JUNE 24, 2022 — Nearly 100 UTSA faculty and staff from 35 departments recently completed three programs designed to improve student engagement, promote deeper learning and create inclusive and equitable learning environments for in-person, online and hybrid courses.
The classes are part of a partnership between the UTSA Office of Academic Innovation and the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE), an organization dedicated to providing innovative professional development programs that advance faculty efforts to integrate dynamic, inclusive, and equitable teaching practices within courses.
The ACUE partnership is one of several investments UTSA has made in faculty development, and is representative of UTSA’s efforts to move beyond being a Hispanic-serving institution to being a Hispanic-thriving institution.
“By engaging in the ACUE program, UTSA faculty demonstrate that they understand our students come from different backgrounds and may have been underserved in their past experiences in education,” said UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy. “At UTSA, faculty are committed to helping our students be successful by providing inclusive learning environments that recognize the unique path that brought them to our university.”
The Academic Innovation/ACUE partnership began in 2020 with the Effective Teaching Practices course. High interest from faculty during the inaugural year prompted ACUE and UTSA to expand the program for the 2021-2022 academic year to include two additional courses—Effective Online Teaching Practices and Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning.
Each of the courses range from 10 to 36 weeks. Faculty implemented what they learned from week to week into their current classes—with many stating that they could immediately see a change in student engagement after applying the ACUE best practices.
“As an engineer and scientist, I love collecting data, so seeing how this visibly impacts student performance, as seen by their grades and their feedback from student evaluations, is great,” said Shrihari Sankarasubramanian, assistant professor in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design. “I plan to use this data to inform my instructional practice and continuously get better at teaching.”
The courses are indeed beneficial to both students and instructors. Ninety five percent of faculty participants reported an increase in their use of research to develop evidence-based teaching practices. Faculty also reported that they were more confident in their ability to design an effective course and establish a productive learning environment, which promoted active learning and higher-order thinking among their students.
The ACUE programs encourage faculty and staff to collaborate with their colleagues across disciplines and departments. Participants gathered monthly to share insights and ideas, ask questions and support each other’s learning. The community that the participants established enabled them to build camaraderie and connections, especially after several years of remote instruction during the pandemic.
“It’s important for us as faculty to take time to invest in our methods as teachers, and to constantly try to make our classes better and connect with our students in new ways,” said Sidury Christiansen, associate professor of bicultural-bilingual studies in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development. “Whether you are new to teaching or have years of experience, I highly recommend this course. I’ve already used so much of what I learned, and during the program you notice that certain techniques and methods can be implemented right away in your classroom.”
Graduates of the effective teaching practices courses received a $1,000 stipend, a Certificate in Effective College Instruction endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE), and are recognized as UTSA ACUE Teaching Fellows. Graduates of the inclusive teaching course received a $500 stipend and a certificate of completion.
Academic Innovation, a division of Academic Affairs, supports faculty development and works with colleges and departments across campus to create new and dynamic learning experiences to promote student success.
Faculty can learn more about the Effective Teaching Practices and Inclusive Teaching and Equitable Learning programs for the 2022-2023 academic year at the UTSA Faculty Professional Development website.
UTSA is a Tier One research university and a Hispanic Serving Institution specializing in cyber, health, fundamental futures, and social-economic transformation. UTSA aspires to become a model for student success, a great public research university, and an exemplar for strategic growth and innovative excellence.
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