Housatonic Spearheads CSCU Student Success Initiative Through ACUE

[This news release originally appeared on Housatonic Community College’s news site and is being published here with permission]

Commencement Day for Housatonic Community College is around the corner, but students aren’t the only academics to earn distinction.

This month, HCC faculty earned a first-of-its-kind Certificate in Effective College Instruction, a nationally recognized credential endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE). They are among the first educators across The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system to complete the program, which includes participation in a comprehensive pedagogical training course offered through ACUE.

“Our exceptional faculty and staff embrace any opportunity to ensure HCC students acquire the skills and knowledge they need in the workplace and as lifelong learners,” said Michael B. Brown, academic dean at Housatonic Community College. “I commend their enthusiastic participation in ACUE’s program, which once again demonstrates their deep commitment to student success.”

HCC is one of four state institutions that piloted ACUE’s Course in Effective Teaching Practices this semester as part of CSCU’s system-wide initiative to promote student success through instructional excellence. CSCU’s initiative to scale effective instruction for all 85,000 of the system’s students is based on decades of research that show evidence-based teaching practices help students engage in their studies, learn more, and graduate.

The program brought together HCC faculty across a range of disciplines, from engineering, to journalism, to psychology. The cohort of faculty not only learned about research-based instructional practices; they also worked together to implement the practices in the classroom, which faculty said immediately impacted student learning and engagement.

Laura Turiano, an assistant professor of psychology and course participant, said she implemented a “jigsaw” technique to create a more active learning environment in her class. Not only were students more engaged during the lessons, but they also performed better on assessments.

“It was amazing! The classroom was abuzz with lively discussions and you could really feel that vibe in the classroom,” said Turiano, a recipient of the CSCU Board of Regents 2017 Teaching Award. “Their mini-presentations were comprehensive and informative and they performed better on this chapter quiz as a result compared to students in the course last semester.”

To earn a Certificate, faculty completed over two dozen modules across five major units of study aligned to ACUE’s Effective Practice Framework. The Course addresses over 200 evidence-based practices on topics including syllabus design, student motivation and persistence, active learning techniques, higher order thinking, and the effective use of assessments.

“As the facilitator for the course and the college faculty development coordinator, I was excited to see faculty not only trying new strategies but also engaging in meaningful discussions about their classroom successes and challenges,” said Steve Mark, professor of English and director of the Center for Teaching at Housatonic Community College. “This was true for both our newer teachers and the more seasoned professors. These conversations spilled out of the online course and into our interactions on campus, helping to support ongoing professional development through our Center for Teaching and our commitment to making good teachers great.”

Video: Students Become the Experts at Housatonic Community College

Professor Laura Turiano knew she needed to try something different.

Turiano and the students in her human services class at Housatonic Community College (HCC) were about to begin a unit on social welfare programs. In past semesters, the unit left many students overwhelmed with the amount of information they needed to retain.

“I used to stand up in front of the classroom and lecture about all these programs,” Turiano recalled in an interview on campus this month.

This spring, Turiano decided to “make students the experts.” Applying a jigsaw exercise she learned from ACUE’s Using Active Learning Techniques unit, Turiano broke students into small groups and assigned each group a social welfare program to research and present to their peers in class.

“The classroom was alive,” said Turiano. “It became this lively discussion with the students recording all of this information. There was this voracious quest for knowledge.”

Turiano is among the founding faculty cohort at HCC to earn a Certificate in Effective College Instruction. Click here to learn more about ACUE’s partnership with HCC and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

Watch the full interview with Turiano below:

For Loretta Lloyd-Ebron, one of Turiano’s students, the approach was “totally different” from what she was used to in her other classes.

“It was amazing,” said Lloyd-Ebron. “The classroom changed. We were talking, discussing, writing, piggybacking off of each other. It was a really great experience.”