What is the relationship between college instruction and student outcomes?

A new paper examines that question in five key areas — making the case that “what faculty do and how instruction occurs matter, and matter greatly.”

“Unpacking Relationships: Instruction and Student Outcomes,” from the American Council on Education (ACE), argues for additional support for faculty, to ensure they’re equipped to follow the evidence-based practices that have a positive impact on student outcomes

The paper is part of a collaboration between ACE and USA Funds® to examine higher education instruction and assess the connection between quality teaching and an improved student experience, which may lead to increased retention, persistence, and success rates.

Author Natasha Jankowski, director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, discussed the paper during a recent webinar for higher education faculty, support staff and administrators and employers.

“Unpacking Relationships” is part of a USA Funds grant project aimed at improving the classroom experience for students.

The goal? To disseminate a composite of best practices in college instruction that often aren’t considered as part of the holistic student experience. This intersection between instruction and student outcomes, the paper concludes, includes the following areas:

Transparency: Students must have a clear understanding of where they are going, the criteria that will evaluate how they get there, and each course’s role in the curriculum.

Pedagogical approaches: Practices such as student-centered learning and personalized instruction generally lead to deeper understanding of a subject.

Assessment: Students learn best by receiving multiple opportunities to practice learning in a variety of situations and by receiving feedback along the way.

Self-regulation: Active participation in learning, using reflection in addition to experience, is an important component in student success.

Alignment: Content, instructional design, pedagogical approaches, assignments and evaluative criteria should work together to help students to connect the pieces in their curricula.

During the January webinar, the report’s author called for more-thorough orientation, training and sharing among instructors to encourage these best practices in college instruction. Up next are additional reports that go beyond connections between effective instruction and student outcomes to examine the impact improved student outcomes have on institutional efficiency.

Equipping faculty with the tools and techniques necessary to positively impact the curricular experience for an increasingly diverse student population is central to improving postsecondary attainment and student success.

Through our work together, USA Funds and ACE will advance the most central endeavor to the academic enterprise — effective instruction. We will help increase awareness of the need for quality assessment of faculty development that will ultimately lead to an improved classroom experience for students.