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.  

Picture of Rafael Chiuzi, PhD

Rafael Chiuzi, PhD

Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream

Picture of 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

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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.

Picture of 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.

Changing Minds… It Starts With Better Teaching

Picture of by Jonathan Gyurko

by Jonathan Gyurko

President and Co-Founder, ACUE

I hate working out. I mean, hate. It makes me sore. And slimy. It releases toxins, you say? I say let ticking time bombs tick. Coaches and trainers? I’m too anti-authoritarian to give anybody “another ten.” As for “fun” with a “group”? Spare me. Whatever happened to “Never let them see you sweat”?

Oh, I read headlines. I won’t get cancer or heart disease if I run for only two minutes a day, no matter my eating habits. With 4,000 steps a day, I won’t die, of any cause. Of course, I should exercise. But no amount of knowledge changed my attitude. As I tell my doctor, “vigorous yardwork” should count.

Of late, though, I’ve overcome this fixed thinking thanks to a guilty pleasure: EDM. That’s right—electronic dance music. Spotify’s Cardio mix is fire. Becky Hill’s “Run,” Swedish House Mafia’s “Heaven Takes You Home,” Jax Jones’s “Where Did You Go,” Wuki’s remix of “Edge of Seventeen,” and yes, Ava Max’s “Choose Your Fighter” from the Barbie movie. Need I go on?

Such musical “taste” is decidedly not shared by my family when we’re in the car, the house, or just about anywhere. And that’s when I realized: exercise can be my private little dance party. Earbuds in, volume up, and baseball cap pulled low, I head to the gym and “spin” for eight or ten songs. Maybe tomorrow for twelve or thirteen. After all, Lizwi and Fine did just drop “The Light” (extended).

Oh, it’s not for my health. It’s for the beat. Yet the chance to indulge a little, counted in 3- to 5-minute remixes, started to change my mind. Maybe exercise isn’t all that bad. I could keep doing this. In fact, maybe I will keep doing this.

And so it goes in education. Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth changed how we think about teaching and learning. Absent a “growth mindset,” we’re unlikely to learn as much as we might. But as with so much of ed reform, “mindset” became a silver bullet. There are Ted talks and professional development about mindset, telling us to change our mind about our students and their academic abilities. It’s about as effective as saying, “exercise is important,” and assumes we need to first change our beliefs before we change our behavior.

But the research on behavioral change suggests otherwise. Doing something different, particularly modest little things that don’t directly challenge our belief systems, starts to change how we think about things. It leads to more and more change of both behavior and mindset, in a virtuous cycle. In as much as we want to think of ourselves—PhDs no less!—as rational, linear, and moved by the evidence—we’re, uh, human, too. The pragmatists remind us: we hold the beliefs we do because of their “cash value”—they work for us, giving little incentive to change. By comparison, a dynamic, iterative model of change, focused on more incremental behaviors, is more likely to yield long-term cognitive change, too.

The findings of a new and major study by ACUE show just that. Thanks to generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ACUE and ten colleges and universities nationwide conducted one of the most ambitious studies of the relationship between comprehensive professional development and changes in faculty self-efficacy and mindset. Institutions hailed from every part of the country and included community colleges, an HBCU, large public baccalaureates, and two flagships.

 

The study focused on faculty who teach “gateway” courses, with data collected from over 570 faculty who participated in ACUE’s comprehensive courses in the Effective Teaching Practice Framework, as well as more than 1,000 faculty not yet certified. Over the course of two years, faculty were surveyed four times. The surveys included mindset items originally developed by Dweck. Students enrolled in a gateway course taught by the ACUE faculty were also surveyed.

Analysis was conducted by ACUE’s team of PhD social psychologists and education analysts, using a linear multi-level model within a longitudinal framework and paired t-tests. Helpful suggestions were provided by Gates’s researchers and external advisors. Plus, ACUE’s student survey, which has been refined over four years and shown to be free of bias, was reviewed by none other than Nobel laureate and champion of student feedback for improved teaching, Carl Wieman.

The results were conclusive, positive, and statistically significant. ACUE faculty reported large increases in their sense of self-efficacy, meaning their belief in their ability to teach well and help students learn more deeply (Effect Size = 0.88).*An even larger change was found in their confidence using evidence-based teaching practices (ES = 0. 97). Faculty also reported smaller, but still positive changes in their mindset about their ability to impact student learning and their students’ ability to learn (ES = 0.50), with impressive subscale findings about their teaching improvement behaviors (ES = 0.62).

