ACE Framework: What I needed without realizing it

July 16, 2020

I have done my share of worrying about the fall semester. There are many things that I don’t have control over and this can be very challenging in the midst of a pandemic. The uncertainty makes it difficult to focus on planning for the fall semester. The more I read about teaching during this crisis, the more uncertain I become about what to do. I feel a little paralyzed exactly where to begin. That is how I felt until this week.

As a CPLC faculty affiliate, I could choose to participate in a 4-week workshop as a mentor for stipend faculty engaging in this work. My role is to facilitate weekly small group discussion conversations with 4 faculty and review their guided self-assessments at the end of the workshop. I decided that I would complete the workshop activities along with the participants, as I thought it would help me to facilitate these conversations with my small group as well as help me with my planning for the fall.

The professional development focuses on the ACE Framework developed by Robin DeRosa and the staff at the CoLab on campus. This guidance helps faculty to consider how to prepare courses in the midst of the pandemic around three key elements: adaptability, connection, and equity. The goal is to help faculty focus on pedagogy while supporting students during this crisis. In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed , DeRosa provides an overview of this framework. She writes, “What matters most is that we focus teaching and learning on, well, teaching and learning, and that during a time of crisis, instead of abandoning our missions to a superficial set of patchwork technologies, we dig deeper to stay true to our commitment to our core values in higher education.” So far, I feel that this framework is helping me work on these important goals.

In our first week, we are exploring the element of adaptability. The activities focus on assignment level considerations (flexible deadlines and student design & choice) and course level considerations (HiFlex design and module based schedule). As I read through the materials and complete the activities, I realize that many of the ideas suggested are not new to me. I just haven’t thought about them in this way or with this much purpose. This ahh moment helped me very much this week as I began to apply the ideas to my design of one of my course for the fall, ER 3210: Assessment in Early Childhood.

I started by looking at my course objectives and the guiding questions that I use throughout the course. I looked for groups of questions/objectives that have potential for modules. I started to wonder what space would be best for each of this larger topics– face-to-face, online, either. I also thought about the sequence of these topics. Are there ideas that had to come at the beginning or are there topics that are more flexible, that could come at any point in the semester? This was a new question that I asked myself. Of course I have thought about the order of topics before, but I don’t think I really analyzed it at this level before. It made me ask myself, “Why?” This seemed like an important process and I found myself thinking about why I included certain elements in the course. How would these elements help students understand essential ideas about early childhood assessment? Below you can see part of this work and the questions I am still considering as I continue to work on these ideas.

I also spent time this week considering the assignments for the course and how I could provide more student choice within activities. Another idea that I considered was the use of flexible deadlines. I hadn’t thought about assignments in this way before. I have provided students flexibility with submitting work but usually as a response to a request by a student. I really never thought about it as part of the design of the course. What if students decided what deadlines worked for them? What if each student created an assignment calendar? This really sparked my interest and I am thinking about how I might implement this idea with my students. Below you can see a snippet of my thinking about my assignments.

As you will see I am still in the midst of planning but I am feel for the first time a path. This work is getting me excited to focus on teaching and planning for the fall. Using the tools from the ACE workshop, I have a focus and this feels really good. Since the start of the pandemic, I feel that much of what I have done is react to the situation. The ACE framework is providing me with the opportunity to thoughtfully plan for the fall (something I always enjoyed prior to the crisis). I know that there is much that I will not have control over this fall but it feels good to make progress on the most important aspect of my job, teaching. My hope is this work will help students learn about the content, feel supported in the crisis, and provide us with the flexibility to make changes when necessary. I am excited what I will learn next week and how it will help me with my planning!