27 DE AGOSTO 2020 • 17
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IVETTE OSORIO, ESQ.
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HIGHER ED TODAY
Like universities across the country,
CUNY has worked intensely these
past six months to keep our students on
track for graduation despite the unprecedented
obstacles of the pandemic. It’s
the technical challenges of teaching and
learning from a distance that get most of
the attention, but we are just as focused
on helping our faculty become more effective
teachers — and our students, better
learners — in ways that have nothing
to do with laptops, digital platforms
or video conference apps.
In the education world, the word for
this is pedagogy: How teachers teach,
how students learn and what methods
and approaches have proven most effective
at elevating student achievement and
outcomes. It’s a recognition that teaching
is an art, a science and a craft. That consideration
is one of our key priorities at
CUNY — a way to both boost student success
and support the invaluable resource
that is our faculty. Improving and innovating
our teaching strategies was front
and center before the coronavirus, and
we haven’t let the scramble to put courses
online throw us off track.
CUNY students began the fall semester
this week, and the vast majority of
their nearly 50,000 course sections — 98
percent — are being delivered virtually.
They will surely benefit from the work
their professors, their campuses and
their university have done to adopt instructional
practices that put a priority
on the needs of online learners. For obvious
reasons, much of the professional
development training we have offered to
faculty in recent months has focused on
the improvement of distance learning.
But that effort is part of a bigger project at
CUNY that will far outlast the pandemic.
Studies have supported the notion
that improving pedagogy can make a
significant difference in student success.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, but
this should: Most college faculty undergo
almost no professional development to
build these skills, or to improve their
teaching methods, while in graduate
school. It’s just not something that universities
have traditionally emphasized
as much as they ought to. I began my career
as a history professor and taught for
many years, and whatever training I got
in pedagogy was not something promoted
by the University. That is why I have prioritized
a long-term series of initiatives to
fill a demonstrated need.
At the top of the list is the CUNY Innovative
Teaching Academy, which will
serve as a hub for professional development
and the vibrant exchange of ideas
for new approaches to student engagement
and success. Last year, we forged
partnerships to launch several pilot projects
for the academy aimed at helping faculty
master best practices for both online
and in-person teaching.
For starters, we are teaming with
the Association of College and University
Educators (ACUE) and the National
Association of System Heads (NASH)
on a 25-week program in which 300 faculty
from CUNY senior colleges will be
trained in practices that improve student
achievement and close equity gaps.
This fall, another 420 faculty will be
trained and credentialed in online teaching
methods that focus on areas such as
creating an inclusive learning environment,
inspiring inquiry and designing
More recently, we announced a $10
million gift from the Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation that includes $2 million to
train humanities faculty in ways to make
their classes more participatory and prepare
students for a world that requires
collaboration, communication, analytical
reading and cross-cultural thinking.
We hope the Innovative Teaching
Academy will become a national model.
The pandemic has required us to focus
our professional development efforts
on training that helps our faculty improve
student engagement and foster an
inclusive, encouraging instructional atmosphere
in the online modality. It’s been
an all-hands-on-deck effort this summer
to provide programs with noted experts
and partnerships with other academic institutions.
Leveraging the expertise of the CUNY
School of Professional Studies, a longtime
national leader in online degree programs,
CUNY created online developmental
workshops for more than 2,000 faculty
members across the system to improve
their online instructional practices. I’m
confident that the benefits will be apparent,
and that they will be just one part of
our long-range commitment to improved
We’ve been confronted this year by
enormous challenges to our broad educational
mission, and to our specific efforts
to help our students complete their
courses, earn enough credits each semester
to graduate on time and pursue
careers that will allow them to climb the
economic and social ladder. But even as
health and budgetary circumstances remain
uncertain, CUNY’s commitment to
improving student outcomes and supporting
our faculty is unwavering.
After all they’ve endured in coping
with the challenges of the pandemic, our
students, faculty and staff deserve nothing
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