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New faculty cohort promotes effective teaching practices

September 21, 2020

As part of a new initiative to support innovative pedagogy, 31 faculty members at NIU are participating in an Association of College and University Educators’ (ACUE) course on effective teaching.

NIU’s participation in this program was fostered through a partnership between NIU’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL),  Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) and the Office of the Provost.

As part of the new cohort, faculty members will explore and implement research-­­­based approaches to teaching designed to improve student engagement and persistence and promote deeper learning. The initiative aligns with NIU’s mission, vision and values to provide students from diverse backgrounds a classroom experience that supports their success.

“O­­­­­­ne of the most important aspects of the course is that faculty have agreed to use the techniques they are learning in their current classes. This is an active course that covers all aspects of a pedagogically-sound course, from design to implementation to assessment,” Ingram said.  “Faculty learn and develop a technique and then they put it into practice immediately.”

Considered a “mini-graduate course,” the class consists of 25 modules separated into four blocks—Creating an Inclusive and Supportive Environment, Promoting Active Learning, Inspiring Inquiry and Preparing Lifelong Learners and Designing an Effective Course.

The ACUE course incorporates culturally responsive teaching techniques and encourages those involved to engage in thought-provoking discussions and self-reflection around how to promote an inclusive class experience

“The ADEI Social Justice Education team has worked collaboratively on this initiative as well as other teaching and learning projects with CITL this past year. I look forward to our continued partnership,” said Vernese Edghill-Walden, Ph.D., NIU’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer.

The course began Aug. 17, and faculty members are already learning from one another, said Yvonne Johnson, course facilitator and the multimodal teaching coordinator for the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.

“Faculty are sharing their insights and challenges and building connections. It is wonderful to see those relationships building,” she said. “I believe they will be long-lasting relationships that will continue well beyond the course.”

The cohort enables faculty to promote and implement the quality teaching and learning NIU is known for and represents an investment by the university in professional development, said Stephanie Richter, director of Faculty Development and Instructional Support in the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.

“It’s a holistic course that takes the approach good teaching is inclusive teaching,” she said. “Through the course, they will learn the types of practices that support student success for everyone.”

As a member of the cohort, Associate Professor Shanthi Muthuswamy, Ph. D., has found it incredibly effective at this time as students have transitioned to online education. Many of the pedagogical techniques discussed are meaningful, practical and easy to implement, she said.

Muthuswamy, an associate professor in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, already has implemented several of the techniques in her online class and plans to use several others in upcoming semesters.

“I have used the online weekly schedule to help students stay on track every week, built a stronger online community with syllabus activities, icebreakers and online question parking lots. These activities have significantly increased the online communication amongst students,” she said. “Although I have been teaching online for 8 years, the ACUE course is providing me with an arsenal of ideas to continuously improve my teaching which in turn would enhance the student learning experience.”

Nominated and selected to participate in the cohort by their colleges, the faculty members involved will complete the course in April and be recognized with a Certificate in Effective College Instruction, awarded in collaboration with the American Council on Education (ACE). A second cohort of faculty will begin the course in January.

A significant commitment of at least two to three hours a week—with many faculty members putting in significantly more hours—the cohort is voluntary, with all involved recognizing its tremendous value at NIU, Richter said.

The faculty cohort consists of:

  • Sheila Barrett, Health Studies
  • Pratool Bharti, Computer Science
  • Cynthia Campbell, Educational Technology, Research and Assessment
  • Shondra Clay, School of Interdisciplinary Health Professionals
  • Marcia Cooke, Nursing
  • Jessamine Cooke-Plagwitz, Foreign Language & Literature
  • Oliver Devergne, Biological Sciences
  • Mandy Faretta-Stutenberg, Foreign Language and Literature
  • Benedito Fonseca, Electrical Engineering
  • Kelly Gross, School of Art and Design
  • Tim Hagen, Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Antwan Hampton, Communication
  • Chris Hill, Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Theodore Hogan, Engineering Technology
  • Vera Lind, History
  • Juan Mercado, Nursing
  • Jon Miller, Biological Sciences
  • Shanthi Muthuswamy, Engineering Technology
  • Brian Penkrot, School of Music
  • Charles Pudrith, Allied Health and Communicative Disorders
  • Patrick Roberts, Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations
  • Maybell Romero, College of Law
  • Dave Serowka, Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • John Shelton, Mechanical Engineering
  • Robert Sinko, Mechanical Engineering
  • Helena Sivits, Communication
  • Carol Walther, Sociology
  • Ziteng Wang, Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Rachel Warren, Teacher Preparation and Development
  • Kathy Zeek, English
  • Deborah De Rosa, English