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Community and Technical College Faculty and Students to Benefit from NISOD, ACUE Collaboration

The recent collaboration between the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) and the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) is guided by a unifying mission: that the practice of teaching should be taken as seriously as the practice of research, service and subject-matter expertise, leaders say.

Dr. Jonathan GyurkoDr. Jonathan Gyurko

“Every major profession takes its practice seriously,” says Dr. Jonathan Gyurko, chief executive officer and founder of ACUE, conjuring to mind attorneys studying to pass the bar exam or physicians training to pass their board exams. “Once on the job, teaching centers across the country do a phenomenal job of supporting faculty. But they’ve often not had the resources to provide comprehensive support across all of the areas of practice that we know constitute effective teaching and stronger student outcomes.”

While NISOD and ACUE had not initially established a set number of educators the organizations hope to serve at the time their partnership was announced in early November, leaders point out that there are more than 1.5 million educators working in higher education today. Nearly one million of those educators are not tenure or tenure-track, Gyurko says.

“They may be contingent or adjunct or lectures. Their primary job is to teach. Their only job is to teach,” he says. And because community and technical colleges are largely teaching institutions, “we think that this [partnership] will have particular benefit for those students as their faculty deepen and refine their teaching practices,” he says.

Research shows that community and technical colleges serve significant populations of students of color, underprepared students and adult learners, making NISOD and ACUE’s collaboration all the more relevant in addressing the needs of evolving higher education populations.

“We know that all students benefit from evidence-based instruction, but in particular, students who may be underprepared for college benefit most from practices that promote higher-order thinking, that are active learning,” Gyurko says.

These benefits also hold true for adult learners.

“They have very clear goals as to why they’re going back into higher education,” Gyurko says. “They want to see in their courses that what they’re studying is meeting those goals, they want to understand why they’re studying what they’re studying, they want to see that career-relevant skills are being developed regardless of the content and discipline.

“That puts the right kind of pressure on faculty to make sure that they are teaching in ways that show the relevance, that develop skills around communication and thinking and analysis and what have you,” he says.

So when ACUE and NISOD leaders began exploring the work the organizations might implement together around enhancing professional development opportunities for community and technical college faculty, Gyorko adds that it became “very clear that we are mission-aligned in our desire to support as many faculty so that we can deliver a great education to as many students as possible.”

Beyond mission, an alignment of core values around commitment to faculty, commitment to quality and commitment to change at scale will ensure that hundreds of thousands of educators across the country have access to professional development opportunities that help them integrate effective research-based practices into their teaching.

“ACUE has gone through a very rigorous process to come up with the domains and areas of practice that experts have said are … most effective in helping students be successful,” says Dr. Edward Leach, executive director of NISOD. “It is our hope that by partnering with ACUE we’ll be able to get more faculty at our member colleges trained in those various domains and best practices, which in turn should help their students be more successful.”

ACUE’s efforts to enhance professional development and training for faculty revolve around the organization’s “Effective Practice Framework.”

“That framework is based on 40 years of research from the scholarship of teaching and learning, as well as the scholarship from neuroscience and the learning sciences,” Gyurko says.

The framework – and the teaching competencies under each major area of practice – touches on several areas:

-Designing and structuring an effective course and class that is consistent with brain science and that sustains students’ learning experience across multiple weeks;

-Evidence-based practices around establishing a productive and engaging learning environment that is civil and welcoming, supportive to the needs of students, especially underprepared students, and more broadly, helps students persist;

-Utilizing active learning techniques so that students are constructing their own knowledge;

-Promoting higher order thinking to ensure students become “self-managing, metacognitive learners,” Gyurko says; and

-Assessing to inform instruction and also to promote learning and refine teaching for students and faculty in real-time.

In addition, ACUE uses data to evaluate the effects of teacher development and training opportunities on student outcomes, Leach says, adding that it was reassuring for his organization to know that the American Council on Education (ACE) and Quality Matters have given ACUE’s work a “stamp of approval.”

Dr. Edward LeachDr. Edward Leach

Similarly, NISOD hosts a range of one-day, one-topic teaching and learning development workshops and webinars for faculty in various U.S. regions. Annually, the organization’s eminent International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence attracts a diverse cohort of faculty members to more than 300 sessions on a range of areas such as career and technical education, college readiness and remediation, guided pathways and transfer efforts, entrepreneurship, advising and more.

At the conference, faculty members who have completed the teacher trainings and those who are considering them will be able to convene and share more information about teaching and leadership excellence.

“Those are tried and true ways to reach and support faculty,” Gyurko says, noting that ACUE will “add to that mix” the creation of scalable online courses that lead to a nationally-endorsed credential – the only one endorsed by ACE. Community and technical college faculty from NISOD member institutions will now be able to earn credit towards ACUE’s Certificate in Effective College Instruction through the new online courses and existing face-to-face seminars.

“NISOD is so well-known and respected across community colleges and technical colleges nationwide,” Gyurko adds. “They have a 40-year reputation and loyal, loyal membership and faculty because they have brought high-quality teaching and learning and faculty development opportunities to faculty for a very long time. We’re thrilled to be partnering with NISOD because they are such a great organization and [we’re] pretty honored that they feel good about us.”

Leach, of NISOD, says that a significant component of the collaboration will be that those NISOD-member colleges that partner with ACUE to provide trainings to a cohort of faculty at their institutions will receive a discount on that cost equal to the amount of their NISOD membership dues.

“That’s a really big plus for our membership colleges,” Leach says.

Brookhaven College is one of the more than 300-plus NISOD member institutions. The college has a number of professional and talent development offices – and an instructional designer from the Dallas Learning Solutions’ LeCroy Center – who work on teaching and learning with faculty on face-to-face instruction, hybrid instruction and distance learning, says college president Dr. Thom D. Chesney.

Additional training and development efforts include a “Conference Day” each February that is built and designed by faculty and staff to share resources and best practices; “development days” for all seven colleges in the Dallas County Community College District to work on aligning students’ experiences; and “teaching circles” for faculty members in a specific discipline to share educational resources or advice on how they guide students to outcomes.

The college’s Employee Success Center provides further faculty development opportunities to ensure that faculty can earn the minimum 19.5 required professional development hours, Chesney adds.

It is hard to attribute data on specific student outcomes to ongoing faculty development efforts, Chesney admits, but the college has seen improved student grades of C+ or better in traditional and distant learning courses, due in part to investment in faculty teaching and learning.

Now, Brookhaven leaders are looking to enhance financial resources for faculty development and have been working on building sustained funding for faculty to travel to professional conferences. This way, they can bring the information and best practices back to their institutional colleagues. The school also recently renovated the career services area to increase career advising and counseling for students, Chesney said.

Leach encourages other institutional leaders to inform their faculty of training and development opportunities on campus and through organizations like NISOD and ACUE.

“It’s like any other profession; the more access to training you have and the more you take advantage of it, the better you’ll do in your profession, and it’s no different with faculty members,” he says.

“As far as NISOD goes, anytime we have an opportunity to collaborate on an effort like this where we can provide faculty members at our member colleges access to this type of professional learning, we jump at those type of opportunities,” he says of the partnership with ACUE.

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon

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