Plus, student surveys administered by ACUE faculty indicated that, over the course of a semester, students perceived an increase in their own growth mindset and academic self-efficacy, including both communication and executive functioning, or “self-monitoring,” skills. Differences were as large as a half-point or more on a five-point Likert scale. Analyzed data came from nearly 3,000 student surveys that also provide faculty with actionable feedback on their teaching.

The research is also great news for students. Rather than a linear model of change—in which faculty are first taught about mindset before getting high-quality professional learning experiences on how to improve their teaching, these findings imply that we change our minds and behaviors in tandem. Meaning: students need not wait to experience better teaching from their professors, and institutions should not delay in providing faculty and staff the upskilling support that many seek.

The big takeaway of the study, consistent with the sizeable literature on cognitive and behavioral change, is like my mindset about exercise. To strengthen higher education’s mindset about our ability to impact student learning, start by changing how we teach, in small ways that have an immediate impact on what we do and how we think. That’s a beat I can spin to.

*An Effect Size of .2 or smaller is typically considered to be a “small” effect, around .5 a “medium” effect, and .8 or greater a “large” effect. See “Effect Size.”

Podcast cover photo of a woman standing outside with a tree in the background

Starting the Semester Strong: Implementing Syllabus Activities to Engage Your Students

What strategies might you consider to engage your students in actively using your syllabus? On Episode 56 of the Note Doctors podcast, Dr. Amy Hatch, an Assistant Professor of Instruction in Music Theory from The University of Texas at Arlington who is certified in ACUE’s Framework, shares the impact of implementing the syllabus reconnaissance activity with her students. Listen to the episode and then access our resource below for guidance on how to use a syllabus reconnaissance or scavenger hunt in your course.

Listen to this episode of the Note Doctors podcast on YouTube:  Episode 56: Amy Hatch

Highlights:

Implementation resource:  ACUE Downloadable

Ask Yourself: How has your use of a syllabus activity impacted students’ understanding of your expectations and engagement in your course?

Woman sitting in an office at her desk wearing a suit jacket

Content Refresher: Liquid Syllabus

Your course syllabus serves as a roadmap for the entire course and outlines expectations, assignments, readings, and due dates.

One way to ensure that students have easy access to this important tool is by creating a liquid syllabus, which is a web-based version that can serve as a “one-stop shop” for course information, incorporate engaging visuals, and include a friendly welcome video to ensure your students feel welcomed and supported from the start.

Hear from Dr. Michelle Pacansky-Brock about steps you can take to create your own liquid syllabus and the benefits of doing so.

Where to Start

Develop Your Homepage

Explore the Benefits

We invite you to access Dr. Pacansky-Brock’s example of her own liquid syllabus, and then visit her open-access resource to create your own.

Ask Yourself: What are the three most important components I want to include on the homepage of my liquid syllabus?

Creating a Classroom Legacy: How College Professors Can Garner Phenomenal Student Reviews

One of the first life-altering and costly decisions a student is faced with is the choice to pursue higher education after high school.

While going to college is often a rewarding experience in the end, it challenges incoming first-year students with many trials they may have never faced before, fostering moments of exceptional growth and self-reflection along the way.

College professors are pivotal in shaping that critical first impression of college for many.

They can not only cultivate an environment of comfort and acceptance for newcomers, but they are tasked with shaping the minds of the next generation: a generation who will invent what they deem to be a better version of society.

As a student who finished her first year of college this past spring, I have thought extensively about what qualities make the perfect professor. I have pondered what I want to see more of through my college career and what I hope the graduating classes who come after me will get to experience for themselves.  

Through this contemplation, my mission is to compile multiple real-world examples of positive and negative qualities or experiences that I or other college students have recounted—providing valuable feedback for professors looking to better the course experience for their students.

Connecting with Your Students

While having expertise in your subject field is an essential factor, this means little when a professor cannot keep a stable attendance in their classroom.

I found that the classes with the most consistent attendance always aligned with the most personable professor who made efforts to form a connection with the class.

When I asked a friend about her own positive experience with a college professor, she shared with me an inspiring encounter:

“Keep in mind, this class was at 8 a.m., but I still went to every single class because he made it really engaging.”

Bringing a welcoming, relaxed, fun spirit into a classroom makes a world of a difference, and that energy means so much to students who may feel stiff and isolated.

