ACUE Chief Academic Officer, Penny MacCormack, Ed.D., speaking to a crowd of faculty and administrators celebrating their commitment to their approach to faculty development.

ACUE’s Dynamic Approach to Faculty Development

ACUE's Dynamic Approach to Faculty Development

by Penny MacCormack, EdD

by Penny MacCormack, EdD

Chief Academic Officer, ACUE

Faculty development plays a pivotal role in empowering higher education instructors to excel in their teaching endeavors. The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) has recognized the unique challenges faced by instructors, who are experts in their subject matter but have had little and sometimes no formal preparation to teach.

With this in mind, ACUE’s approach to faculty development delivers two distinct offerings: Comprehensive Courses for Certification and Quick Study courses.

ACUE’s high-quality comprehensive certification courses provide a solid foundation in effective teaching, leading to the only nationally recognized certification in college-level instruction.

As for our new faculty development offering, ACUE’s Quick Study courses provide faculty with shorter, self-paced learning experiences that engage faculty in the new topics, practices, and innovative technologies impacting teaching and learning across higher education.

A college instructor demonstrating the benefits of a dynamic approach to faculty development by standing next to a student seated at a desk reviewing a notebook.

My goal here is to explain why ACUE has embraced both formats, and how together they offer faculty the varied types of learning they need to improve student outcomes and their teaching, while staying current regarding the new topics, practices, and innovations impacting the higher ed classroom and online courses.

The Power of Foundation: Comprehensive Courses for Certification

ACUE’s Comprehensive Courses for Certification serve as the bedrock of effective faculty development. These courses focus on the 25 essential topics outlined in ACUE’s Effective Teaching Practice Framework, endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE). They equip instructors with a full toolbox of evidence-based teaching practices in five key areas: 

The distinguishing features of the comprehensive certification courses include an emphasis on collaborative learning and a requirement to implement the evidence-based teaching practices in their own courses and reflect on the experience. Faculty embarking on this collective journey engage in rich discussions with their peers as they implement at least one practice per module. This format creates a supportive network of educators committed to excellence, while developing a solid foundation in higher education teaching and learning.

Faculty who become certified in ACUE’s Effective Teaching Practice Framework not only improve the learning experiences of students and their own well-being, but also help their institutions achieve key performance goals related to student success, including increased course completion rates, reduced DFW rates, improved grades, and higher retention rates.

The Quick Study Advantage: Flexibility and Timely Exploration

Recognizing the dynamic nature of education, ACUE recently introduced Quick Study courses to address emerging topics and technologies. These courses provide faculty members with condensed and flexible learning experiences that last approximately one hour. 

Quick Study courses allow instructors to delve into high-interest subjects at their own pace, leveraging interactive online activities, demonstrations, and expert commentary. For example, in the ever-evolving educational landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative force.

The AI Quick Study series ensures instructors gain the foundational knowledge and skills needed to efficiently utilize AI in support of teaching and learning, as well as help their students learn how to responsibly utilize AI to meet their learning needs and better prepare for their future.

These four brief, self-paced courses address how to effectively prompt AI, leverage AI in creating course resources, create both AI-inclusive and AI-resistant learning experiences, and, finally, empower students to responsibly use AI now and in their future.

ACUE will continue to work closely with our Board of Advisors and alumni to ensure that the topics we choose for Quick Study courses align seamlessly with the interests and concerns of faculty members and leaders across higher education. We plan to roll out additional courses focused on constructive conversations, critical thinking, and digital literacy this summer.

Balancing Depth and Agility: Choosing the Right Format

The choice between Comprehensive Courses for Certification and Quick Study courses boils down to the depth of engagement and the specific needs of faculty members. While comprehensive certification courses offer a full exploration of evidence-based teaching practices that provide a solid foundation, Quick Study courses cater to time-sensitive topics and provide flexibility in quickly learning a new teaching practice or emerging technology impacting higher education classrooms. Both options serve as valuable assets, ensuring that faculty members remain well-equipped and adaptable in the face of an ever-changing educational landscape.

ACUE’s commitment to faculty development through these two distinct formats reflects its dedication to meeting the evolving needs of instructors. By embracing this dynamic approach, ACUE empowers instructors to unlock their full potential, shaping the future of education through accessible, impactful, and forward-thinking professional development opportunities.

