Teaching is a natural progressive profession (in most cases) for PhD students., Although the doctoral programs are designed to enable a person with adequate research and domain knowledge, rarely this program infuses teaching skills. Candidates generally learn the art once they are in the profession by experiential learning or by observing and discussing with their senior colleagues. Teaching is one such art, which can’t be taught, however an indicative skill training would be largely helpful for budding faculty members. ISB, Hyderabad realized this need of the educational ecosystem and floated a two day Doctoral Consortium on Teaching for final year doctoral candidates. About 25 doctoral candidates from leading b-schools of the country like IIM-A, IIM-B, IIM-C, MDI-Gurgaon, XLRI-Jamshedpur were invited for the consortium. I was one amongst those lucky ones to be invited to this first of its kind consortium.
The consortium began on the evening of 24th August, with an inaugural session. Prof. Arun Pereira – Head of Centre for Teaching, Learning and Case Development, began the session and introduced the vision of the centre. He then followed on with an interesting example of Hole in the Wall experiment and made us think with a message “For learning to take place, teachers are not required”. Now, in a doctoral consortium on teaching, if the head of the centre starts the session with such message, what sense would you make of it! But, he made us ponder upon that sentence and very soon he made us realize that, given the type and availability of resources, people could learn on their own (as exemplified in the Hole in the Wall experiment), however what matters is facilitating the right resources at right time, at right place and in right form. Gone are the days when teachers were considered to be the only source of knowledge. These days every individual is capable to construct knowledge, if he/she is exposed to the right resources. Prof. Pereira left with food for thought and we had lots to ponder upon that night.
On the 1st day of consortium, i.e. 25th August, Prof. Pereira welcomed us for yet another thought provoking session. He eloquently emphasized that in order to ensure effective learning; faculty members should follow the 3 step path of Interest –> Involvement –> Interaction. It is the sole responsibility (and a major challenge!) for faculty members to build interest of students in a topic, further on develop involvement and ensure that interaction occurs not only between faculty and student but also among students, as that would result into peer learning. He went on to highlight that presently practiced teaching methods / approaches were sub-optimal in assuring the effective learning process. As an example of effective learning methodology, he exposed us to the concept of Flipped classroom, where the active part of learning (discussion, practice by doing, teaching others) happens within class and the traditional passive part of learning (listening, audio/visual, and demonstration) happens outside the classroom.
The 2nd session of the day was conducted by Prof. Raveendra Chittoor. He discussed about case method of teaching and highlighted the key aspects of this methodology to train MBA students. Case method of teaching does enable students to empathize with the decision maker in the case and equip them to take decisions. However, one should realize that there is nothing like ‘the correct’ answer as a solution for a case study.
The major part of consortium was conducted by Gavin Wedell. He led us through three important sessions that spread across 25th and 26th August, 2012. He conducted his sessions in innovative manner with highly engaging presentations. He covered topics such as Student Engagement, Effective Delivery Methodologies and Effective Learning Design. He not only discussed ways to teach in an academic setting, but also shared some useful tips to conduct corporate workshops, seminars etc. Truly speaking I have never seen as engaging speaker as him. He kept us on toes in all his sessions with his flash quizzes, quirky talks (yet meaningful!), in-class exercises and so on.
On 26th August, there was a panel discussion with two eminent panelists – Prof. Chittoor and Prof. Naga Lakshmi, moderated by Prof. Pereira. We attendees were given freedom to ask panel members questions on various teaching aspects like classroom etiquettes, grading, student engagement, coursework design etc. Thanks to some valuable questions raised by the attendees, the panel discussion turned out to be very helpful and cleared many doubts in us.
Last sessions on both days were the peak of the sessions in the consortium and I am sure every one of us enjoyed it. These were the Practicum sessions, wherein all candidates were made to teach on a topic of their choice. On the first day, candidates had to teach for 3 minutes without using any teaching aid and on the 2nd day, they were made to teach for 8 minutes, with help of a teaching aid. At the end of one’s practicum, we were asked to reflect on our mistakes, which was highly appreciable. There couldn’t be a better way to teach one about their strengths and weaknesses.
I am sure anyone reading this would be eagerly awaiting for the next doctoral consortium on teaching by ISB. It was a great learning experience for me, having received some useful tips that would be helpful further in the career.
Now, here comes my critical viewpoint (though constructive in a sense!). I feel the job is half done on part of ISB. It is good and relevant on their part to hold such workshop for future faculty members. But, if we understand the educational ecosystem in this country, in most of the cases, the power rests with the owners of the institute. No matter how innovatively a faculty member tries to impart education, many a times his/her efforts are curbed by the top management due to their myopic vision of making profits or their lack of understanding. Hence, it would be good if a complementary workshop is organized for owners of educational institutes to make them realize the importance of effective learning schema and new teaching methodologies. We can’t ignore the fact that we are still a top-down driven country and hence it is very crucial that for an ecosystem to change, the top management also go through such exercises. If ISB team is reading this blogpost, I hope this constructive suggestion is considered in future.
I thank the entire ISB team for – giving me an unforgettable opportunity of my life, superb hospitality and great learning that I will cherish for lifetime. Thanks a lot!