“The Most Powerful Student Success ‘Intervention'”: NISOD & ACUE’s Collaboration

ACUE and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) officially launched a major collaboration to promote faculty and student success through excellence in instruction in May 2019 at NISOD’s International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence.

Through the collaboration, ACUE is offering Regional Seminars hosted by NISOD member institutions to provide faculty with a unique, blended-learning opportunity to earn credit toward ACUE’s Certificate in Effective Collegiate Instruction.

NISOD executive director Edward Leach and ACUE president and co-founder Jonathan Gyurko delivered the below remarks during the plenary luncheon.


Ed Leach, Executive Director

National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development

“Last November, NISOD formed a new collaboration with the Association of College and University Educators. We have a continuing goal of bringing new benefits and resources to NISOD members, and our collaboration with ACUE does just that.

“Founded in 2014, ACUE partners with colleges and universities to prepare and credential faculty in effective instruction. Through ACUE’s credit-bearing, online courses, faculty members have an opportunity to learn about and strengthen their use of proven teaching techniques.

“Faculty also earn the only nationally recognized teaching credential endorsed by the American Council on Education and recognized by NISOD and other major associations. ACUE partners with community and technical colleges and helps to expand the impact of teaching centers as part of an institution’s strategic plan for faculty and student success. Many NISOD members are already partnering with ACUE, including Miami Dade College, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Truckee Meadows Community College, Lamar Institute of Technology, among others. Joining us today is Dr. Jonathan Gyurko, ACUE’s president and co-founder.

“When Jonathan and I started discussing the missions of our two organizations, we really hit it off, and I knew right away that we shared the same goals: to provide high-quality resources to faculty, to discover and share new approaches, and to help many more students be successful. Please join me in welcoming to the stage Dr. Jonathan Gyurko.”

Jonathan Gyurko, President and Co-Founder, Association of College and University Educators:

“Thank you, Ed, for that wonderful introduction and the opportunity to work together. And congratulations on a phenomenal conference and everything that you do for your members.

“Today, there are so many ‘student success’ interventions underway. We’ve got guided pathways and intrusive advising, digital alerts and adaptive courseware, shifts to co-requisite instruction, career centers and academic centers—the list goes on.

“As important as all these things are, we know that the most powerful student success ‘intervention’ is right here among us—our faculty. No one else is in a better position to make a bigger impact.  And studies show: Students are more than twice as likely to go on to productive careers and rewarding lives when faculty inspire them, take an interest in their lives, and teach in ways that create meaningful, academically challenging, and relevant learning experiences. No surprise to anyone here today.

“At ACUE, our single-minded focus is to ensure that every faculty member in the country—full-time and part-time—is prepared and supported to teach well, to ensure that every student experiences the engaging and inspiring education we want for them all.

“In just a few short years, over 5,600 faculty members have earned an ACUE credential, and they’re making a measurable, demonstrable impact. Through research studies with our partner colleges, we see stronger student engagement and growth mindset, improved grades, fewer withdrawals, and closed completion gaps among students from different backgrounds when taught by ACUE-credentialed faculty.

“Together with NISOD, we’re reaching and supporting more faculty through new NISOD/ACUE Seminars that we’re hosting with NISOD member institutions across the country this coming academic year. And we’ll be calling for the next round of host sites later this summer.

“Ed and I will be sharing more about ACUE and NISOD’s collaboration at our session this afternoon, so I’d like to close with a short reflection from a faculty member at one of our community college partners. Like many of us, [she] has deep subject matter expertise but never really had any comprehensive preparation to teach with evidence-based practices until she earned her ACUE credential. Here’s what she shared:

‘I used to believe my job was to deliver knowledge—to “give” psychology to my students, and I didn’t think I needed to change my teaching. But I tried some new approaches. Sometimes they’d go really well. Sometimes I’d need more practice. And my students got more engaged. They’re completing their readings because they know I’m going to ask more questions. They’re applying knowledge in ways that I would never have expected. They’re more comfortable coming to speak with me, and I understand a lot more about where they’re coming from. Now I see that my job is to facilitate their learning. Reaching each and every student requires a lot of different approaches, and I’m more thoughtful about what I’m doing because every minute is precious.’

“Every minute is indeed precious, and I thank you for giving me a few of yours. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the conference.”

Emily Moss

Beyond the Final Performance: How to Build Transferable Knowledge and Skills

By Emily Moss

Emily Moss

It was the last class meeting of Wind Ensemble for the semester, and I asked my students to reflect on what we had learned throughout the year. Our final performance had been a success, but their answers to a handful of questions—asking about what pieces they found most enjoyable and challenging, what musical skills they felt that they had developed individually and as a group—would shed some light on how the year had really gone.