Exploring ACUE's Approach to Faculty Development

To learn more about ACUE’s approach to faculty development, visit

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Penny MacCormack, EdD, is ACUE's Chief Academic Officer. Learn more about her at

AAC&U Annual Meeting 2024 Photos

ACUE at the AAC&U 2024 Annual Meeting

Members of the ACUE team attended the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Annual Meeting on January 17-19 in Washington, DC. During this event, higher ed comes together across sectors and professional levels to shape and share solutions to common challenges. 

CIC Presidents Institute 2024 Photos

ACUE at the 2024 CIC Presidents Institute

On January 4-7, the ACUE team attended the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute held at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida. The event’s theme was “Under the Big Tent: Independent Higher Education in a Democratic Society,” where industry experts, presidents, and partners discussed and explored timely and relevant solutions to a variety of pressing issues.

ACUE and CIC partnered in late 2022 to create the network, “Belong: An Inclusive Learning Community,” which aims to equip faculty and staff at CIC member schools with evidence-based strategies. Network members can credential people via ACUE’s new offering “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” and access live webinars, engagement resources, and a like-minded community.

Instructor standing in front of a classroom of her students sitting in front of computers, talking about AI

AI Assignments: 10 Best Practices for Higher Ed Instructors

Unlocking Human-AI Potential

10 Best Practices for AI Assignments in Higher Ed

by Stephanie Speicher

by Stephanie Speicher

Digital Fluency Faculty in Residence - Weber State University

In the early days of December 2022, late one night, under the cover of darkness, I eagerly typed “ChatGPT” into my Google search bar. I nervously and excitedly entered the world of AI, similar to when I walked into a candy store as a child and was bombarded with colors, flavors, and treats to pique my curiosity. However, just like the choices I would make in a candy shop, jumping into the realm of AI required thoughtful consideration.

Whether you’re enthusiastic, wary, or, as Dr. Flower Darby puts it, an AI realist, as faculty, it’s crucial to navigate AI in education with mindfulness. AI can undoubtedly enhance efficiency and accuracy, yet it lacks the essence of human intelligence and personal interaction. As we explore the integration of AI into our teaching, we must ask ourselves pivotal questions and consider strategies that align with human-centered pedagogy.

1. Set Clear Learning Objectives for AI Assignments

Teacher leaning on a desk, surrounded by students in a dialogue about AI.

What strategies can you employ to communicate the learning objectives of AI assignments effectively, fostering a shared understanding among students and promoting engagement?

In the dynamic landscape of AI and education, a foundational step is to set crystal-clear learning objectives. Begin by delineating explicit learning outcomes and objectives for your AI assignments. What specific knowledge and skills do you want your students to acquire? The answer lies in the details of these objectives. This transparency provides a road map for students.

In a creative writing class, the learning objective is to introduce students to the possibilities of AI in enhancing storytelling. The clear objective is for students to explore and understand how AI tools can be used as creative partners in the storytelling process. The assignment involves creating a short story where students use AI-generated prompts or characters to add unique elements to their narratives. By setting this clear learning objective, you can guide students to appreciate the synergy between human creativity and AI assistance in storytelling.

Have students collaborate to define the learning objectives collectively; this will not only deepen their understanding but also build connections that mirror real-world collaboration.

2. Choose the Right AI Tool for the Job

Close image of a woman typing onto her keyboard.

How can you thoughtfully integrate a diverse array of AI tools into your curriculum, providing students with the tools needed to innovate, deepen their understanding of content, and generate new ideas?

The integration of AI tools into the educational landscape demands strategic decision-making. It’s not just about incorporating technology for the sake of it; it’s about selecting the right tool for the right purpose. As educators, our choices should align with the overarching goal of empowering students to innovate, comprehend content deeply, and spark creative ideas. When contemplating the integration of AI tools, consider the assignment’s complexity and purpose. For example, is the goal to enhance storytelling, generate visual art, or optimize code creation? Depending on the desired learning outcomes, select tools that resonate with the learning objectives. This thoughtful approach ensures that AI becomes a dynamic, purposeful component of the learning experience.

