PhilaU Faculty Research Discovering Improved Teaching Methods

A panel of Nexus Learning grant winners shared about their research during Celebrate Teaching Week.

As an institution that prides itself on being innovative, Philadelphia University works hard to do more than pay lip service to improving what goes on in the classroom. By leading a wide range of recent research on ways to improve teaching and learning in new and impactful ways, PhilaU faculty are clearly demonstrating their commitment to putting students first.

Since 2006, more than 30 PhilaU faculty members have conducted pedagogical research, publishing their findings in more than a dozen journals and presenting at some 60 conferences.

“In the last 10 years, a field of research has emerged that is called ‘the scholarship of teaching and learning,’” said Marion Roydhouse, director of the Center for Teaching Innovation and Nexus Learning at PhilaU. “What we’re seeing on campus is an example of an increasing focus on experimenting with teaching and conducting action research in classrooms. It’s not enough just to say we are a teaching school. Philadelphia University is making a conscious effort to make effective teaching a serious and highly valued endeavor.”

Roydhouse led the second annual Celebrate Teaching Week at PhilaU last month, which included more than 45 workshops and discussions about ways to improve teaching and student learning. The sessions drew from PhilaU’s growing pool of expertise in the area, with the nearly 40 presenters coming from all three Colleges, the Paul J. Gutman Library, Office of Information Resources and the University administration, including President Stephen Spinelli Jr., Ph.D.

The Celebrate Teaching Week keynote panel featured the in-house expertise of six PhilaU faculty members who were interviewed by Katharine Jones, associate professor of sociology, and Susan Frostén, associate professor of architecture. Jones and Frostén serve as Nexus Learning advocates for their Colleges.

Each of the faculty members shared their experiences and conclusions from research done through the University’s Nexus Learning grants program, which funds faculty work that supports PhilaU’s signature approach to teaching and learning, which is that leads to active, collaborative, connected to the real world and infused with the liberal arts.

Jeff Ashley, associate professor of chemistry, a Nexus Learning grant recipient who has also received funding from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on improving science-related teaching methods, talked about his work to revise the general chemistry course for non-majors. Ashley and adjunct faculty members Niny Rao and Crystal Smith revised what had been a passive, lecture-based course into a more active and engaging experience for students.

“The new approach was closer to the studio model. It was much more active, and we found students were significantly more engaged,” Ashley said. “One of the professors teaching the course said she could never go back to teaching the course in the traditional way. That’s the kind of outcome we want.”

Other panelists included Meriel Tulante, assistant professor of Italian; assistant professors of architecture Chris Harnish and Kihong Ku; Kim Douglas, assistant professor of landscape architecture; and Leslie Samoni, assistant professor of fashion industry management. Their Nexus Learning grants funded research on projects ranging from teaching collaboration skills to using e-portfolios to demonstrate student learning and self-reflection.

“We’re implementing the findings of this research across the University in a serious way,” Roydhouse said. “Many colleges talk about teaching, but we are making strides to be a leader in learning-centered education by supporting faculty research and innovation.”

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