Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning: Why Community Colleges Invest in Faculty Professional Development with ACUE
Community colleges remain a critical component of the higher education system—providing pathways to education and the workforce for millions of learners. As of the fall of 2021, there were approximately 5.3 million students enrolled in U.S. community colleges, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), representing nearly 27% of all undergraduate enrollment in the country. As enrollment trends vary regionally and are influenced by a variety of factors, community colleges face a number of unique challenges, from funding to changing student demographics and needs to retention. While these challenges can be daunting, there are several strategies and resources—provided by ACUE—that community colleges can employ to address them and ensure that they continue to provide high-quality education and training to their students.
Addressing diverse student populations
While institutions continue to strategize on how to deliver accessible and equitable learning experiences to the range of students within higher education, community colleges have long been revered for their commitment to affordable tuition, accessible programming, and ability to serve students from vastly different backgrounds. As community college faculty and leaders continue to refine their approach to delivering on these values, many have turned to ACUE.
Built into the ACUE offerings, courses, workshops, strategies, and teaching frameworks is an understanding—and application—of inclusive, equitable teaching practices that span across all aspects of a faculty member’s interactions with learners. By taking into consideration the full (and complex) student and academic lifecycle, ACUE is helping community colleges across the country accelerate their student success and equity goals. For instance, at the City College of San Francisco, ACUE Certified faculty member Dr. Tracy Burt, EdM, has been able to make inclusive, accepting environments for her students.
“Professor Burt really helped me understand that everyone’s opinion matters,” said her student. “By sharing our experiences, I feel like I know my classmates better, and they know me better in a way too.
With ACUE, faculty are empowered to intentionally create a learning environment and equity-centered courses that welcome, encourage, and support all students right away.
Building faculty and student confidence
Educator confidence plays a critical role in creating a positive and effective learning environment. When faculty feel confident in their abilities, they can inspire and motivate their students to achieve their full potential. ACUE’s Effective Teaching Practices framework instills confidence in educators by preparing them to effectively design a learner-centered course, establish a productive learning environment, use active learning strategies, promote higher order thinking, and promote learning success with formative and summative assessment.
ACUE-trained faculty have witnessed the impact of these practices in real time and even have recorded how their confidence has impacted overall student success. Take, for instance, Miami Dade College.
“Because of the ACUE course, when I walk into the classroom, I feel more confident, more prepared. I know exactly the goals that I want to reach for that day,” said Associate Professor José A. Donis.
Across 100 courses taught by ACUE Certified faculty—with an enrollment of 6,100 students—student GPAs improved by 0.19, surpassing 3.0.
Reducing DFW rates
A large percentage of community college students are often at risk for stopping out or dropping out of their academic programs. To combat this challenge and help students overcome the compounding barriers that may contribute to degree incompletion, many colleges also use ACUE programs to help faculty members develop teaching practices that directly address DFW rates.
“We have faculty who are ACUE trained. And we actually assess and see that these students are learning, they are engaged, they are moving on to their next class. We can see through the efficacy data that this is really working,” reflected Jeffrey Nasse, PhD, College Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Broward College.
As exemplified by a number of ACUE community college partners, faculty who earn an ACUE credential teach effectively online or in person—and in a way, that motivates all students to stay enrolled and succeed.
Community college faculty sentiments
The direct correlation between faculty professional development, student success and retention
There is a strong correlation between faculty professional development and student success in community colleges. Professional development activities such as research-based courses, microcredentials, certification programs, and workshops help faculty members stay current with new teaching methodologies and technologies, which can in turn improve the quality of instruction they provide to students. In fact, field studies and ACUE research have shown that when faculty engage in ongoing professional development, students tend to perform better academically and are more likely to persist in their studies.
From Florida to California, ACUE is enabling community college instructors and institutions to effectively address some of their pressing challenges. ACUE partners can point to measurable student outcomes attributed to educator professional development: higher student retention, lower DFW rates, and closed equity gaps.
As Dr. Grant Goold, Visiting CTE Faculty at California Community Colleges states, “ACUE invests in faculty to provide them with additional tools that they can use to directly impact the success of their students.”
Interested in learning more?
In this discussion, community college leaders will explore how faculty development informs, supports, and reifies successful student retention strategies. Featured panelists include Dr. Laura Ortiz, Dean for Faculty Development and Engagement at Waubonsee Community College; Anastasia L. Urtz, JD, Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs at Onondaga Community College; and Kate Smith from Rio Salado College.
From Florida to California, ACUE is enabling community college instructors and institutions to effectively address some of their pressing challenges. ACUE partners can point to measurable student outcomes attributed to educator professional development: higher student retention, lower DFW rates, and closed equity gaps. As Dr. Grant Goold, Visiting CTE Faculty at California Community Colleges states, “ACUE invests in faculty to provide them with additional tools that they can use to directly impact the success of their students.”