Date of Submission


Document Type



Doctor of Education




liberal arts teaching institutions, transformational leadership, appreciative inquiry, Kotter's eight-stage change process model


First-year academic experiences in post-secondary education have been widely studied (Pampaka, Williams, & Hutcheson, 2012; Kahu & Nelson, 2018). Rapid expansion of student enrolment has impacted the scope of teaching and learning practices at universities (Zepke, 2018; O’Brien & Iannone, 2017). Much of the focus has been on student success, satisfaction, and retention; however, Brownlee, Walker, Lennox, Exley, and Pearce (2009) suggest that more research on the student learning experience is needed. This organizational improvement plan (OIP) expands on this idea to include pedagogy and course design, as they impact student learning, while exploring institutional identity. Using Bolman and Deal’s (2013) four frames analysis, the steady erosion of first-year teaching and learning practices is attributed to pressures both internal and external to the University. Using appreciative inquiry and Kotter’s eight-stage change process model, two empirically supported approaches for change implementation are discussed. After gauging the change readiness of the institution through a critical organizational analysis and using the plan, do, study, act model, two solutions are proposed: 1) authoring Wise Practices and Considerations for Teaching First-Year Courses document and 2) developing professional learning communities. A systematic and strategic change plan is presented, accompanied by a communication plan approach based on the works of Cawsey, Deszca, and Ingols (2016) and Husain (2013). The full range leadership approach to foster transformational leadership is discussed as an approach for implementing the change plan. The OIP proposes a series of recommendations and future considerations that can be adopted by other institutions as a platform for first-year teaching and learning renewal.