Do not ‘test’, do not apply (evidence-based teaching practice)

I am delighted that the study participants shared the light and jigsaw puzzles in the article “Experimenting with Teaching to Improve Student Learning: Part One” pointing to the growing emphasis on teaching as the biggest change in their university culture over the last 10 years. But, although such action research is a successful pursuit, there are two important areas of concern.

First: Effective teaching practices that are unknown and need to be “discovered” somehow. In fact, there is a wide range of effective, equity-promoting teaching methods available. These published pedagogies are supported by research and coded into field-recognized statements of teaching practice, such as the ACUE’s Effective Practice Framework.

Second: that advanced teaching is only a personal, professional responsibility that is left to be taught alone through “testing” in class with the island’s instructors. Rather, the leading thinking of policymakers in places such as the State Education Commission and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences calls for a holistic and institution-wide response. Doing so makes it possible to create a culture – complete with professional and employment incentives – that rewards great education and expects faculty to improve their skills. Diversified venues such as the University of Southern Mississippi, City University of New York, Broward College and public HBCUs across the country are leading through this approach and achieving real results, among them: strong student achievement, high retention and closed equity gaps.

Without question, great learning leads to mastering a career and requires learning new methods, tests and errors through implementation, reflection and refinement. Of course, there are some experimental areas. While I’m glad that 17 professors canvas seeing a “heavy emphasis on strengthening education”, let’s do it in the most effective way: with comprehensive and job-embedded preparation, through proven foundation practice and through a strategic, institutional approach. Our nearly 20 million students and their faculties in colleges and universities across the country deserve no less.

– Penny McCormack
Chief Academic Officer
College and University Teachers Association

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