In smaller, discussion-based classes, we want to feel like our professors have a presence in the room. Class discussions with no commentary from the professor typically don’t resonate well.

It may be hard to find a voice in a room full of strangers, so opening the floor by making students feel like their opinion matters is of utmost importance.

One student mentioned to me that her professor would use the first 10 minutes of class for students to openly discuss current events or even simply ask how their day has been going so far.

This time alleviated her nerves for the actual discussion, improving her performance and confidence when making points related to the lesson. Do not be afraid to allot time for casual conversation; eventually, it will translate to increased discussion engagement when it counts.

Not many of my professors knew me by name, but I wish they had taken more time to learn. There was a teacher’s assistant—not even the professor himself—in a fall semester class of mine who knew every student in his teaching group by name.

When I’d raise my hand, he was the only educator I can recall who could look at my face and know who I was. I was not just another student to him.

I had a face, a name, and it was clear that he cared much more about my thoughts, opinions, and voice just from that one detail.

Learning your students’ faces and names may feel like an extra burden, but it makes a significant difference to many.

As a student who moved to college with no hometown friends, hearing my name in the first semester was a glimmer of hope I had not realized I needed. That TA who knew me by name remains so memorable, despite being someone who I only saw once a week. It may seem like a small, meaningless token, but you have the chance to make people like me feel seen and known for possibly the first time since moving from home.

Listening and Adjusting to Student Needs

As for larger lecture halls, this level of closeness may be less practical, but there are still methods of forming a positive relationship with students in this setting. One of my spring semester professors used a tactic I’ve seen done many times, but never successfully like this.

Halfway through the semester, we were given an open-ended prompt asking what our professor could do to improve the class for us specifically —not for future classes, not for himself, but for us. After submitting our recommendations, we came into class the next day with all our responses projected onto a large screen. He went through our suggestions one by one and actively changed things accordingly.

I’ll provide an example for context:

In the first half of the semester, he projected a large wheel onto the screen that would randomly call on a specific table to answer a question regardless of whether they knew the answer.

Students suggested that he eliminate this method and rely on volunteer participation instead. 

His willingness to listen to suggestions and come to meaningful compromises genuinely shocked and impressed us. We felt like our voices were being heard.

He promised us that if enough participation was given, he would never use the wheel again after receiving feedback that it gave many students anxiety to come to his class.

Many of my past educators have used this tactic at the end of the year, asking what can be done to improve the course for future students. The fact that our professor cared enough to allow us to experience our own improvement recommendations by asking for them in the middle of the course was so refreshing. In a lecture hall with hundreds of people, it is unlikely that every student’s needs will be vocalized; however, asking for anonymous feedback allows you to recognize patterns in your students’ concerns, so important changes that work in everyone’s favor can be made.

Boosting Classroom Engagement

I noticed that staying focused in my larger, lecture-based classes was much more challenging than my smaller, discussion-based classes.

A helpful tool I saw my professors in lecture halls use was throwing personal anecdotes into the lessons to keep things interesting.

Speaking in a monotone voice about the same subject for an hour is bound to create disinterest over time. Instead, a fall semester professor I had would tell us the occasional story or joke about her life or her experience in the workforce. They served as providing meaningful context to the lesson, but also drew students back into her words.

Projecting videos was also helpful in maintaining interest. In the middle of a presentation, my professors sometimes included a 2–5-minute video that boomed through the room with bright, vibrant colors. Switching up the method that students are consuming knowledge is so critical because not every student effectively learns in the same way. Providing multiple types of projects and lectures can reduce boredom and improve the overall retention of the subject.

Optimizing Classroom Support

If you are excited and interested in what you are teaching, even the most disengaged students can find a genuine curiosity for learning.

The difference between lecturing out of obligation and lecturing out of passion is quite noticeable. Of course, being an expert at a subject is a notable quality in a great professor; your knowledge should ideally expand past a textbook and venture into real-world application.

That being said, multiple students I have spoken to have experienced professors who prioritized breadth over depth of knowledge.

In other words, cramming as much information into a semester as possible seemed a larger priority than the quality and time devoted to each lesson. This would often make exams harder because it seemed that the content presented in graded assignments was only briefly taught, or it caught students off guard.

A great and easy way to correct this is simply by reviewing the general topics that will be presented on the exam beforehand, allowing students to study what is essential.

