7.10.2017

Evaluating a Scalable Solution for Enhancing Teaching Practice

By Steven Taylor


Effective teaching is a critical component of students’ educational experience. The benefits of quality instruction extend far beyond the classroom into students’ co-curricular experiences and contribute to student achievement—retention, persistence and success—which helps smooth their transition to and through college. Thus, ACE is committed to advancing effective teaching as a critical component of institutional success.

The goals of post-secondary teaching and learning centers in the 21st century are, by necessity, interconnected and fluid, embodying rapidly shifting roles for faculty, their students and the institution. Teaching and learning centers and faculty developers provide opportunities for faculty to acquire knowledge and skills to improve the curricular experience and improve teaching practice over time.

There are a variety of ways in which faculty learn, and continue to learn, about teaching. This development occurs formally through teaching and learning center programming, activities and consultations, and informally through peer networks (faculty learning communities) and self-reflection.

Given the increase in contingent faculty—part-time and full-time non-tenure-track faculty—who now comprise about 75 percent of all college and university instructors, the critical question is, “How do we scale faculty development efforts to reach a greater number of faculty?”

The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE)’s Course in Effective Teaching Practices, comprised of 25 online teaching modules aligned with ACUE’s Effective Practice Framework, is designed as a scalable solution to help teaching and learning centers reach greater numbers of faculty. Through these cohort-based modules, the ACUE course provides research-based content and a reflective experience for instructors, which complements development activities offered by teaching and learning centers. Faculty developers continue to play a critical role in cultivating a community of practice and facilitating ongoing development to build instructors’ capacity and confidence to teach, and ultimately improve instructional practice.

For nearly a century, ACE has remained committed to preparing campus leaders, supporting the work of colleges and universities and assisting institutions in strengthening student learning, persistence and completion. So it was a natural fit for ACE and ACUE last year to launch a national effort to advance effective college instruction with the goal of enhancing student success. The Council’s collaboration with ACUE aims to provide institutions and individuals with the tools and resources they need to make excellent teaching a strategic driver of student success.

As part of this collaboration, ACE drew upon its decades-long experience in quality assurance to review and evaluate the ACUE course. ACE selected 23 independent experts in teaching and learning to ensure the quality and supporting research of ACUE’s program. A subset of this group worked with my team and me at ACE to develop an evaluative rubric to gauge the quality of ACUE’s Course in Effective Teaching Practices.

Throughout 2016, teams of experts used the evaluation rubric to assess every component of the course’s learning modules. During this process, the evaluators helped to determine if the modules were of the quality necessary for faculty to learn about and implement the evidence-based pedagogical skills and knowledge that constitute effective instruction.

The evaluation of the modules completed in December 2016. The outcome: 93 percent of the modules received “exemplary” or “effective” marks from the independent experts.

This in-depth review process identified strengths and provided ideas for further refinements to the modules. ACUE utilized this feedback, made adjustments that further enhanced the supporting research for the course, increased the clarity of course expectations, and more clearly aligned course assessments to learning objectives. The completion of this evaluation using independent experts further enriched ACUE’s program and validated our belief that ACUE built a high-quality and scalable program based on their comprehensive Framework.

To further our work on effective teaching, ACE is collaborating with Strada Education Network to research the connections between instructional quality, student outcomes and institutional efficiency. A focus critical component of this work is on elevating the important role faculty development plays in supporting students. This research will unpack the intended goals, impacts and outcomes of and measurement methods for assessing faculty development.

Already, the collaboration with Strada has led to the publication of two white papers highlighting the connections between instructional quality and student outcomes and institutional efficiency. Following the publication of promising practices for assessing faculty development impacts and outcomes this fall, ACE will conduct an impact study using a select group of institutions that implement assessment practices identified in the publication.

ACE’s collaborations with ACUE and Strada are important to help institutions leverage their unique assets (e.g., faculty expertise, educational technologies, academic advising) to design and implement student-centered, attainment-focused instructional approaches and practices that can lead to improved student outcomes and timelier postsecondary credential completion.

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