In nearly 25 years of teaching, Brennan said he’s aspired to break down unnecessary barriers that block positive interactions with students and instill a passion for the true wonder of the art and craft of rigorous scholarship and inquiry.
He tries to engage, interact and learn alongside his students.
“All too often the distance that grows between faculty and students is massive and often insurmountable,” Brennan said. “I’m dedicated to facilitating a highly interactive student-centered approach to teaching.”
Brennan accomplishes this by creating a highly interactive and personable environment where he can create space for informal interactions before and after class. He builds activities in the classroom that encourage group work and discussion outside of the classroom. He’s active in student organizations.
He likes to co-present content and co-lead discussions with the aid of his students and finds that this approach changes the dynamics of traditional group projects while improving understanding of the course materials.
“I am steadfast in my belief that together we are on a journey of discovery and that we collectively learn far more from each other than we do individually,” Brennan said. “Student evaluations indicate that they very much enjoy and benefit from this active learning.”
Another way Brennan engages his students is through the PSU Students as Youth As Researchers program, which is based on a program created through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
This program, developed with undergraduate students, offers a rigorous guide for carrying out locally based research projects. The goal of this research is for students to learn while engaging in research that solves societal problems.
Brennan is always looking to improve his teaching. He’s completed a dozen improvement programs offered at Penn State and just as many offered through external agencies, including several international experiences in Europe, Africa, South America and Australia.
Brennan has received numerous teaching awards including: the Academy of Teaching Excellence award (2012, 2016), Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Award, Schreyer Honors College Distinguished Honors Fellow (2011-13) and the Lamar Kopp International Achievement Award.
“Dr. Brennan is truly a fantastic teacher,” a nominator said. “He is a very well-rounded educator, thinker and compassionate leader. He represents lectures clearly and in a way that enables students to reflect and comprehend sometimes difficult concepts. He challenges students to push their perspectives, defend their thoughts with objectivity and evidence, and collaborate with one another.”