Using Your Certification in ACUE’s Framework to Build Learning Communities

Using Your Certification in ACUE’s Framework to Build Learning Communities

Congratulations! You’ve successfully earned your certification in the ACUE Framework, a significant achievement that recognizes your dedication to your students and your craft as an educator. Obtaining a certification in the ACUE Framework is just the start of a never-ending commitment to teaching excellence and student success. Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you can set out to make every semester better than before, sharing your learnings and expertise with fellow faculty to create a more engaging, inclusive, and effective learning environment for the university as a whole. Follow these steps to help you expand your learnings beyond certification, and spark intrigue for fellow faculty who will leave inspired to follow your example and dedication toward student success.  

Reference Your ACUE Curriculum

Like a favorite book you keep coming back to, you’ll gain deeper insights every time you reference back to the ACUE curriculum. Delving back into the course content will allow you to pick up on concepts that you may have overlooked on the first go or may trigger an idea on how to adjust your lesson plan to meet the needs of a new student. ACUE’s comprehensive courses for certification, thoughtfully designed modules, and practical insights will serve as your invaluable compass, guiding you toward new heights of excellence in the classroom.

Piece of paper with a magnifying glass

One exceptional tool at your disposal is the “What’s Next Report” within the ACUE course. This insightful report, created from the “Notes to Future Self” you diligently compose as you implement new teaching practices and reflect on them, will act as a road map. Embrace the opportunity to leverage this guidance and return to your reflections and thought processes from your time in the course as you continue to refine your teaching practices and cultivate an environment that fosters student engagement and success.

Become a Leader

Earning your certification in the ACUE Framework not only signifies a momentous achievement but also exemplifies your unwavering dedication to continually enriching your teaching tool kit. It showcases your profound commitment to staying at the forefront of educational best practices, ensuring that you remain a dynamic and effective educator for the benefit of your students. By undertaking this journey, you have equipped yourself with an array of evidence-based teaching practices and innovative approaches that are tailored to meet the diverse learning needs of your students.

Lightbulb graphic with a book and pencil

In your quest for leadership and continued growth as an instructor, the possibilities are boundless. You might consider taking the initiative to organize workshops or training sessions, providing a platform for educators to delve deeper into the effective teaching methodologies you’ve discovered through ACUE.

As you embrace your role as a leader, mentor, and lifelong learner, your certification in the ACUE Framework becomes a springboard for professional excellence and an emblem of your commitment to student success. Embrace the opportunity to inspire and be inspired, to empower and be empowered, as you continue your growth as an instructor and shape the future of education, one collaborative step at a time. 

Share Best Practices

As mentioned in the previous step, take the opportunity to amplify the impact of your ACUE experience and elevate your leadership role within your institution by actively sharing your newfound knowledge and insights with your colleagues. Embrace the role of a mentor and advocate for effective teaching practices as you impart the wisdom gained from your journey. By generously sharing your favorite and most impactful ACUE practices with your fellow educators, you create a ripple effect of positive change that reverberates throughout your campus.

Monitor graphic with chat icons

Engaging in this knowledge-sharing endeavor not only fosters a supportive and collaborative teaching community but also catalyzes a transformative educational environment. As you candidly discuss your experiences, challenges, and triumphs, you inspire your colleagues to explore innovative teaching methods and embrace evidence-based teaching practices. Your willingness to open up about the strategies that have truly resonated with you empowers your peers to reflect on their own pedagogical practices and discover novel ways to enhance student engagement and success.

In the spirit of collaboration, collective growth, and the pursuit of academic excellence, your proactive efforts to share ACUE’s effective practices will lead to a more robust and dynamic educational ecosystem. The collaborative synergy created among educators through this knowledge-sharing process fosters a sense of camaraderie, where collective wisdom becomes a powerful force for positive change.

Organize Learning Moments

Some ACUE faculty have been sharing teaching practices with their department colleagues, encouraging them to take small risks in their teaching approaches. Others engage in informal conversations to discuss what works (and what doesn’t) in their classes. We’ve received feedback that keeping these presentations to one or two tips is ideal. We strongly encourage you to consider taking on these types of leadership moments to share, showcase, and expand your learning with colleagues, playing an integral role in building stronger teaching communities.