Another effective method of improving test scores is making yourself available to your students by maintaining weekly office hours and keeping up with emails.

It is crucial to write office hours down in an easily accessible place that every student can locate, such as the syllabus.

Office hours and emails give students a chance to ask questions one-on-one who may feel uncomfortable asking the same in the classroom.

One of my professors even offered bonus points to students who visited him during office hours at least once during the semester, encouraging the class to check in with him about how the course was going so far.

If your students feel they can easily approach you with questions and advice, you can serve as more than just a professor: you become a mentor and a guide to the future.

Tapping Into Emotional Intelligence

As we near the end of this blog, one of the most essential pieces of advice I can grant to you is to look inward and reflect on your emotional intelligence. This may sound strange because IQ is what we are told makes a great professor, but I would argue that EQ is equally significant.

Understanding your shortcomings and accepting criticism is the key to going from a good professor to a phenomenal professor.

In fact, being an emotionally intelligent person allows for any change in your classroom to be a smooth, easy adjustment. If you know that participation in your class is minimal, or test scores report a low performance, it is your responsibility to evaluate, discuss, and adjust.

Being able to navigate conflicts with empathy, respond to feedback constructively, and build strong relationships with students all come from your level of emotional intelligence.

While I actively search for all good qualities presented in this blog, the most prominent factor I seek in a college professor is the compassion and kindness to understand that we are all human beings who are working hard.

Even when mistakes are made, or changes are needed, the dignity to remain a sturdy handle that guides and teaches is an exemplary attribute of someone who aims to create a classroom legacy.

Picture of Author Bio

Author Bio

Mia Cestra is a rising sophomore who is pursuing a major in Journalism with a minor in Marketing. With a passion for writing that knows no bounds, Mia hopes to use the power of storytelling to spark positive change in the world.

ACUE August 2023 Newsletter

Welcome to the Fall Semester!

We hope everyone had a great summer and look forward to sharing with you exciting highlights from this summer, tools you can use, and more in our August 2023 newsletter. 

ACUE's Inaugural National Higher Education Teaching Conference

On June 22–23, presidents, provosts, professors, students, policymakers, and philanthropists gathered for two inspiring days of bridging policy and practice, learning practical strategies, and centering the impact of faculty on higher education’s agenda at the inaugural National Higher Education Teaching Conference. Additionally, seven institutions were honored as “Movement Makers.”

Movement Maker Honorees

View coverage and learn more about the event at the links below. And stay tuned; NHETC 2024 information will be available in September.

Technology Translated Podcast

NHETC Recap


The Chronicle of Higher Education

Teaching: Does higher education value good teaching?

ACUE

Why Faculty and Effective Teaching Make All the Difference

"NHETC was a great experience. Our engagements at the conference re-charged our campus-wide focus on teaching and learning. Dr. Pettis and I were happy to have had the opportunity, and we look forward to having ASU representative(s) at the 2024 convening.”
Patrice W. Glenn Jones
Executive Director of Online Education and Programs, Alabama State University

Tools You Can Use

Webinars

Resources

Grant Opportunity

Earlier this summer, ACUE announced that the ECMC Foundation is joining our national initiative, “Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program,” as a founding sponsor.

Designed to strengthen the higher education experience for hundreds of thousands of U.S. students, this new program will allow up to 2,000 professors and staff to complete ACUE’s “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course. Given typical teaching loads, the course will benefit an estimated 250,000 students annually.

To learn more and see if your institution is eligible to apply for this grant, visit go.acue.org/NCTCGS.

The Student Lens

In our latest episode of The Student Lens, we hear from Amanda, a Texas A&M University-Central Texas student, who explains how her professor, Dr. Shell, motivated her to participate and engage with others in their online course.

Partner Spotlights

Miami University

Last year, Miami University launched a pilot program on inclusive pedagogy. One year later, its success has led the university to scale up the program by offering three cohorts of 99 participants the opportunity to take ACUE’s “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course this fall.

University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College

At its 202324 convocation on August 14, University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College Chancellor Summer DeProw praised the college’s “Movement Maker” recognition from June’s National Higher Education Teaching Conference for its commitment to enhancing student learning.

Winston-Salem State University

This summer, Winston-Salem State University celebrated faculty that earned their Certification in the Effective Practice Framework during an ACUE pinning ceremony. This brings the college’s total number of certified faculty to 93. Faculty reflected on their experience with ACUE in the university’s 2023 Yearbook.

