To the Editor:
You rightly point to “a central paradox” on “Why the Science of Teaching Is Often Ignored” (The Chronicle, January 3). Indeed, “a whole literature” supports practices that professors should know and do to teach well. It’s codified, too, in field-accepted statements like the Association of College and University Educators’ (ACUE) Effective Practice Framework, backed by hundreds of citations and validated by the American Council on Education.
You highlight the classic distinction between an “information problem” — knowing what to do — versus a “distribution problem” — how to bring such approaches to life in every class, in-person or online. The good news? It’s achievable, and we must make it an imperative.
In work with hundreds of colleges, universities, and major systems including CUNY, Cal State, and Texas A&M, great teaching is happening — at scale — as part of holistic strategies for student success and equity. In every case, the importance of investing in quality instruction has vocal support from leadership. Large numbers of faculty are meaningfully and respectfully engaged. Support is comprehensive, collaborative, and job-embedded — offering a range of recommendations to honor professional judgement and the discretion required to employ the right practice for a given context. Importantly, a range of cultural, professional, and employment incentives are brought to bear to recognize and celebrate the effort faculty make to strengthen their craft.
This holistic approach was recently summarized in a new toolkit by Strong Start to Finish in Collaboration with Complete College America through support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Moreover, 18 large, peer examined studies show improved learning and closed equity gaps among students taught by ACUE-credentialed faculty at institutions as diverse at Rutgers-Newark, Broward College, University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of Nevada, among others. Contrary to popular belief, this research also shows the relevance of foundational practices to faculty across subjects and different levels of experience.
Put simply, good teaching works, and can be taught, at scale.
Let’s put an end to the “damaging myth of the natural teacher” as well as the canard that faculty ‘aren’t interested.’ Our data show: when engaged as part of student-success strategies, faculty are eager to gain skills that very few of us acquired in our doctoral programs. The achievement- and equity-promoting benefits of evidence-based teaching are beyond question. We can engage and support faculty at scale, and must, to ensure that all students experience the quality of education they deserve.
President and Co-founder
Association of College and University Educators