Better Teaching, Better Institutions

By Philip G. Rogers


From accreditation to enrollment to policy, much of higher education is located far from the classroom. But, in reality, teaching and learning are the most crucial part of higher education: colleges’ and universities’ first and fundamental mission is to educate students.

Not to mention, the public’s trust in higher education also rests in the classroom. The debate about college cost, for example, is not if an education should cost money. It’s largely about if that education is worth the money.

A worthwhile education can come only from excellent teachers and engaging classrooms. But not all instructors are born great teachers.

Teaching the teachers

Thankfully, teaching can be learned and cultivated. In 2016, ACE partnered with the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) to help move the needle on classroom instruction by providing faculty with high-quality courses on comprehensive teaching methods proven to help them become more effective educators.

Faculty enrolled in ACUE’s courses learn evidence-based teaching practices that promote student engagement, persistence to graduation, career readiness, and deeper levels of learning. By helping faculty improve their classroom practices, many more college students succeed.

This work is mission-aligned for ACE—and it makes a difference. ACE’s mission is to mobilize the higher ed community to foster high-quality, innovative practice. And ACUE’s work identifies an area ripe for innovation: effective instruction. Today, there are more than 1 million contingent faculty, representing two-thirds of the professoriate. The preparation of most faculty—adjunct or otherwise—rarely includes intentional and comprehensive preparation in the teaching practices that improve student outcomes.

As a result, there is a need to promote quality instruction nationwide, through the development and adoption of scalable and high-quality resources, that faculty would embrace.

To help meet the need, ACE invested in ACUE and applied our quality assessment expertise to the courses and programs. By doing this, ACE not only ensured that its members would have access to excellent teaching resources, but it was also able to help build the ecosystem of creating more effective educators and make the case for why investing in teaching matters.

The impact of instruction on students

We hoped our collaboration with ACUE would move student success in a real way. Our hope has become a reality: today, over 5,000 faculty have been credentialed and enrolled for the fall. ACUE has formed partnerships with over 100 colleges and universities across 38 states, along with other collaborations, such as with the Council of Independent Colleges.

Most importantly, students taught by ACUE-credentialed faculty are succeeding. Here are some specific examples:

A course completion gap was eliminated between Black/African American and other students at Texas Woman’s University.

Students learned more, earning better grades, at City College of San Francisco.

Success rates went up and DFWs down at Delta State University.

Students were more engaged at Miami Dade College, in a study by John Hopkins University, and grades improved.

Students experienced evidence-based teaching approaches more often at Broward College.

Students were significantly more likely to earn A, B, or C grades in courses taught by ACUE-credentialed faculty than in comparison classes at Rutgers University-Newark.

Students gave stronger marks on course evaluations—that improved over time—for ACUE-credentialed faculty, and earned higher grades than students in comparison course sections at the University of Nevada, Reno.

A rising tide lifts all boats

When students succeed, the whole institution is lifted. A recent ACE report noted the ripple effect improved instruction can have on an institution:

While quality instruction directly impacts student learning, it also impacts student motivation, pass rates, and interest in a subject, all of which link to decreased time to degree and course retakes. Instructional quality has also been found to be positively associated with student retention, which often leads to increased net revenue by avoiding gaps and inefficiencies. For example, recruiting a new student can cost three to five times what it costs to provide services for an already enrolled student. One student remaining for four years generates the same amount of revenue as four new students who leave after one year.

In other words, teaching and learning isn’t just at the heart of higher education—it drives the institution. Of course, how an institution will be impacted varies: some will see greater classroom engagement, and others might see smaller attainment gaps. But when students succeed, the rest of campus breathes a little easier.

ACE is proud of the work we do with ACUE, and, unsurprisingly, we encourage all of our members to explore how improved teaching and learning could make a difference at your institution. Click here for more information about ACUE and its certificate course in Effective Teaching Practices.

This article originally appeared on Higher Education Today and has been reprinted with permission from the ACE.

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