In 2022, the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) and Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), announced the creation of the Postsecondary Education Research & Implementation Institute (PERI²). PERI² represents an interdisciplinary team of campus leaders dedicated to supporting and conducting research centered around equitable student access and applying the findings to college and university settings.
PERI² is one of the projects under the new Data-Driven Student Success Initiative. Overseen by the UCI Office of Data and Information Technology and consisting of units such as the OVPTL, Office of Academic Personnel, Enrollment Management, and School of Education, the Data-Driven Student Success Initiative is a university-wide effort to promote the use of data and data collection measures to improve student success.
PERI² is the latest evolution of several UCI projects that have looked to translate research into structural university changes to improve student success. For instance, one of PERI²’s predecessors is the UCI Measuring Undergraduate Success Trajectories project (UCI-MUST). Originally introduced as The Next Generation Undergraduate Success Measurement Project by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project used the UCI School of Education as a pilot site for a measurement project to improve understanding on the value of undergraduate educational experiences and promote evidence-based models of undergraduate student success. The project tracked a random sample of more than 1,200 UCI undergraduates for two years, taking into account a wide breadth of data including transcripts, online classroom behavior, living situations, student moods, and more (access detailed information about the student data being collected). To extend the two-year limit of the original project, UCI took over the project in 2020 and renamed it UCI-MUST. Since then the project has welcomed a new cohort of students in Fall 2020, Fall 2021, and Fall 2022.
“PERI²’s focus on promoting research-based solutions to improving student success and advancing educational equity make it the perfect home for the UCI-MUST project,” says Richard Arum, Professor of Sociology and Education and UCI-MUST Principal Investigator. “By leveraging UCI-MUST’s state-of-the-art measurement system of student experiences, trajectories, and outcomes on campus, we are excited to work with PERI² to support institutional improvement efforts.”
PERI² also evolved from the UCI Education Research Initiative (ERI), which was established to bring together researchers from across the campus to conduct cutting-edge education research that could inform policies both at UCI and throughout the higher education system. Unfortunately, the ERI fell short in its goals because it lacked a direct connection to the faculty professional development space as well as to the institutional structures that establish academic programs and policies.
To close this gap, PERI² was established under the umbrella of the OVPTL—more specifically, within the DTEI, the OVPTL’s faculty-facing division. With the DTEI’s programming and resources committed to supporting faculty development, advancing pedagogical innovation, and promoting evidence-based instructional practices, PERI²’s placement within this unit provides a direct line for research to inform academic practices and policies.
According to Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Dean of Undergraduate Education, and Professor of Physics and Astronomy,
“The OVPTL is uniquely situated in that our departments are immediately involved with both the faculty and the undergraduate student experiences. We see PERI² acting as both a research branch for the DTEI and a direct means of institutional change by implementing research results through DTEI programming. This allows research to directly impact how faculty are teaching and designing their courses, essentially in real-time. PERI² research will also inform the various support services we offer students through our DUE units and programs. In this way, PERI² is a uniquely positioned institute that supports a comprehensive approach to improving student learning outcomes and improving student success.”
PERI²’s central mission is two-fold. On the research side, PERI² aims to identify and disseminate intervention and instructional practices and policies that have the potential to improve the student experience. On the implementation side, PERI² works to facilitate the application of these interventions, practices, and policies across a variety of post-secondary settings.
With these goals in mind, the PERI² team is currently working on three main projects. The first looks to examine the impacts of teaching-focused faculty (Professors of Teaching) across the UC system and identify strategies to help these individuals maximize their potential and drive curriculum and pedagogical innovation (See working papers 1 and 2). Second, the team is developing, implementing, and measuring the impacts of a mentoring and skill-building program for second-year STEM students to improve retention, particularly for minoritized populations. Finally, they are exploring a new area of research that aims to inform how to establish better two- and four-year collaborations to improve the STEM transfer pathway and transfer student success.