Introduce Adobe Firefly, an AI image-generation model, into a literature or art class. The objective is not only to showcase the capabilities of the tool but to explore creativity in visual storytelling. Students could use DALL-E to bring to life characters from literature or generate unique visual interpretations of a given theme. By aligning the tool with the curriculum’s learning outcomes, students not only engage with AI but also deepen their understanding of literature and art through a fresh lens.

To infuse authenticity into the AI learning experience, connect the concepts to real-world challenges. Foster a sense of purpose beyond the classroom by encouraging students to explore how the chosen AI tool can address broader societal issues. For instance, prompt discussions on how AI-generated art can be used to communicate complex ideas or evoke emotions on topics such as social justice or environmental sustainability. By grounding AI exploration in real-world relevance, students are not only learning about technology but are also contributing to meaningful conversations and solutions.

3. Encourage Experimentation and Play

How can you foster curiosity and ignite a spirit of innovation in AI assignments, turning the learning process into an exploration of creativity and play?

The landscape of AI offers a playground of possibilities, and as educators, our challenge is to turn assignments into avenues for experimentation and discovery. We can empower students to delve into the world of AI, sparking curiosity and encouraging a playful approach to learning. To achieve this, provide students with opportunities to explore and experiment with AI tools. This not only nurtures a sense of play but also opens doors to unexpected discoveries and innovative thinking. By allowing room for experimentation, we enable students to tap into their creativity and uncover unique applications of AI that extend beyond initial expectations.

Rather than confining students to a rigid assignment, encourage them to play with the tools, experimenting with language, genres, and prompts. The goal is not just to complete a task but to explore the nuances of AI in crafting narratives. This playfulness can spark creativity and a sense of ownership over their work.

To partner with students in their AI learning journey, guide them intentionally in using AI tools with creativity. Encourage thoughtful exploration rather than aimless experimentation. By providing guidance and framing the exploration within a learning context, you can ensure that students purposefully engage with AI. This partnership transforms the learning process into a collaborative venture, where both educators and students contribute to the discovery and application of AI in innovative ways.

4. Acknowledge and Teach Voice, Representation, Access, and Data Privacy

Male on a computer looking at an AI data privacy screen.

How can you cultivate a culture of ethical and responsible use of AI in your assignments, ensuring that students not only understand the technology but also its profound implications on voice, representation, access, and data privacy?

In the age of AI, understanding the ethical considerations surrounding its use is not just a prerequisite, it’s an imperative responsibility. As educators, our role goes beyond teaching the technical aspects of AI; we must instill in our students a deep awareness of the societal impact their creations may have. This best practice involves providing comprehensive background information on AI concepts while placing a strong emphasis on ethical considerations, including issues related to bias, privacy, and algorithmic fairness. To ensure the ethical and responsible use of AI, begin by offering a thorough understanding of its concepts. Place a spotlight on the ethical dimensions, discussing the potential biases that may emerge from data, the importance of privacy in AI-driven applications, and the broader implications of algorithmic decision-making on society.

Take, for instance, a class discussion that focuses on the impact of biased data on AI algorithms and its implications for society. By examining real-world cases where biased algorithms have perpetuated inequalities, students gain insight into the profound consequences of seemingly neutral technologies. This example serves as a gateway to exploring the ethical dimensions of AI in a tangible and relatable context.

To foster ethical use, extend the educational focus beyond the technical aspects. Cultivate digital citizenship skills by educating students on the broader societal impact of AI. Encourage critical thinking by prompting discussions on the ethical implications of AI technologies, emphasizing the importance of responsible decision-making.

5. Infuse Collaboration and Critical Thinking

Three college students sitting at a computer in a lab, pointing and smiling at an AI project on the screen.

What strategies can you employ to communicate the learning objectives of AI assignments effectively, fostering a shared understanding among students and promoting engagement?

Beyond technical proficiency, we should craft assignments that stimulate critical thinking, encourage collaboration, and inspire the generation of new ideas. Start by creating assignments that prompt students to evaluate the strengths and limitations of AI approaches, fostering a deeper understanding of the technology. This goes beyond surface-level comprehension, challenging students to engage in thoughtful analysis and consider the broader implications of their work.

