Dani Fischer, Professor of Biology
Dani Fischer, Professor of Biology

In March 2020, the world changed, and so did my teaching. The Association for College and University Educators (ACUE) launched its first course, Effective Teaching Practices, in July 2019 and when I was included in the first, little did I know the impact it would have on my future teaching career. 

First, it was the longest graduate class I had completed, spanning fall and spring semesters. This gave me the opportunity to build relationships across the college community—with the facilitators, two of my fellow biology faculty, both longstanding and new full-time faculty, and adjunct faculty of different disciplines. Working with Jason Chatman, Assistant Professor of Sociology, I got an idea of how different teaching practices, like the Fishbowl (renamed the Fischbowl in my class) play out in the world of the natural versus the social sciences. 

Some of the strategies I was exposed to, I had been exposed to before — simple teaching tools like the One-Minute Paper, Muddiest Point and Gallery Walk — now, I had the opportunity to try (and sometimes fail!) to use them in the real classroom environment (while simultaneously seeing how this played out in classrooms across the college through my peers). Others, I had never tried before — asking my students to set both life and academic goals in my “Jar of Life” activity or asking for student feedback on my teaching throughout the semester (instead of just in the end-of-semester anonymous teaching evaluations —scary!) in the Stop-Start-Continue activity or “Snowball” approach.  

Having my ACUE cohort, and the resources it provided for me, helped me navigate the online realm of the pandemic more smoothly than I could have without them. Four years later, these teaching techniques launched themselves from a Canvas shell into a permanent spot in my classroom. 

ACUE was one of the most meaningful professional development opportunities Waubonsee has offered — providing the chance to earn graduate credit while using my classroom as an andragogy laboratory. To this day, I receive resources from the nation-wide community of educators, and invitations to join this community at educators’ conferences. I have even been invited to be a National Reader for this organization. The benefits of participation go on and on.

My recommendation for all educators, inside and outside of higher education and at every rank, is to seek professional development with an open mind. What I thought was going to be an opportunity to earn graduate credit ended up being a chance to be part of something larger than my classroom, or even my college — helping me become better at my teaching practice, and helping my students reach the outcomes they need to succeed at Waubonsee and beyond.


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