Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Becoming Equity-minded: An Organizational Learning Approach to Improving Black Student Success

Vance, Gina DeGenova (2022) Becoming Equity-minded: An Organizational Learning Approach to Improving Black Student Success. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Download (1MB) | Preview


This study explored the potential of a training intervention to build equity-minded capacity among practitioners in higher education. The goal of this Dissertation in Practice was to determine if a workshop grounded in organizational learning theory could be effective at changing practitioner language, beliefs, and practices around racial equity in student success. In their efforts to understand and address retention of Black students, Westminster College practitioners were engaging in practices that reify racial inequity in student outcomes. Racial equity persists as a problem throughout higher education; therefore, Westminster College is not alone in its struggle to remedy the equity gaps in student success (Banks & Dohy, 2019; Ching, 2018; Johnson, 2013; McNair et al., 2020b). Because the focus of this study is to prepare practitioners to change their practice in equity-minded ways, the results of this study may have broad application in higher education.

The training intervention brought together the frameworks of improvement science and organizational learning theory. Improvement science is an iterative methodology employed to define problems, understand systemic influences, apply and test interventions, and spread change (Bryk et al., 2015; Hinnant-Crawford, 2020). Double-loop learning, a component of organizational learning theory, is essential for examining the root causes of a problem and invites practitioner reflection such that beliefs and practices change (Argyris, 1991; Argyris & Schon, 1996). As such, improvement science and organizational learning theory collectively informed the intervention design so that practitioners might see the equity problem as a problem of practice. A third framework, Bensimon’s (2005) cognitive frames (i.e., diversity, deficit, equity) was used to assist practitioners in recognizing the beliefs that both promote and hinder racial equity. The cognitive frames were also used to measure participants’ pre- and post-intervention frames.

Fifty practitioners, consisting of faculty, staff, and administrators, participated in a two-part, six-hour training intervention. Forty-six of those participants completed a pre-post-test which measured change in practitioners’ beliefs across the discourse, orientation, and strategies associated with each cognitive frame. The results of this study demonstrate that practitioners’ beliefs and assumptions can change and that the training is an effective way to promote this change.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Vance, Gina DeGenovaGMV11@pitt.eduGMV11
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDeAngelo,
Committee MemberRoss,
Committee MemberBonner,
Committee MemberMcCambly,
Date: 2 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 July 2022
Approval Date: 2 September 2022
Submission Date: 9 August 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 179
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Black student success organizational learning improvement science cognitive frames equity-minded racial equity
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2022 19:21
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2022 19:21


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item