Consider a scenario where students collaborate on a project to develop an AI-driven solution for a community issue. This could involve analyzing datasets related to local challenges, discussing ethical considerations, and collectively designing an application that addresses a real-world problem. This hands-on, collaborative approach not only sharpens technical skills but also encourages critical thinking and fosters a sense of collaboration.

Emphasize deep learning principles and the building of relationships among students. Provide opportunities for students to engage with information, synthesize it, and think critically about it, creating dynamic and enriching learning experiences. By fostering autonomy and creativity, educators empower students to generate their own ideas and content, transforming them from passive learners to active contributors in the learning process.

6. Personalized and Differentiated Learning

Male working on an AI project on a laptop, pausing before writing something down with a pari of headphones on.

In what ways can you create AI assignments that accommodate various learning styles, ensuring an inclusive and engaging experience for all students?

One of the powers of AI lies in its ability to adapt and differentiate content for students. Begin by recognizing the unique strengths and challenges present among students. Tailor AI assignments to accommodate this spectrum, providing resources and support that cater to both novices and those with advanced skills and knowledge. This approach ensures that every student can actively engage with the material and learning experiences.

Consider an AI assignment where students are given the freedom to choose different formats for their work. This might include options such as written reports, presentations, or creative projects. By allowing this flexibility, students can align the assignment with their strengths and preferences. Beginners might find comfort in written reports, while those with advanced skills can showcase their proficiency through more complex creative projects. This adaptable framework not only accommodates diverse skill levels but also nurtures a sense of ownership over the learning process.

Go beyond adaptation and embrace co-creation. Encourage students to be active co-creators of their educational experience, providing opportunities for them to shape the direction of their learning. By promoting autonomy and creativity, educators enable students to take ownership of their education, transforming the classroom into a collaborative space.

7. Integrate with the Existing Curriculum . . . and Start Small

Instructor standing in front of seven students, who are sitting around him in a half circle, as they talk about AI instruction.

How might you identify the low-hanging fruit within your curriculum, pinpointing areas where AI integration can be introduced gradually and effectively?

Embarking on the integration of AI into the curriculum is a transformative journey that necessitates a thoughtful and gradual approach. The key is to start small, with one assignment, one idea, in one course, during one semester. This deliberate approach allows you to gauge impact, fine-tune strategies, and gradually expand the integration of AI into your teaching repertoire. Begin by exploring ways to align AI assignments with course topics and learning objectives.

In a literature course, start small by introducing a single AI assignment focused on creative writing. Students could use AI-generated prompts or tools to explore new narrative styles or even co-create stories with AI assistance. This limited yet impactful integration not only emphasizes storytelling but also serves as a gateway for students to witness the potential of AI in a familiar writing context.

Consider incorporating a feedback loop within the “start small” approach. Create channels for open communication with students, gathering their insights and experiences as they engage with the AI assignment. This feedback loop not only provides valuable information for fine-tuning future implementations but also fosters a collaborative and supportive learning environment.

8. Balance Theory and Practical Application

Instructor standing in front of a classroom of her students sitting in front of computers, talking about AI

In what ways can assignments be designed to encourage students to analyze the strengths and limitations of AI approaches critically, fostering a comprehensive understanding that goes beyond theoretical knowledge?

The integration of theoretical knowledge and practical application is the cornerstone of preparing students for the dynamic opportunities that lie ahead. To achieve this balance, we need to go beyond traditional teaching methods, designing assignments that prompt critical thinking and foster a deep understanding of AI principles through hands-on experiences. Begin by weaving theoretical knowledge into hands-on applications, creating assignments that serve as bridges between abstract concepts and real-world scenarios. This dynamic approach not only enhances students’ theoretical understanding but also equips them with the skills needed to apply this knowledge in practical settings.

Incorporating Socratic Seminars into the curriculum, creating a space for deep learning and critical thinking about the ethical aspects of AI. This method encourages students to engage in thoughtful discussion, challenging each other’s perspectives and promoting a deeper understanding of the ethical considerations surrounding AI. By integrating this theoretical exploration with practical discussions, students not only grasp theoretical concepts but also develop the analytical skills needed to navigate the ethical dimensions of technology.

