshop instead of an in-person workshop and (2) facilitation time is being paid for with grant funding.

How might COVID-19 impact the DALIs?

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced significant disruption and uncertainty into all of our professional and personal lives. While considerable uncertainty remains, plans for the first DALI, scheduled to begin in January 2021, have been changed in the following ways:

  1. The kickoff workshop for the first DALI, scheduled to begin in January 2021, will be offered virtually.
  2. There will be no cost to departments for participating in the first DALI, scheduled to begin in January 2021. This is because (1) it will start with a virtual workshop instead of an in-person workshop and (2) facilitation time for this DALI is being paid for with grant funding.


While the DALI organizers recognize that the pandemic may disrupt how we move forward with subsequent DALIs, for now plans for the second DALI, scheduled to begin in September 2021, remain unchanged.

What is the application process and timeline?

The application period for the Winter 2021 DALIs is now closed.

Offers to join a DALI will be extended no later than the week of October 30, with final commitments expected from participating departments by November 6. Final determination of the exact dates in early 2021 for the kickoff workshop will be made at that time.

What do I need to submit as part of my application?

You can fill out an application for your department here. Application materials include:

  • Department information: name and location
  • Chair information: name and contact information
  • Change Leader information: name(s) and contact information
  • Narrative: No more than four pages addressing institutional and departmental context, history of educational change efforts, project ideas, DAT membership, available resources and support, and rationale for participation in a DALI
  • Chair Letter of Support
  • (Optional) Dean Letter of Endorsement
What are the application review criteria?

Applications will be judged on the following criteria:

  1. Coherence and feasibility of potential project ideas, including evidence of some understanding of where the department currently is with respect to the issue(s) to be addressed.
  2. Evidence of departmental and institutional commitment to the proposed change process.
  3. Evidence of adequate resources to support the success of the departmental change leaders and the local DATs, including evidence that the change leaders have been empowered to lead change in the department.
  4. Evidence that the change leaders and the department are willing to engage productively with the principles underlying the EP3 Guide and Communities.


Who should I contact for more information?

Please feel free to contact David Craig (craigda@oregonstate.edu) and/or Joel Corbo (joel.corbo@colorado.edu) with any questions or comments about the DALIs.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.