Document Type


Publication Date




01 - Foreword: President Stephen Spinelli Jr., Ph.D.

03 - Preface: Teaching at Philadelphia University: Celebrating Our Best Practices

07 - Part One: Teaching the Learning Process

19 - Part Two: Strategies for Strong Student Engagement

31 - Part Three: Making Connections: the “Real World”

41 - Part Four: Making Connections: Integrative Learning

51 - Part Five: Making Connections: Collaborative Learning

59 - Part Six: Constructing the Semester: Speculations on Pedagogy and the Teaching Self

73 - Afterword: Provost Randy Swearer, Ph.D.

75 - Appendix One: Nexus Learning

76 - Appendix Two: Nexus Learning Action Team Members, 2009-2011

77 - Acknowledgements



Every faculty member at one time or another has known the sinking sensation that he or she is just not reaching students. Since we entered the profession because we love learning and love to facilitate learning, blank stares and dull eyes lead not only to frustration, but also to disappointment. Paraphrasing Lee Shulman, past President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and a leader in professional education, it is one thing to be competent in subject knowledge and another thing to be competent in subject knowledge pedagogy.

The examples and ideas expressed in these pages come from our own faculty, teaching our own students and were developed to expand the tools they use to impact learning. Too often, good techniques and activities often are not shared, missing the opportunity to build on one another’s ideas and experiment with new pedagogy. There seems to be little time and no forum for practice exchange and even less opportunity for researching new pedagogical approaches. John Lewis comments,

“The choice of innovative teaching strategies largely depends on the willingness of an instructor to continually test both effectiveness and acceptance of a particular technique. Learning has taken place since the dawn of civilization and some teaching methods have existed just as long. The innovative instructor often recognizes that ‘tried’ is but a rearrangement of ‘tired.’ However, some teaching practices have survived solely because of their effectiveness and their demonstrated evidence of strength. Therefore, instructors who regard time-honored practices as co-ingredients with sparkling innovation usually see marked growth among learners who have joined them in discovery. Techniques that reward creativity often yield subject mastery at the highest level of application and experimentation toward the establishment of new theory.”

In addition, there can appear to be disincentives for sharing practice. As one faculty member noted, we can come to a university teaching with a desire that our sections succeed better than others. Consequently, if we have a technique that works well, we may keep it to ourselves. That same faculty member expressed great satisfaction when, in time, she learned that sharing collaboratively results in even more powerful ideas, as well as significant collegial support. Another faculty member, Jesse Coale, has found the same support by sharing his ideas,

“We continue to try to find the balance between experiential learning and boring lectures. Often this happens as an organic process — sitting around the lunch table when someone presents an idea and it gets discussed, finessed and implemented. Having a faculty group that is open to new ideas and methods is essential to try these different ideas.”

The Best Practice Sampler, composed of just some of the approaches evident in our classes every day, offers a way both to share techniques and activities and also to celebrate the dedication and creativity of the Philadelphia University faculty and staff. In each section, loosely organized around our Nexus Learning strategies of active, collaborative, engaged, real-world learning, employing the methods and knowledge learned in a study of the liberal arts and sciences, the authors have responded to the question,“What do you do that makes for effective student learning?” The short pieces chronicle many of our best pedagogical practices. They show how teachers implement their ideas and beliefs about teaching and learning, in a concrete and practical way.