Faculty receive national credential in teaching excellence

Brian Blalock/SHSU Media ServicesGroup photo of the first ACUE Fellows at SHSU.

Sam Houston State University leadership, including Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Richard Eglsaer, Vice Provost Mary Robbins and the academic Deans along with Texas State University System Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs John Hayek, commended instructors for their dedication to students during a campus ceremony where 29 professors became the first ACUE Fellows at SHSU. 

The event recognized faculty who earned a national credential in effective instruction through a program offered by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) in collaboration with the American Council on Education (ACE). SHSU is the first university in Texas to join the consortium.

The event, honoring SHSU’s first cohort to complete the training, was hosted by Sam Houston State’s Office of Academic Affairs and the Professional and Academic Center for Excellence (PACE) - a faculty development center that partnered with ACUE to make the course available to SHSU instructors. 

Todd Primm, a Biological Science professor and director of PACE, helped establish the partnership and took part as a member of the first cohort. He believes the skills obtained in the course can transform students’ learning experiences.

“This is a concrete example of how faculty at SHSU are dedicated to quality teaching and how SHSU is investing in effective faculty instruction and mentoring, which is the single-largest factor on student success,” Primm said.

Designed to equip faculty with instructional skills that promote student motivation, learning and persistence, the ACUE course consists of 25 modules, covering topics such as student motivation, effective discussion methods, planning course sessions, promoting higher order thinking and improving assessment techniques. The experience also includes periodic face-to-face meetings on campus to support participants and for networking and sharing practices.

At the ceremony honoring Sam Houston’s first ACUE Teaching Scholars, Martha Bless, ACUE academic director, spoke on how the program was founded on three simple truths.

“The first truth is that teaching matters. Great teaching is what motivates students to stay engaged, persist in their studies and earn their degrees. The second is that, through educational research conducted over the last 50 years, the techniques and practices of effective teaching are known and can be learned. And finally, the third truth is that higher education faculty, although experts in their field, often receive little training in pedagogy—how to teach. ACUE is honored to partner with Sam Houston in their efforts to change that fact by ensuring faculty members are equipped in the use of evidence-based teaching practices,” Bless said.

Other participating faculty members of the first cohort shared accounts on how the course has influenced their teaching practices.

“The ACUE training highlighted different ways to incorporate active learning in the classroom. Presenting and demonstrating the various practices provides you with the opportunity to select activities that align with your teaching style,” said Courtney West, assistant dean of educational development in the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine (applicant status – seeking accreditation.)

"Although I have taught for 30 years, I know that there's still so much to learn, and the ACUE course provided so many insights and strategies to help make me a more effective classroom teacher. Probably the most important lesson I learned is to be more mindful of my students who struggle and to find and implement methods that will help them to succeed," David McTier, professor of theatre said. 

Emma Bullock, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, has already witnessed positive results in the classroom from the training she received.

“I have almost 15 years of K-12 and Higher Education teaching experience and to say that I was skeptical of the ACUE modules would be an understatement. However, as I engaged in the modules, my mind was entirely changed. I can personally testify that as I have implemented the techniques taught in the ACUE program, the effectiveness of my teaching has increased exponentially. I have many more students coming to office hours, students actively engaging in the material much sooner in the semester, reduced failure rates and happier students. I've found myself more excited to teach, as well,” Bullock said.

For faculty members interested in participating in the program, applications are now being accepted for the 2018-2019 cohort of faculty ACUE Fellows. The deadline to apply is September 7. More details can be found online at www.shsu.edu/pace/acue-fellows.html.