To enhance the human aspect within the AI learning experience, emphasize deep learning principles and the building of relationships among students. Foster collaborative and enriching learning experiences by incorporating group activities or discussions that prompt students to engage with AI from diverse perspectives. By creating a collaborative atmosphere, we reinforce theoretical principles and nurture a sense of community and shared exploration among students, enriching their learning journey.

9. Connect to Future Careers and Professional Opportunities

Student sitting in a window looking at something on his laptop.

How might AI assignments be framed to encourage students to envision the real-world applications of their skills, fostering a sense of purpose and relevance beyond the classroom?

The integration of AI into education goes beyond the classroom; it’s about preparing students for the challenges and opportunities they’ll encounter in their future careers. To achieve this, connect AI assignments to relevant course topics, learning objectives, and the broader landscape of industry applications. Begin by guiding students to leverage digital technologies in addressing genuine problems, mirroring the challenges they are likely to face in their future professional experiences. Emphasize that AI tools extend beyond the classroom, showcasing their utility in tackling real-world issues. Frame assignments around authentic problems to enhance engagement and practicality, demonstrating the immediate applicability of AI concepts.

Consider designing an assignment that requires students to apply AI in addressing a current industry challenge, such as optimizing supply chain processes using predictive analytics. By connecting AI concepts to real-world applications, students not only gain practical experience but also understand the transferability of these skills to their future careers.

Provide opportunities for students to share their career goals and expectations, fostering a sense of individuality. This allows us to tailor assignments to students’ unique career paths and create a supportive environment that values and respects each student’s professional goals.

10. Emphasize Human-AI Interaction

How can you guide students to view AI tools not as replacements for critical thinking and independent research but as creative partners, fostering collaborative learning and interdisciplinary perspectives in the process?

The integration of AI into education is an opportunity to emphasize the symbiotic relationship between humans and AI. Rather than relegating AI as a tool or resource, guide students to perceive AI as a creative partner, augmenting their capabilities and inspiring collaborative problem-solving. Encourage students to recognize that AI is not a substitute for critical thinking but a catalyst for it. Design assignments that create moments for collaboration. This approach enhances students’ ability to approach problems from different angles and mirrors the collaborative dynamics they are likely to encounter in professional settings.

Picture a marketing class in which the focus is on emphasizing the collaborative relationship between students and AI in crafting effective marketing campaigns. The objective is for students to leverage AI tools to enhance their marketing strategies rather than relying on them exclusively. Have students create a marketing campaign using AI-generated insights to refine their target audience, messaging, and content strategy. By framing the learning objective in this way, we can guide students to see AI as a valuable partner in the marketing process, amplifying their strategic thinking.

Facilitate open dialogue that explores students’ perceptions and concerns regarding the collaboration between humans and AI. Acknowledge the emotional and ethical dimensions of working with AI and create a space for students to express their thoughts. By incorporating their perspectives, we can co-create an environment that recognizes and respects the human side of the AI-human connection.

In conclusion, the potential of AI in education is vast, and as faculty, our responsibility is paramount in guiding students through this transformative journey. By aligning AI assignments with human-centered pedagogy, we not only prepare students for an AI-infused world but also enrich their skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and reflection. As we explore these strategies, let’s remain innovative, brave, and humble, recognizing that the integration of AI allows us to be more human, more connected, and more creative in our teaching practices. The key lies in continual exploration, fostering curiosity, and embracing the symbiotic relationship between humans and AI to create a future of possibilities we can only imagine.

About the Author

Author picture

Stephanie Speicher teaches courses that focus on instructional planning, assessment and curriculum theory. Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to work in a variety of educational settings from traditional schools as a social studies teacher to a backpacking/rock climbing instructor for Outward Bound and most recently as a public charter school principal. For over twenty years, she has assisted teachers, administrators and other educational professionals to enhance their teaching, leadership and collaborative skills. Specifically, her research interests include preservice teacher agency development, the implementation of learning communities in the classroom and the bridging of social justice ideology into experiential education methodology. Stephanie lives in North Ogden, Utah with her husband, 2 daughters and a growing flock of backyard chickens.

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Learn more about ACUE’s AI Series, which equips educators with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to efficiently utilize AI.


CCA Annual Convening December 2023 Photos

ACUE at the 2023 Complete College America Annual Convening

ACUE Co-Founder and President Jonathan Gyurko attended Complete College America’s Annual Convening on December 10-12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

CCA shared this was their most ambitious annual convening to date.