For instance, in 2021, the University of Toronto introduced a monthly Faculty ACUE Lunch and Learn Series. During this series, our faculty certified in the ACUE Framework stepped up to lead one-hour webinars, focusing on one core ACUE module implementation that had personally resonated with their own learning. This series invited participants to hear from certified instructors to explore and practice with real-life examples and tips that were informed by evidence-based strategies.

During these webinars, faculty extended their ACUE course learning and focused on innovative topics such as: “Adventures in (UN)Grading: How to Stop Counting and Engage More Deeply With Students and Their Work,” presented by Deborah Tihanyi, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Engineering Communication Program (ECP), Institute for Studies in Transdisciplinary Engineering Education and Practice (ISTEP), University of Toronto. Another topic explored was “My Journey to Incorporating Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Meaningfully into My Teaching,” presented by Toula Kourgiantakis, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.

The webinars garnered great interest, with an average of 40–50 instructors participating in each session. These events served as valuable spaces for hearing from faculty certified in the ACUE Framework who had taken “risks” in their teaching and were open to discussions about expanding one’s learning. The goal was to foster a supportive environment for instructors to stretch their teaching methods and embrace new approaches to enrich their educational practices.

So remember, obtaining a certification in the ACUE Framework is not the end of the journey but rather the beginning of an ongoing commitment to professional growth and excellence in teaching. As a passionate educator, you hold the key to unlocking endless opportunities for refining your instructional craft. Beyond the certification, the quest for continuous improvement requires an unyielding dedication to lifelong learning and a willingness to embrace new challenges. Stay connected with the ACUE community and draw inspiration from your fellow educators, sharing your experiences and insights to foster a collaborative and supportive environment.  

About the Authors

Dr. Cindy Blackwell

Dr. Cindy Blackwell

Dr. Blackwell is an Academic Director at ACUE. Cindy was a tenured associate professor at Oklahoma State University before moving to The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), where she earned ACUE’s certification in the Effective Teaching Practice Framework in 2017. She also served as a facilitator for USM ACUE cohorts and as the associate director for the Center for Faculty Development at USM. Blackwell’s solid focus on students and student learning led her to be honored with USM’s University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019.

Cora McCloy, PhD

Cora McCloy, PhD

Cora is a Faculty Liaison Coordinator at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI), University of Toronto. Cora coordinates Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) programming at the CTSI alongside supporting instructors across the university in a wide range of teaching topics: teaching dossiers, SoTL, course design, observations of teaching, and teaching award files. She also co-facilitates more intensive cohort programming, including with ACUE.

From Classroom to Dossier: How to Document Your ACUE Experience and Showcase Your Commitment to Student Success

From Classroom to Dossier:

How to Document Your ACUE Experience and Showcase Your Commitment to Student Success

You completed the ACUE course to discover new ways to engage your students and foster their success, but sitting down and documenting this in your dossier can be an intimidating challenge. ACUE’s certifications, pathways, and courses are rigorous and impactful, so it’s crucial to include your ACUE experience in your dossier. This way, you can show evidence of your ongoing commitment to effective teaching through implementation activities and thoughtful reflections on your efforts.

Whether you’re teaching or on a tenure stream, it’s vital to showcase how your investment is benefiting both you and your students.

 Below are a few tips to help you best integrate your ACUE experience into your dossier. 

Start Early 

When it comes to creating your dossier, whether you’re a new teacher or a veteran with years of experience, starting early is crucial. The more years you’ve been teaching, the harder it becomes to track and showcase your growth in the annual dossier. However, if you’ve been teaching for a while, your ACUE experience will be a great asset. It’ll add a fresh touch to your dossier, incorporating numerous and rich implementation experiences throughout your document. 

Develop Core Themes 

To make your dossier shine, consider using your institution’s guidelines and any relevant professional or accreditation standards. These will help you identify key themes that you can carry throughout the dossier. These themes might revolve around highlights from the past year, current events in your field, your institution’s strategic plan, or the goals you set previously.

