Equitable Student Success in Higher Education: Transforming the Organizational Mindset [Part 2] | Teachers College Press

Equitable Student Success in Higher Education: Transforming the Organizational Mindset [Part 2] |  Teachers College Press

By: Linda Dale Bloomberg

Linda Dale Bloomberg serves as Associate Director of Faculty Support and Development and Full Professor of Education in the School of Education at Northcentral University in San Diego. Dr. Bloomberg received her PhD in 2006 from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she completed the AEGIS program in Adult and Organizational Learning. Her new book is Designing and Delivering Effective Online Instruction: How to Engage Adult Learners.

Part 2: Leveraging Organizational Capacity to Achieve Transformation Goals

Student success is increasingly tied to equity-focused policies and practices that reduce achievement gaps at the postsecondary level. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we implement teaching strategies that promote equity, access, inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all learners, including those from cultural backgrounds. diverse and minority or under-represented groups. This must be central to our quest to establish inclusive and equitable learning experiences for our diverse learner populations, especially as learning contexts continue to rapidly diversify across online and hybrid formats. This blog is part 2 of a two-part series on ensuring equitable student success in higher education. In 2021 I published Designing and Delivering Effective Online Education: How to Engage an Adult Learners, with a strong focus on equity and inclusion. I also recently took a course offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education, Ensuring Equitable Student Success in Higher Education which was designed to provide higher education leaders with the tools and strategies needed to generate equitable outcomes for all students. The major disruptions of recent years continue to reshape the education landscape and have brought racial and socio-economic inequalities into higher education institutions into sharper focus – upending student lives, deepening the digital divide and lowering rates. of perseverance. Ensuring equitable student achievement is a central goal of education at all levels, particularly in terms of finding ways to support minority students and students from underserved populations. This effort is indeed becoming an imperative if we are to effectively meet the needs of today’s constantly changing and increasingly diverse student populations.

Leverage organizational capacity to achieve transformation goals

To take the steps toward establishing a goal or planning initiative, we need to be clear from the outset about the key challenges facing our institutions right now with respect to equitable student success. We also need to be clear about the short- and/or long-term strategies and responses our institution is pursuing to address these equitable student success challenges, and if and to what extent these strategies are working. We need to explore the specific resources in place to be successful, including finances, materials, human resources, training, professional development, etc. , staff and faculty. Capacities that can help achieve collective impact include:

  • Help faculty learn about best practices, including culturally relevant pedagogy
  • Help faculty and staff better understand the changing needs of diverse student populations
  • Educate faculty on all available evidence-based resources, practices, and processes to support student success
  • Better understand the barriers your students face and identify strategies to identify and overcome barriers and challenges
  • Ensure that the institution is truly ready to embrace and respond to the need for equitable student success at all levels
  • Synthesize ways to gain buy-in and engagement from diverse stakeholders to develop a shared narrative, collaborate authentically, and move beyond siled and compartmentalized efforts
  • Identify tools that can be used to better identify and understand who is accessing and using support services and identify those who are not
  • Develop practical ways to allocate resources meaningfully and efficiently so you can get the most out of what you need to work with
  • Articulate equitable student success interventions that allow for a clear focus on concrete solutions, actions, and outcomes
  • Identify ways to measure, evaluate and report data, and intentionally use available data to implement real change

Preparing to engage in equity work is an adaptive challenge that requires a transformed organizational mindset. Essentially, this work warrants a collective effort across the many silos that make up an institution, to reflect on the data and think very carefully about the student’s experience and context. In the final analysis, to reach their true potential as “engines of equity”, universities must tackle two critical issues at once: And they must also take a broader view, developing most needed to drive regional economic growth and, in doing so, ensuring that diverse workers have a stake in and commitment to the prosperity of their community. Figure 2 depicts a system model based on collaborative stakeholder buy-in and improving organizational capacity to ensure that equity work will indeed remain sustainable.

FIGURE 2: Systems Leadership for Improving Equity and Sustainability

Reflection checkpoint

  • To what extent does your institution use clear and shared definitions of student success?
  • How do you measure or evaluate success? What are the shared and agreed criteria?
The context:
  • To what extent has your institution articulated a definition of equity and how should this be operationalized in the development and refinement of institutional policies and procedures, so that equity is fully embedded in the culture? institutional?
  • To what extent does your institution value understanding of life contexts and student experiences in its institutional research priorities and activities?
  • What communication channels exist to ensure continuous discourse on critical issues so that the work is sustained?
Embed data:
  • To what extent does your institution use data to identify, inform, address, and assess student performance gaps among student populations?
  • How does your institution prioritize student success goals, including achieving equitable outcomes for students, and how does it effectively use data to influence resource allocation decisions (financial, human , technological)?
Prioritize and actualize:
  • To what extent do institutional leaders prioritize equitable student success based on research-based analysis of student success data?
  • To what extent are the offices, roles and responsibilities of the institution explicitly organized to advance student success and equity priorities?
  • Does your institution provide open communication channels to ensure continuous discourse on critical issues so that work is meaningfully supported?
Support systems:
  • Does your institution have academic support and tuition for all students from start to finish of your chosen program, including historically marginalized student populations?
  • Are culturally appropriate pedagogy and practices implemented throughout the institution and program?
  • Are processes and resources implemented to support access, readiness and engagement of all learner populations across all learning environments (face-to-face, hybrid and online) to promote equitable outcomes for all learner populations?
  • Do faculty, staff and advisors have professional development opportunities to help them fulfill their role appropriately?


Bloomberg, LD (2021). Designing and Delivering Effective Online Education: How to Engage Adult Learners. Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

This publication has been nominated for the 2021 and 2022 Division of Distance Learning (DDL) from the Association of Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), one of the leading international instructional design and ed-tech organizations.

picture by Daria Shevtsova of Pexels

Aubrey L. Morgan