“We dived into the biggest opportunities and challenges in our field. We heard from trailblazers and iconoclasts at colleges across the country who inspired and equipped us for the work ahead.”

Fostering a Culture of Belonging: How Mutual Respect and Collaboration Led to Faculty Productivity and Student Success

Fostering a Culture of Belonging:

How Mutual Respect and Collaboration Led to Faculty Productivity and Student Success

Belonging is the feeling of connection, respect, acceptance, support, and inclusion that students or employees experience in their school or work environment (Arslan, 2021; Baumeister & Leary, 1995).

I was excited to cofacilitate the Fostering a Culture of Belonging (FCB) course after helping two faculty cohorts successfully complete ACUE’s Effective Teaching Practices course.

I knew that the course content would be relevant for all employees because the course addresses critical issues such as implicit bias, microaggression, imposter syndrome, and inclusivity, all which impact both student success and employee productivity and retention.  

Badge for the Fostering a Culture of Belonging course

Empowering Belonging Through Collaborative Initiatives

Now that the cohort has successfully completed the FCB course, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what I learned from the course material and from the biweekly cohort meetings.

Like others in the cohort, I have experienced bias, microaggressions, and inequitable treatment at various times during my 16-year tenure at the institution–experiences that left me feeling unappreciated and disconnected from colleagues. But I want to share an experience that embodies many of the research-based practices discussed in the FCB course on how to ensure colleagues feel seen, heard, and valued, thereby fostering a sense of belonging.

Three instructors posing for a photo standing in front of a pull-down projector screen.
Dr. Anita Polk-Conley (left), April Crenshaw (center), Harsh Patel (right)

My junior colleague, Assistant Professor Harsh Patel, had been considering a redesign of the introductory statistics course for several years.

Last year, Professor Patel shared his idea with my senior colleague, Dr. Anita Polk-Conley. She encouraged him to apply for a new grant that offered faculty the opportunity to complete a redesign using Open Educational Resources (OER).

The two colleagues decided to partner and requested information for completing the grant together. Once they received the grant information, Dr. Polk-Conley reached out to share the information with me. My two colleagues had both taught introductory statistics for many years.

They each had their own unique approach to instruction, and Dr. Polk-Conley had previous experience successfully writing grants. It is important to note that Dr. Polk-Conley and Professor Patel did not need me to join them on this journey, but they wanted me to be a part of their team.

I politely declined when Dr. Polk-Conley extended an invitation to join her and Professor Patel in their endeavor to redesign the introductory statistics course. I had previously served for many years as lead teacher for Calculus I and Calculus II, and I am presently serving as lead teacher for Precalculus I. Calculus was my favorite course both as an undergraduate and as an instructor, while statistics was my least favorite.

Moreover, I had not taught the course in 8 years and simply was not interested. But Dr. Polk-Conley gently insisted, assuring me that she and Professor Patel would do the “heavy lifting” with the statistics content. She wanted me to lend my expertise with inclusive course design, culturally relevant pedagogy, and inclusive teaching practices. Professor Patel echoed Dr. Polk-Conley’s sentiments. My two colleaguesone senior and one juniorinvited me to be a part of their team because they felt I had something valuable to offer.

Colleague Support that Fostered a Sense of Belonging

I accepted the offer under the condition that I would lead the course design. When they agreed, we submitted the grant and were approved to proceed with our Microsoft Excel-based redesign. Although I believed my statistical knowledge was not as strong as my colleagues, I was determined to make up for that perceived weakness in other ways.

So, I restudied statistics. I took an OER course, attended conferences, designed instructional presentations, created handouts, reached out to colleagues at other institutions, reviewed textbooks, combed through hundreds of MyOpenMath problems to generate a large pool for online homework and quizzes, gathered data sets for the final project, and worked tirelessly to help ensure this pilot would be successful. This is a real-life example of a familiar quote: “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.”

My colleagues’ invitation made me feel appreciated, valued, and respected, and I did not want to let them down.

Cultivating a Productive and Enriching Learning Environment Through Gratitude and Respect

Our students had the opportunity to learn statistics using real-world, culturally relevant data and research studies. They learned through individual reflection, in-class collaborative assignments, and homework and quizzes assigned using an online platform.