Waubonsee Community College

In a feature on the Waubonsee news site, Professor of Biology Dani Fischer shares her experience with ACUE and how it was one of the most meaningful professional development experiences her college offered.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

During the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Academic Summer Affairs Meeting, UNC-Greensboro’s Associate Vice Provost Regina McCoy held the presentation “Investing in Faculty & Empowering Students to Enhance Student Success.”

ACUE on the Road

ACUE will be at the following upcoming events this fall. Stop by and visit us!

Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) Student Success Learning Institute

California Community College Association for Occupational Education (CCCAOE) Fall Conference

Share Your ACUE Story

Interested in sharing a short video about your favorite ACUE practice? We would love to hear from you! To share, find all details and submission information at acue.org/share-your-acue-story.

NHETC’s Opening Plenary Panel: College Teaching’s Past, Present, and Future

In June, the National Higher Education Teaching Conference opened with an insightful conversation on “College Teaching’s Past, Present, and Future.” Panelists José Bowen, author of Teaching Change, Corbin Campbell, author of Great College Teaching, Laura I. Rendón, author of Sentipensante Pedagogy, and Jonathan Zimmerman, author of The Amateur Hour, along with moderator and Emmy award-winning NPR correspondent Michel Martin, explored the kind of teaching we need—and how to get more of it. (Captured, condensed, and edited for clarity.) 

Michel Martin (MM): Professor Zimmerman, maybe it’s me, but I had no idea until I read your book that college teaching has been so casual, and that it has had so few guardrails around it.  

Jonathan Zimmerman (JZ): College teaching can be great. It can be terrible. It’s mostly in between. The larger problem is that we haven’t embraced real professional standards for what constitutes good and bad teaching, nor do we have systems to try to hold people to those things. That’s why I call my book The Amateur Hour. Not because amateurs are bad—sometimes amateurs are great. It refers to the absence of a real collective sense of standards and responsibility that we hold ourselves to.  

MM: Professor Rendón, your work has been focused on the students like you and, frankly, like me, who came from backgrounds where our families didn’t go to college or didn’t go for long. Tell me about some of the challenges that these students face and why teaching is critical for them. 

Laura I. Rendón (LIR): Much of my work is about students who grow up like me with hopes and with dreams, but often don’t know how to realize them. Many come to college and leave their culture behind. They don’t have a lot of validating agents that say, “I support you. I believe in you. I care about you. I’m here to help you.” All of that needs to change. So, when you ask “How is teaching and learning across the board?” For racially minoritized students, we haven’t gotten to the point where these students feel that higher education cares enough about them to make a difference for them.  

MM: Is it the same as it was, according to your reporting and research, as when you got started?  

LIR: Things have improved, certainly, but we have a way to go. I see many students still struggling with how to navigate themselves in the higher ed world. The language is different. The conventions are different. The traditions are different. The people are different. So, you know, we are immigrants. We’re academic immigrants, so to speak, moving from our worlds that have nothing to do with higher ed into the world of higher ed. So, we need to help them believe that indeed college is for them and that we see them as fully capable of learning. 

MM: Professor Campbell, one of your books is Great College Teaching, so I assume that there is some to tell us about? 

Corbin Campbell (CC): Absolutely. This book is about a study where we observed more than 700 courses across nine very different universities, including broad access regional comprehensive universities, highly ranked private universities, public flagship, and the private liberal arts. And I would love to be able to say that I found great college teaching across the board. But actually, the results are middling. One of our findings is that great college teaching is happening in spaces that are typically less seen in higher education—typically less understood as “prestigious.” It wasn’t the most highly ranked research university courses, for example, where the best teaching was happening. More of the student-centered practices that support the students that Laura was just speaking about—those culturally relevant practices, the teaching that lifts up students’ prior knowledge and lived experiences—those practices and understandings were less seen across the board. 

MM: Why is that? One of the through lines from Professor Zimmerman’s work to your work and to the CUNY Chancellor from whom we just heard is that the incentives haven’t been there. That teaching is just not as valued as people think that it is. Research, publication, those are the things that are valued. Is that it? 

CC: Yes, this is exactly the issue. We have faculty who intrinsically deeply care about doing student-centered teaching. And they are doing that in spite of challenging reward structures that do not reward them. There are studies that show that for every hour that a faculty member spends on their research, it’s associated with an increase in salary, whereas in every hour they spend on their teaching, it’s associated with a decrease in their salary. For institutions that are trying to move in the rankings, there’s been studies that show that they take money out of instructional expenses and move it to marketing. So, if you are an institution that is deeply committed to teaching and you keep the funds in instruction, you are sacrificing potential prestige.  

