The recently released paper, “Unpacking Relationships: Instruction and Student Outcomes,” from the American Council on Education, provides a thoughtful overview of evidence-based practices in teaching and how they support student learning. The paper begins with acknowledging the importance of relationships between students and faculty members – a hallmark of the liberal arts experience – as a foundational element of integrating students into the academic culture of higher education. Perhaps of equal, or even greater importance, is the additional recognition of meaningful engagement in learning environments as central to achieving student outcomes.
As more than just a rhetorical framing, the paper’s author, Natasha Jankowski, invites us to consider the question: “What is the relationship between instruction and student outcomes?” While answers to this question may appear obvious, she notes that despite broad awareness of the positive impact of evidence-based teaching practices, faculty members may not always implement these practices in their instruction.
The paper provides us with a valuable opportunity for reflection on our own pedagogy, as we consider the instructional practice areas that play a critical role in contributing to learner success. The five practice areas are clearly described with examples and references to research studies supporting each area, and they include the following:
Transparency – emphasizing the importance of making teaching and learning visible for all students.
Pedagogical Approaches – focus on practices that enhance student learning, involvement and engagement. Additional attention is given to the role of high impact practices in supporting deep learning.
Assessment – recognizing the value of a balanced assessment approach that integrates formative feedback into course design, and providing multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate learning.
Self-regulation – encouraging and supporting learners to reflect not only on what they are learning, but also how they are learning.
Alignment – seen as a design principle that drives toward holistic coherence among content, teaching approach, activities and assessments.
You may find it a helpful exercise to read through the paper and reflect on the practices you already engage in, and to perhaps consider ways of further integrating or refining some practices to enhance student learning.