When it comes to improving classroom attendance and student engagement, sometimes the simplest strategies are the most effective. At least that’s what Indika Walimuni, ACUE-accredited instructor of physics and computer science at City College of San Francisco (CCSF), says.
“I started teaching in 2017 and wanted to be an effective instructor but didn’t know how. I didn’t realize how important some of those soft skills are in the classroom,” Walimuni explains. “As a result of what I learned during the ACUE program, I made an effort to engage my students in a way that promotes inclusivity and diversity, while incorporating more mentoring into the classroom. I also started asking for a lot of feedback from my students—right from the beginning of the semester.”
And he quickly started to see the effects.
“My retention rate was around 60% before I started implementing some of these practices. It then improved to close to 90%,” he says.
His results aren’t surprising, says CCSF political science professor Megan Sweeney. She noticed a similar trend in her own classroom.
“I have been teaching for close to 10 years. I had hunches of what worked and what didn’t, but then I started looking at the data behind those practices. I use a lot of active engagement techniques and strategies—whether it’s a self-assessment where students share with me something important they took away from that day or a surprising fact they learned,” Sweeney, an ACUE-certified instructor, says. “I started to implement a variety of strategies that make my students reflect on what they’re learning, examine what they would do differently, and understand the areas they’re struggling in.”
Sweeney, like Walimuni, began seeing improvements not only in her classroom attendance, but also in student success. And their experience is consistent with findings from a recent ACUE research brief which demonstrates there was a significant increase in the rate of students receiving As and a significant decrease in the rate of students receiving Fs in sections taught by ACUE-credentialed faculty.
CCSF, a part of the California Community Colleges (CCC) system, is one of several colleges working to change institutional practice and policy in order to improve student success and outcomes. In fact, CCC serves as a scaling site within the Education Commission of the State’s Strong Start to Finish initiative.
“Investing in the faculty of our California Community College System is like investing in the core of the system. They are truly the ones that make change happen. They are the ones that impact students’ lives more than anyone else on our campuses,” says Eva Jimenez, associate vice president of economic & workforce development at another CCC school, Shasta College.
Sweeney would agree.
“My students’ persistence has greatly improved, and I think a lot of that has to do with implementing strategies that engage my students. Now when I’m lecturing and I see my students aren’t engaged with the material, I know to switch up my tactics to get them involved,” she shares. “Now I see my students make sure to show up because they really want to be there.”