Any of these themes can showcase your quality teaching, and this is where your ACUE experience comes in. Let’s say your theme is aligned with your institution’s strategic plan. In that case, you can demonstrate how you’ve provided students with opportunities for authentic assessments and learning that connect to the outcomes you gained from your ACUE experience.

To strengthen this connection, you can include formative teaching artifacts such as exit tickets, student achievement data, assignment examples, and concept maps. By doing so, you’ll create a powerful and compelling dossier that showcases your teaching prowess and dedication to your students’ success.

Harness the Power of ACUE Artifacts 

Between the Notes to Future Self feature in the ACUE course, discussion posts throughout the course, and course design artifacts, you have a treasure trove of information to pull from to tell your teaching story. Take a moment to look back at the evidence-based teaching practices you implemented through ACUE and their impact on both you and your students. It’s powerful to document where you saw the greatest growth, either in yourself or your students. Reflection is a valuable learning tool, one that faculty should use more often for themselves and their students.

As you complete the ACUE Notes to Future Self, keep your dossier in mind. Consider how you’ll refine the practices you’ve implemented in future courses and what additional practices you’d like to try out. These future teaching goals will guide your plans for the next year. Don’t forget to articulate these goals and identify professional development opportunities available at your institution’s teaching center to help you achieve them. By connecting your ACUE experience with campus resources, you can boost your development even further.

Last, don’t overlook the importance of documenting the process you used to develop or update your course design. Show that your courses are intentional, well-designed, and purpose driven. This will not only benefit you but also the accreditation processes. Demonstrate how your courses are connected to your research and service, highlighting your dedication to course design and its impact on your students’ success.

Tell a Story 

Completing the narrative part of your dossier can be a challenge for faculty, but it’s also the part that ties everything together and helps you make a strong case for advancement, regardless of your career level. To make it easier, focus on developing up to three core points about your teaching approach and how it impacts student learning. Keep your storytelling focused and use helpful subheadings to guide your writing, ensuring you emphasize your teaching and cover all the required criteria.

To breathe life into your points, use evidence and artifacts as supporting material. Your ACUE reflections can be a valuable resource to draw upon for this purpose. With a clear approach and well-supported evidence, your narrative will become a compelling and persuasive part of your dossier.

Think Ahead to Next Year’s Dossier 

To get ready for your future teaching and upcoming dossier submissions, you have some great tools at your disposal.

First, take a look at your Notes to Future Self or review the refinement plans from your ACUE reflections. This will help you plan adjustments to the teaching practices you’ve already implemented.

Additionally, don’t forget to revisit the ACUE course content to discover even more teaching practices and to reinforce the things you’re already doing well.

By tapping into the power of your reflections, you can keep evolving your teaching methods and ensure continuous growth. This will provide you with valuable material to include in next year’s dossier, showcasing your dedication to improvement and the progress you’ve made. 

Sample Artifacts

Here are some sample artifacts and ideas to consider including as you prepare your dossier. The below list was developed by the University of Toronto ACUE facilitation team, Documenting Your ACUE Course:

  • Narrative/reflection on overall learning in ACUE
  • Acceptance email/description of the ACUE course
  • Personal goals for ACUE
  • Reflections from specific module(s) or all modules
  • Revised course syllabi, lesson plans, or other course materials
  • Partner or group activities carried out in workshop/webinar sessions
  • Sharing ACUE course knowledge and skills with others (e.g., workshop, online community, faculty meeting, mentoring, published paper, etc.)  
  • Encouragement of specific practices from the ACUE course in your department   
  • Use of course evaluations/mid-course feedback to inform and enhance teaching  
  • Other: What’s Next Report (Notes to Future Self in this)

If you’re looking for additional resources for dossier development, check out the University of Toronto, Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation or the University of Calgary, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

ACUE Dossiers in Action



Discover how two University of Toronto professors successfully implemented ACUE’s evidence-based teaching practices in their courses.  