MM: Professor Bowen, you’ve got an interesting task here, which is to help us think about how we learn and also why we learn. So, I’ll just start by asking: How do we learn? And do we incorporate what we know about how we learn into the way we teach? 

José Antonio Bowen (JAB): I often talk about how the most important parts of teaching and learning are these new “three R’s,” or relationships, resilience, and reflection. As a student, it’s about how I feel about my experience in the classroom. It’s about intrinsic motivation or engagement, optimism, and agency. I think you can reduce that to three feelings, and if our students feel these, they learn. First, they start to care, because the purpose is clear. They understand why this matters. Second, they believe they can do it, that the work is something they are capable of. And then finally, they have agency. They matter. All that great teaching really is, is if I can get my students to care, believe they can, and that they matter. Then they will learn.  

MM: Have any of your thoughts been influenced by recent trends, such as the rise of artificial intelligence?   

JAB: These trends mean that the kind of liberal arts education that I cherish has become more valuable. We have no idea what the jobs of the future are going to be. For example, everybody was learning computer science 10 years ago. And now one of the five industries that AI is most likely to disrupt is coding. Whoops! So, let’s hope you can learn something new. The idea that you can learn something new, that you can become a thinker who is flexible and adaptable, has never been more important. 

MM: Professor Zimmerman, your book names certain innovations over the course of time that were supposed to “fix” this thing, like student evaluations. Why didn’t they?  

JZ: Well, we were always looking for a better mousetrap, and we have been for about 100 years. You mentioned student evaluations. There are important things we can learn from them. But in and of themselves, they’re not going to solve the essential problem. Speaking of trends and predictions, my interest in college teaching started at a conference about online instruction. About half the people said that online innovation was going to make everything better. About half said it was going to make everything worse. And I’m sitting there saying to myself: Excuse me, what’s “everything”? What are we doing now? The claims that it’s going to make everything better or worse have something in common. They imagine the shared baseline. I decided to write about the history of college teaching because we didn’t have a baseline.  

MM: Professor  Rendón, I’m assuming that some of the things that Professor Bowen said about the ways that students learn resonate with you because your work is so much about the students who have been left out. What has been most meaningful for students that you’ve worked with over the years? 

LIR: As I hear all of these very remarkable ideas, what comes to mind is that that we need to interrogate the basic assumptions that guide teaching and learning. The privileging, for example, of Western wisdom; the privileging of intellectual learning at the expense of intuition and feelings; the privileging of separation at the expense of a relational ontology and working with students in an affirming validating way. It’s not all about content. It’s not all about intellectual development. And let me just say clearly that I’m not against that. I want our students to be super smart, brilliant, but I also want them to be good human beings. I want them to be bridge builders. I want them to be equity and justice warriors. I want them to help this world to be a better place to live. I’m talking about skills such as empathy and compassion and “pluriversality,” a word that I learned from indigenous cultures, where we’re able to entertain not just this or that—contrasting perspectives—but really think about multiple options, multiple solutions to a problem.  

MM: Professor Rendón, this is where the rubber hits the road, because these are exactly the kinds of principles that are under attack. How do you respond to the argument that this kind of teaching and learning is “soft,” “anti-intellectual” or “a-intellectual,” “lacking in rigor,” and “indoctrination”?   

LIR: When I speak to students and the faculty that are doing just what I’m talking about, we’re not talking about making students weaker. We’re actually talking about making them stronger. Students, for example, that have been in the Puente Project in California start out believing that they don’t have what it takes to be successful. So, we’re talking about transforming these students into believing that they can indeed do this. And so, is that weak teaching and learning? I don’t think so. Those are, again, underlying belief systems that need to be put to rest.  

MM: How do you build constituency around that? Professor Campbell? 

CC: The kind of teaching that Professor Rendón was just describing benefits all students. This is part of the way that we can build a stronger constituency. We know that the kind of teaching that supports students both cognitively and emotionally is actually a bridge to subject matter acquisition. At the same time, it’s developing students’ ability to be better citizens. The benefits to all students include increases in learning across the board, higher graduation rates across the board, and smaller opportunity gaps.  

MM: Do you think people believe you?  

