The ACUE Effect: Invest in Effective Teaching, Expect Student Success

Great Teaching Matters Everywhere.

Whether you are at a community college or an R1, great teaching has the power to change students’ lives in significant and impactful ways. That is the takeaway from a new meta-analysis of 11 recent studies on the impact of hundreds of ACUE Certified faculty teaching at eight partner institutions across the country. The findings demonstrate, on average, the student outcomes that ACUE partners can expect:

  • 1 percentage point increase in course completion rates  
  • 3 percentage point decrease in DFW rates 
  • .06 point increase in students’ average course grades (on a 4.0 scale)  

What does this mean at scale? “A 1 point increase in completion may not sound like much, but that’s about 160,000 more college students nationwide, if every student were to experience evidence-based instructional practices,” writes ACUE President and Co-Founder Jonathan Gyurko in an essay about the meta-analysis.

Why this Matters for Leaders

The findings from the new meta-analysis are an important tool for data-driven campus leaders who rely on evidence to make strategic decisions for their institutions. Research was conducted with Northwestern University’s Elizabeth Tipton, PhD., an expert in meta-analysis. The research team reviewed 68 effect estimates from eight different institutions, including two- and four-year colleges and universities of various sizes and locations.

“For leaders to make the best decisions for their campus and students, they need to have solid data available. This analysis provides the kind of evidence that should inform such important assessments about student success efforts,” said Dr. Tipton, who co-authored the report with Dr. Theo Pippins, a senior research associate at ACUE.  

We found evidence of a positive average effect of ACUE and are now even more confident about the range of positive effects that we might expect from new partnerships,” Dr. Pippins emphasized. 

The meta-analysis reviewed outcome data for hundreds of faculty and tens of thousands of students at the following partner institutions: Broward College; City College of San Francisco; Miami Dade College; Purdue University Northwest; Texas Woman’s University; University of ArkansasPulaski Technical College; University of Nevada, Reno; and The University of Southern Mississippi.  

Broward College President Gregory Haile said the research is another validation of their commitment to supporting faculty, creating inclusive learning environments, and making data-driven decisions.

“Broward College relentlessly seeks to elevate faculty capacity and skills so that they can create a more inclusive learning environment and transform students’ lives, and the ACUE meta-analysis reveals just that,” said Haile. 

The ACUE Effect: ‘A Real Return on Investment’

Dr. Amy Chasteen, executive vice provost for academic affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi, said she wasn’t surprised by the findings, because she has seen the impact of quality teaching up close on her campus. 

“Our ACUE partnership has led to a real return on investment: higher student retention and course completion, lower DFW rates, and narrowing equity gaps,” said Dr. Chasteen. She said it was exciting to see the impact of ACUE Certified faculty at a variety of institutions. “Regardless of school size or student body profile, good teaching has a powerful impact, and it needs to be at the heart of every college and university’s student success agenda.” 

‘We Won’t Rest Until Every Student Can Benefit.’ 

ACUE Chief Executive Officer Scott Durand said the meta-analysis sends a clear and powerful message that great teaching is vital to ensuring higher education delivers on its promise. 

“As we face unprecedented enrollment declines and continuing disparities in academic outcomes, ACUE can help institutions accelerate towards their student success and equity goals through the metrics that matter and with a proven strategy,” said Durand. “Today, our partners can point to higher student retention and completion, better grades, lower DFW rates, and closed equity gaps—and we won’t rest until every student can benefit.” 

Partners React: ‘More to the Story’

Faculty leaders whose institutions were part of ACUE’s meta-analysis shared what the ACUE Effect has looked like for them.

At Texas Woman’s University, which has partnered with ACUE for six years, an evaluation found that the first group of ACUE-credentialed faculty was able to close the course completion gap for African American students in 113 classes with 1,800 students, and that subsequent cohorts substantially increased our course completion rates while decreasing DFW rates.

“But there is more to the story than enriched student learning,” said Dr. Jörg Waltje, executive director of the Center for Faculty Excellence. “ACUE’s courses equipped our faculty with valuable skills that built their confidence, fostered overall job satisfaction, and enhanced their enjoyment of teaching—all factors that lastly contribute to a welcoming campus atmosphere and improved student success.”

At Purdue University Northwest (PNW), more than 150 PNW instructors have participated in ACUE’s course since 2017. Emily Hixon, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, said PNW’s faculty deserve credit for their work to improve student success. “The findings from this study demonstrate the impact their participation is having on our students. PNW faculty are committed to giving students the best possible learning experience, and the ACUE course provides them with the instructional tools they need to set students up for success in their academic studies and future careers.”

At the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College (UA-PTC), an analysis found more equitable student achievement for students taught by ACUE Certified faculty. “Becoming ACUE Certified has been one of the most professionally fulfilling experiences of my life,” said Kirsten (Kiki) Heintz, Faculty and Excellence in Teaching Lead and Instructor of Speech Communications at UA-PTC. “Today, with nearly all of our full-time faculty ACUE Certified, UA-PTC’s investment in quality teaching is paying off for students and faculty. What the meta-analysis shows is exactly the kind of progress that UA-PTC is seeing on our campus: stronger achievement, lower DFWs, and narrowing equity gaps.”

Bring The ACUE Effect to Your Campus

More than anything, this new meta-analysis should give college presidents and provosts even greater confidence in the power of effective teaching. For institutions that partner with ACUE, we can generalize—and anticipate—impact wherever ACUE Certified faculty are implementing proven approaches. 

Contact us to learn how to bring ACUE to your campus.

Sign up for the Newsletter

More Blog Posts