As part of the University's commitment to cultivating teaching excellence, last year Bryant University began offering faculty the opportunity to enroll in an online course in effective teaching practices, offered by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE). Recently 11 faculty members completed the year-long course, becoming the first cohort to do so at Bryant—and all despite the additional challenges posed by the pandemic.
The course opportunity, funded by the Davis Educational Foundation and established by Ed Kairiss, Ph.D., Director of Faculty Development and Innovation and Director of Bryant’s Center for Teaching Excellence, is offered to all faculty.
“This is an accomplishment,” says Constanza Bartholomae, M.A., Academic Support Specialist, Office of Faculty Development, who facilitated the course. “I give so much credit to these faculty, because this year already posed challenging circumstances, where they had to adapt to new teaching modalities during the pandemic. They went above and beyond in finishing this course.”
In completing the online course, the faculty cohort received one of the only credentials for teaching in higher education that encompasses a broad spectrum of teaching approaches, officially becoming ACUE-certified faculty.
The science of how students learn
The ACUE course exposes faculty to a broad range of effective teaching practices detailed in scholarly literature that are based on the science of how students learn and applicable to higher education settings.
ACUE reviewed over 300 citations from the scholarship of teaching and learning to develop the course, which also includes presentations by some of the top college and university educators in the world. In taking the course, faculty actively apply course content – they must implement or plan to implement the practices outlined in each module, and reflect on their efforts.
“As educators, we recognize that we're always learning—continuous improvement in our teaching practice is important. You can always get better, and that’s our motivation behind offering the course for our faculty,” said Bartholomae.
“We’re hoping that as a result of the course, faculty develop a rich array of evidence-based pedagogical approaches they can draw on to achieve student learning objectives,” says Kairiss.
Faculty who took the course say that while the course isn’t an easy ‘A,’ they’re glad to have had the opportunity, citing the growth in their teaching toolbox to meet everyday and new challenges in the classroom. Here’s some of what they said:
- “I decided to take the ACUE Course in Effective Teaching Practices to learn some new effective ways to engage students in the classroom and online, reinforce my teaching skills, and collaborate with other Bryant colleagues. It was great to be a student and to be reminded of what it is like on the other side of the desk.” —Mary Anne K. Clarke, M.A., Social Science Instructor
- “There were so many different approaches I learned from the course. The comprehensive course looked at every dimension of teaching. From the motivation of students, note-taking skills, active learning, and effective class discussions to advanced questioning techniques, I gained many novel takeaways.” —A. Can Inci, Ph.D., Professor of Finance
- “I was able to incorporate some techniques last spring. For example, I started to incorporate classroom norms in my syllabus, and I learned to ask more systematic questions (use a taxonomy to scaffold questions from lower to higher cognitive level). I used various techniques in collecting student feedback to gauge student understanding and adjust my teaching accordingly.” —Suhong Li, Ph.D., Department Chair and Professor of Information Systems and Analytics
- “I have revised all of my syllabus to make it more interesting and relevant to students. I have also implemented new ways to evaluate students such as using videos (instead of text) as a form of homework submission. There are also a few other techniques that I will gradually test and implement in my teaching, especially those techniques about group discussion and work in class.” —Son Nguyen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Mathematics
- “ACUE definitely requires a time commitment, but it was manageable. The CTE team did a great job making sure the content we were learning in ACUE matched up with the rhythm of the semester, so I was able to implement new techniques and reflect on them in a reasonable amount of time. I would encourage others to not be put off by the time commitment. The knowledge I came away with was well worth the time investment.” —Allison Papini, M.L.I.S., Krupp Library, Manager of Research Services
- “As a student who also completed this course, I think what was most helpful for me and other faculty was just having a space to reflect upon our own teaching practices - what strategies we tried, how they went. And just having community in the midst of the pandemic was helpful.” —Constanza Bartholomae, M.A., Academic Support Specialist, Office of Faculty Development
Ultimately, says Bartholomae, the aim is to benefit student learning through this unique teaching credential.
“Bryant provides a really supportive environment for teaching, and I think that motivates faculty to seek out opportunities like this course, where they are able to work side by side and inspire one another. In that sense, by giving our faculty resources to develop more tools for their toolbox, we're not only empowering them but also providing better learning opportunities for our students.”