They wrote their answers down on a piece of paper and then shared out with the group. Some of their responses were predictable—others were surprising. Many felt their growth as musicians came steadily throughout the year, while some expressed excitement at how our more challenging repertoire forced them to “rise to the occasion” and perform at an unexpectedly high level. All of them referenced skills they developed, which will be built upon when we return in the fall.

As the academic year concludes, we hear a lot about year-end student performance and results. There are final exams, final grades, course completions, etc. But my students’ reflections provided an important reminder: while our final performance may have been stellar, something really to be proud of, what they achieved in terms of musical growth throughout the year is truly the most important outcome.

Like any educator, directing large ensembles at an academic institution comes with tough decisions about where and how to focus your teaching. There is rarely enough time in rehearsal to achieve all of the musical goals present in a particular set of repertoire, let alone to deepen and build upon our students’ musicianship and musical growth. With public performances looming, we often feel the pressure to focus on simply getting the music ready; we want the music to represent the best our students can bring to a performance.

But is a spectacular performance really our main goal? Obviously teaching our students and preparing for final performances are not mutually exclusive; they are not, however, inextricably linked.

How do we know that our students are learning anything in our large ensembles beyond the ability to perform specific repertoire? We are all familiar with this scenario: after an exemplary performance, rehearsal begins on a new piece that has similarities to a recently performed piece. Yet somehow, the musicians do not seem to recognize any of these similarities. It feels as if we are back at square one. Why don’t they remember what we did weeks ago?

Transfer: Applicable and Adaptable Knowledge and Skill

One reason is that learning specific repertoire does not necessarily involve learning how to think about how and why they are performing the repertoire in a specific way. In an exemplary performance, students demonstrate the ability to perform the music, but did they learn why they were asked to perform it that way?

Robert Duke, in his book Intelligent Music Teaching: Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction, describes a phenomenon in education called transfer. Essentially, transfer is when a learner is able to apply knowledge or skills in new and different circumstances.

This is arguably the most important outcome of teaching. Can your students take what they have learned and use it in the future in some meaningful way? When we pass out that new piece of music, we hope our students recognize the similarities and apply their knowledge and skills appropriately. The reality is this does not just happen automatically. “[T]ransfer is not reliably automatic; that is, learners who encounter novel situations do not always apply their knowledge and skills in ways that effectively solve problems and accomplish goals” (Duke, p. 141-142).

Facilitating the transfer of knowledge and skills during ensemble rehearsals goes beyond the traditional model of rehearsing. However, it can be done with a few simple changes to the way rehearsals are constructed.

How to Facilitate Transfer in a Rehearsal…or a Class

A quick and fairly simple practice involves structuring the rehearsal around one or two main skills. When students experience utilizing the same musical skill across several pieces or exercises, their focus is on skill acquisition more than the specific repertoire.

For example, if you want to focus an entire rehearsal around internal pulse (the consistent “feeling” of the beat throughout any music), you can use your warm-up exercises to introduce the concept and reinforce it during each new excerpt, providing opportunities to frame their thinking around internal pulse and draw connections between how it was used in the previous context and how it will be used in the new context.

Another way to help facilitate transfer in your rehearsal is by asking questions requiring students to think about why certain musical decisions are being made or how they can solve problems on their own. Instead of telling them to “fix the pitch there—you’re sharp,” you can ask a question: “What do you hear there? Is there something going on with the pitch?” Instead of: “Trumpets, you’re playing those eighth notes too long. Shorten them up,” you can ask: “Trumpets: what can you tell me about the style of a march? Why does the length of your eighth notes matter here?”

Many directors may think that telling students how to play or sing gets the ensemble performing better more quickly; taking the time to ask questions will make the rehearsal less efficient. This is true in the short term. But is saving time the main goal?

As with learning outcomes, once students begin transferring their performance knowledge and skills to future repertoire, the rehearsal time is gained back, and their music can be learned quickly and efficiently. Not to mention that if the main goal of the ensemble is to prepare students to be better musicians, the initial time is well spent.


Duke, R. A. (2005). Intelligent music teaching: Essays on the core principles of effective instruction. Austin, TX: Learning and Behavior Resources.


Emily Moss is an Associate Professor, the Director of Bands, and the Chair of the Department of Music at California State University, Los Angeles, where she directs the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting, and instructs in instrumental music education methods.

Dr. Moss is featured in ACUE’s modules: Planning an Effective Class Session, Helping Students Persist in Their Studies, Providing Clear Directions and Explanations, and Checking for Student Understanding.

What to read next: “Tap Dance Your Way Through ACUE: Connecting With Students in Nontraditional Classes” by Julie L. Pentz and “Improving Teaching Through Reflection” by Catherine Haras