August 2009 Faculty Spotlight

University of Puerto Rico ADEA CCI Liaisons

Could educational innovators have something to learn from business? A few years ago, Dr. Wilda Guzman attended the Harvard Macy Institute program Leading Innovations in Health Care and Education. While there, she read an article about why change efforts in industry were failing. She recognized many of the same elements at play in her dental school and was intrigued by the article's prescription for overcoming barriers to change.

The article was written by John P. Kotter, a Professor at Harvard Business School who has developed an eight-step model for successfully implementing change. Although designed with businesses in mind, Dr. Guzman had a feeling that Kotter's model could work at her institution, the University of Puerto Rico School of Dental Medicine (UPRSDM).

The year before, UPRSDM Dean Yilda Rivera put together a team of ADEA CCI Liaisons and charged it with revising the school's system of clinical assessment. Dr. Guzman, a UPRSDM Professor, says her introduction to the Kotter model came at the perfect moment. The team was prepared to take up its charge, but members didn't know how to persuade their colleagues that change was necessary.

As a first step, Kotter prescribes creating urgency. The Liaisons seized this notion to get the ball rolling. They began by compiling expert opinion and gathering data within their school.

"Our school is very traditional," says Dr. Guzman. "Some of our assessments had been in place since the school first opened, but it was hard for the faculty to refute the need for change in the face of the information we gathered."

The ADEA CCI Liaisons, four faculty members and three administrators, used their data to form a powerful coalition (Kotter step 2) in support of their work. They have since created avision (Kotter step 3) of how a new clinical assessment system would work and communicated that vision (Kotter step 4) to the entire school community.

"The model has given us credibility and enabled us to produce results," Dr. Guzman observes. "When people see those results, they're motivated to support our efforts."

UPRSDM has several steps to go before institutionalizing the new approaches it is exploring (Kotter step 8), but it now has a pilot project in place to test a new competency-based system of clinical assessment. So far it has been well received. The team hopes to receive grant funding to train faculty to implement portfolios and CAPs as well in the near future.