Furthermore, students worked in teams to research topics such as gun violence, obesity, student debt, affordable housing, and more, and then gave a presentation on their results. At the end of the semester, students reported an increase in their knowledge of statistics and proficiency with Excel. To celebrate the team’s success, Professor Patel treated Dr. Polk-Conley and me to lunch during final exam week.  

This experience led me to reflect on the importance of gratitude, respect, and appreciation in the workplace.

Three students sitting side by side at a table, smiling and looking at a laptop screen, fostering a sense of belongin

A recent Harvard Business Review article, “The Little Things That Make Employees Feel Appreciated,” suggests that when employees experience “gratitude” from their leaders, they are more productive. Additionally, teams tend to function more effectively when there is “respect and appreciation” amongst colleagues (Gibson et al., 2020). I share this experience to highlight how a supportive environment built on trust and mutual respect led to productivity within our team but, more importantly, led to a more enriching learning experience for our introductory statistics students. 

Course Redesign Strategies

Connecting this experience to the FCB course, I was able to identify the following strategies my colleagues unknowingly employed to create a sense of belonging for my course redesign: 

1. Get to know your

Having worked together for many years, my colleagues and I have engaged in countless conversations that have allowed us to build strong personal connections and trust within the team. 

2. View others through an
asset-based mindset

By getting to know me beyond a superficial level, my colleagues recognized my strengths and areas of growth. They invited me to collaborate with them in the redesign process, acknowledging my skills as an asset that could contribute to a successful pilot. 

3. Establish peer-to-peer support

Although I did not consider myself as strong a statistics instructor as my colleagues, they always reassured me of their support. We functioned as a cohesive unit. For instance, when I missed 2 days due to illness, they covered for me without hesitation to keep my students on track with that week’s lessons.  

This incredible experience has deepened my connection with my colleagues, boosted my confidence, and renewed my sense of belonging. I am sincerely grateful to them both.   

About the Author

April Crenshaw

April Crenshaw

April Crenshaw is a full-time Associate Professor of Mathematics at Chattanooga State Community College, where her interests include open pedagogical practices and improving student academic help-seeking. She is also a doctoral candidate in the Leadership and Learning in Organizations program at Vanderbilt University. She earned the Association of College and University Educators’ (ACUE) Effective Teaching Practice Framework certification in Fall 2021 and completed the Fostering a Culture of Belonging course in February 2023.

Photo of a faculty member sitting down for an interview.

The Three Cs of Faculty Well-Being: Connection, Culture, and Competence

“When we’re thinking about the definition of faculty well-being, that is really deeply connected to faculty members’ job satisfaction,” said ACUE’s Chief Data Officer Meghan Snow.

In the Faculty Well-Being and Engagement webinar hosted by the American Council on Education (ACE), Dr. Snow shared three primary contributors to job satisfaction:

  • Connection with colleagues, students, and administrators
  • Perceptions of climate and culture
  • Feelings of competence

Survey data show that faculty members who engage in ACUE’s courses feel more connected with their colleagues, are more enthusiastic about their teaching, and benefit from increased confidence in their ability to teach effectively.

View the clips below to hear from administrators and faculty about how engaging in ACUE’s courses has impacted their sense of job satisfaction and well-being on campus.




Did engaging in an ACUE course contribute to your sense of connection, perceptions of institutional culture, and teaching competence? We’d love to hear from you! 

Image of Paul LeBlanc speaking at his computer

Navigating the AI Frontier: Disruptions and Opportunities in Higher Education

Curious about the dual role of artificial intelligence as a disrupter and a beneficial tool in higher education? Discover insights from Dr. Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University, on the disruptive side of AI. Plus, explore practical GenAI applications for college instructors showcased by Dr. Rolando García, President of North Hennepin Community College.

For a more comprehensive exploration of the challenges and rewards AI brings to both higher education and the workforce, we invite you to view the full ACUE webinar, AI and Higher Education, Preparing Students for a New World of Work.

Hear from Dr. Paul LeBlanc

Hear from Dr. Rolando García

Ask Yourself: What challenges and benefits does the use of AI pose to higher education? How might you use AI in your work?

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.

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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.