ACE 2018: Looking Back to Look Forward


A History of Preparing for Change

This weekend, the Faculty Guild team had the pleasure of participating in the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington, DC.

David Yaskin, CEO of Faculty Guild and Dr. Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College and one of the authors of  Taking College Teaching Seriously: Pedagogy Matters!

David Yaskin, CEO of Faculty Guild and Dr. Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College and one of the authors of Taking College Teaching Seriously: Pedagogy Matters!

From the beginning, ACE has focused on promoting social change and preparing the country for its most pressing challenges. As Ted Mitchell, president of ACE, shared in his opening remarks (his first as the organization’s president), ACE was founded in 1918 with three goals: educate the officer corps entering World War I, prepare a future for 2.1 million enlisted personnel returning from war and recruit universities and colleges to provide intellectual and scientific infrastructure to repair a post-war world.

Connecting Past to Present

The challenges today are no less important to the future of our country. What emerged as a major theme of the convening was looking back in order to address today’s challenges. With this in mind, attendees were pressed to think more boldly about a number of issues including diversity and inclusion, preparing for the next generation of students and the completion gap. Three quick highlights included:

  • Dr. Nancy Zimpher, chancellor emeritus of The State University of New York, challenged the community to learn from its past of pursuing “1,000 points of light” to address the completion agenda through collective impact, improvement science and better use of data.

  • Dr. John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, and Dr. Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University (and current president of Prairie View A&M University), spoke about their institutions’ respective challenges facing their own histories with slavery.

  • Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, shared how our words shape our destiny and urged attendees to act with intention.

Quality Instruction, Student Outcomes

Throughout the event, we were pleased by the discussions on the connections between quality instruction and student outcomes. The conversations often began in different places, guided by institutions’ own histories. Many are focused on extending existing student success initiatives, including guided pathways and remedial reform, to better engage faculty. Strategic leaders are considering holistic departments as a way to enable faculty to more effectively respond to the many demands on their time. Others are looking to better prepare the teaching workforce of graduate students.

What quickly emerged was an appreciation and understanding that institutions need to do a better job preparing and supporting their faculty members to provide quality, purposeful teaching that leverages evidence-based instructional practices.

ACE Helps Lead the Way

Thankfully, ACE has been supporting this dialogue. In the 2017 white paper, Instructional Quality, Student Outcomes, and Institutional Finances, ACE states that the investment in faculty development done well can positively impact the financial health of the college.

“Quality instruction is the backbone of the higher education institution, and ACE is invested in researching the connections between more effective pedagogical approaches that lead to improved student outcomes. It is our belief that individuals who embrace the most effective teaching practices are more likely to impact the student experience positively, and lead to improved student retention, persistence, and success.”

The report provides an overview of numerous studies that show that research-based pedagogical practices and participation in faculty development can enable institutions to achieve their financial goals by increasing “student learning, engagement, persistence, and degree completion.”

A Way Forward

We appreciate the chance to connect with the ACE community over the past few days and are excited about the opportunities in the future to support its member institutions. Learning from the past to inform the future is important. Keeping focused on quality teaching—at the heart of the student experience—is important. Faculty Guild is devoted to helping institutions find innovative ways to reimagine their faculty development programs. If you’d like to hear some of our ideas, contact us today.