CC: Well, there’s real evidence of this. Broad volumes, like How College Affects Students, bring together meta-analyzes of different research. All of the kinds of teaching practices that we’re describing have been associated with student learning, stronger graduation rates, improving ethical and moral reasoning, improving leadership capacities, improving diversity orientations. The evidence base is just that clear.  

MM: Okay, well, maybe that’s a different conversation because I’m saying that the facts and the politics are sometimes not in alignment.  

JAB: I would agree. There are some “alternate facts” here. And there are people within our own institutions who, despite the overwhelming evidence, think this is going “soft,” who say “I have to make sure my students know this . . . I have to cover all this material.” There are all of those impulses, and now we have this political pressure too. And I’ll just say out loud what I think is another elephant in the room: There are some parts of the population who don’t want us to empower everyone to learn, who are afraid of what that will mean if, in fact, we create students who are more interested in interrogating truths.   

CC: As for a constituency, there’s also a really interesting nationally representative poll of the U.S. public asking: What is the most important factor in what makes the “best” university? And the survey listed all kinds of options, like level of graduates’ first salary, whether they had great sports teams, one’s contribution to community, and several other factors. The number one most important factor selected by the public? “It has the best college teachers.” So, there is some broad support across the public that college teaching matters. 

MM: Professor Zimmerman, does the evidence matter when it comes to the argument that Professor Rendón and Professor Campbell make? That the facts support an inquiry-based form of teaching and learning? 

JZ: They do. The evidence is really clear that inquiry matters. But to your question about whether the facts themselves matter, I think the big question for us as a democracy is: How much of this “inquiry stuff” do we want? Look, the kind of techniques Corbin and Laura were describing are things that I called democratic education with a small “d.” What if it turns out that the “demos,” you know, those pesky citizens that elect school boards and pay taxes, don’t want that? Is it actually democratic, number one? And number two, to those of us who believe deeply in it, what do we have to do to make the democratic case for democratic education? To me, that’s the question of the day.  

MM: Could I ask each of you to give us a closing thought? 

JAB: Well, I want to pick up what Jonathan said, and if facts matter. AI is going to make it even harder for people to know what the facts are. So as much as we are people of the facts, my challenge is about the inquiry model. I may not be able to give my students a way to know what a fact is for the rest of their lives. But I can help them turn into a person who is open to changing their minds, to investigating deeper, to questioning, to being a skeptic.   

MM: Professor José Bowen, thank you so much for being here. Professor Campbell?  

CC: This is a really interesting time for those of us who care about college teaching. It’s a time of disruption in higher education that’s both worrying and interesting. With COVID, faculty saw that they could do something wholly different on a dime. There was movement there. We have rankings being questioned like never before, and they’re having to rethink what that looks like. The Carnegie Classification system is being rethought. There is a window of opportunity here. I would love to see the institutions who do great college teaching well—which we know leads to stronger student outcomes across the board, and especially for students who could make our society more equitable —that those are the institutions that are being rewarded, that are being seen, that are visible, and that ultimately are getting additional resources to do that good work.  

MM: Professor Corbin Campbell, thank you so much for joining us. Professor Zimmerman? 

JZ: I’ve been thinking about a passage in my book when, in the 1950s, a professor goes to a meeting just like this, and he writes a letter the next night saying, “You know, these meetings are like the snow globe I had when I was a kid. We shake it up and it makes lots of snow. But then everything goes back down to the bottom until we shake it up again.” What Corbin and others are asking is: How do we avoid repeating that history? At some level, it’s got to involve changing incentive structures. All of us know that, and in some ways, I’m shaking the globe again by saying it. But at the end of the day, moral suasion is not going to solve this problem. We’ll keep shaking the globe until there are actually real material incentives to teach better and actual real material disincentives when teaching poorly. 

MM: Professor Jonathan Zimmerman, thank you so much for joining us. Professor Laura Rendón, will you bring us home? 

LIR: Absolutely. Teaching and learning can be quite overwhelming for so many of us. We ask: Where do we begin? And so, for me, it’s about viewing all students, and especially the ones that come to college without having the experience of being in a culture where they have a lot of privilege, but come to college seeking assistance, seeking someone who can reach out to them. And so, the essence here is about believing that students can succeed, viewing students as truly capable of learning. The other piece is about making them whole. These students have been fragmented, torn apart because of their experiences early on. And so, this is a tough job that we have. But we need to move forward believing that students can do this. And so, I want to end by thanking all of you, because I know that all of you are here because, for you, teaching and learning is numero uno. It’s been great to be with all of the panelists, and thank you, Michel, for moderating. Muchas gracias.  