Rafael Chiuzi, PhD

Rafael Chiuzi, PhD

Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream

Elham Marzi, PhD

Elham Marzi, PhD

Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Institute for Studies in Transdisciplinary Engineering Education & Practice, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering

The Department of Management, Institute for Management and Innovation, and faculty certified in ACUE’s Framework used ACUE’s course design modules to rewrite their learning outcomes. Rafael focused on his MGT262 course to also design and implement a course roadmap. In addition, he strengthened his course design by using other teaching practices, such as refining how he “chunked” content for his MGT262, MGT363, and MGM 464 courses, as well as utilizing better discussion board approaches.

Because of Rafael’s deep dive into his intentional course changes and how he documented those changes for his dossier, he was invited to share his dossier preparation process at a University of Toronto ACUE cohort webinar to discuss ways to document the ACUE experience. Faculty shared their appreciation of Rafael’s tips to integrate ACUE implementation activities and reflections into their dossier.

The ACUE course provided several different techniques we reviewed and implemented. Of the techniques, I selected three actionable items: (1) Maximizing the use of the first 20 minutes; (2) Providing a road map for each lecture; (3) Timing active learning exercises appropriately. I selected these items, as I had identified issues such as: 


 
  1. Observing that some students were drifting off in the middle of long three-hour lectures when we started to get into theory and content after the review and active learning exercises were complete. 


  2. Using a class-sourcing review exercise at the start of class always consumed about 20–25 minutes of class time, despite only needing 5 minutes.  


  3. There were challenges covering content and keeping students engaged. I usually had to play it by ear to an extent to see how much each class of students could manage for each week’s class. Given our three-hour nighttime class, it was challenging for students to be engaged until the end. I tried to break activities into a modular approach and give active learning exercises and reflections to support a variety of learning approaches.  
Using the material from ACUE’s course, I made some modifications. I found that students needed a modular approach as well as a break or two.
 
Harnessing the techniques taught in this course, I worked toward using class time more effectively.
 
First, I moved the class-sourcing review exercise toward the last part of the class. This meant that students reviewed the lecture after it was completed individually (via summary statements) and in groups (via the class-sourcing challenges questions). The class-sourcing review exercise questions had always been at the start of the next week, but after the change, I regained that precious attention-filled time to cover theory and content.
 
The timing adjustment to the end of class allowed students to formulate questions they needed to ask me about the week’s topic and gave me the opportunity to resolve any questions sooner while the material was still fresh.  


 
The modifications also allowed me to better use the valuable time at the start of class. This time was used to discuss what each of the learning outcomes were for the week, why they were important, and how they fit into the bigger picture of the course.
 
This was done in an engaging manner by using some thought-provoking questions, problems, or challenges. The more relevant the issues to the students, the better received and retained the content.  
 
Using active learning at the start of class was not helping balance the students’ energy and attentional resources with which they could connect and engage. I continued to utilize multiple active learning methods, inclusive of group/pair—shares, worksheets, and exercises (among other things). I found, however, that using the method in the middle of class was more effective and well received.
 
For example, when I moved the social identity exercise from the start of the lecture to the second hour, I found students had more responses to share and better understood the concept. Instead, I posed the question that started the activity off at the beginning of class, and after we had discussed about 50% of the content and they returned from a five-minute break, we then engaged in the exercise. I could see that it was easier for the students to get to the activity and complete the associated worksheet on social identity than it had been in past terms when we just jumped into content.

About the Authors

Dr. Cindy Blackwell

Dr. Cindy Blackwell

Dr. Blackwell is an Academic Director at ACUE. Cindy was a tenured associate professor at Oklahoma State University before moving to The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), where she earned ACUE’s certification in the Effective Teaching Practice Framework in 2017. She also served as a facilitator for USM ACUE cohorts and as the associate director for the Center for Faculty Development at USM. Blackwell’s solid focus on students and student learning led her to be honored with USM’s University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019.

Cora McCloy, PhD

Cora McCloy, PhD

Cora is a Faculty Liaison Coordinator at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI), University of Toronto. Cora coordinates Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) programming at the CTSI alongside supporting instructors across the university in a wide range of teaching topics: teaching dossiers, SoTL, course design, observations of teaching, and teaching award files. She also co-facilitates more intensive cohort programming, including with ACUE.