MM: Professor Laura Rendón, thank you so much for being here. Thank you all so much for being here, and to our panelists, thank you. 

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Young woman sitting in front of a camera smiling, with a plan wall behind her.

Student Lens: A Student Perspective on Effective Online Discussions

Organizing asynchronous and synchronous online discussions can pose challenges, but there are strategies you can employ to facilitate meaningful conversations with and between students. In this episode of The Student Lens, you’ll hear Amanda, a student at Texas A&M University–Central Texas, discuss some of the practices her instructor used to ensure their class discussions were fruitful.

Ask Yourself: What challenges do first-generation students on your campus experience, and how do you currently support their needs? What additional steps might you take to support first-generation students and their families?

Close up image of a student sitting in a lecture hall smiling as she looks at what's in front of her.

Recommended Resource: Cultivating a Sense of Belonging in First-Generation Students Toolkit

ACUE’s newest toolkit, “Cultivating a Sense of Belonging in First-Generation Students,” is a comprehensive resource that offers research-based strategies for meeting the needs of first-generation students and their families. You’ll learn approaches that you can use to demystify campus language, foster a sense of belonging for families, and share your story to minimize the potential effects of imposter phenomenon. Plus, the toolkit includes a recording of the complementary webinar Fostering Belonging and Supporting Success for First-Generation Students for those interested in taking a deeper dive.

Ask Yourself: What challenges do first-generation students on your campus experience, and how do you currently support their needs? What additional steps might you take to support first-generation students and their families?

Close up photo of students in a classroom

Association of College and University Educators to Strengthen Teaching and Learning for More Than 250,000 Students Through New National Initiative

Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program will certify up to 2,000 professors and staff

NEW YORK — June 27, 2023 — The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) today launched a new national initiative, Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program, that will strengthen the higher education experience for hundreds of thousands U.S. students. Developed with Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY), this new program will allow up to 2,000 professors and staff to earn an ACUE certificate through its “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course. Given typical teaching loads, the course will benefit an estimated 250,000 students annually. The announcement was made last week at the inaugural National Higher Education Teaching Conference co-hosted by CCNY, ECMC Foundation and others.

“Our first task as educators is to create a welcoming learning environment that enables all students – regardless of their backgrounds – to succeed. A sense of belonging must transcend differences of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and one’s beliefs. Great teaching makes this happen, and it’s the pre-requisite for learning,” said Jonathan Gyurko, Ph.D., ACUE President and Co-founder. “We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Carnegie Corporation of New York on this program. We further intend to grow the initiative with additional matching funds and ensure that more than a million students know that they belong in college — in-class and campus-wide.”

ACUE’s “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course provides campus professionals with practical approaches to ensure students and colleagues feel seen, heard, and valued. Its commonsense strategies deepen an institutional culture that supports all students, particularly those who can most benefit from a college education including first generation and historically under-deserved students. To date, thousands of professors and staff from public, private, and denominational institutions, across 23 states in all regions of the country, have earned this certificate. Among these diverse course-takers, 98 percent find ACUE’s commonsense recommendations relevant to their teaching and students.

Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Vice President, National Programs, and Program Director, Education, LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, said, “One of our long-time areas of focus is post-secondary success, because we know that economic and social mobility is critically dependent on educational attainment. We also know that quality instruction is fundamental to the success of the students in our collective care, which is why we have invited ACUE to apply for a challenge grant to support this initiative.”

Today’s announcement builds on the success of a similar initiative launched late last year with the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), involving dozens of private independent colleges. This new program will be administered in collaboration with the National Association of System Heads and is open to all colleges and universities eligible for federal support. Interested institutions can find more information and apply at go.acue.org/NCTCGS.

About ACUE

The mission of the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) is student success through great teaching. In partnership with colleges, universities, higher education systems, and associations, ACUE prepares and certifies professors and staff in the evidence-based teaching practices that lead to higher retention and achievement, deeper learning, and closed achievement gaps. Numerous and independently validated studies confirm that students are more engaged, learn more, and complete courses in greater numbers when taught by ACUE Certified faculty members. ACUE’s online, cohort-based certification programs are delivered through institutional partnerships and open enrollment courses endorsed by the American Council on Education.