Recently, I attended the Indo-US Workshop on Effective Teaching at University Level. The three-day event hosted by IIIT Delhi was an absolute delight. There was so much to learn from the experts, many of whom have done tremendous research in this area and had come from Teaching and Learning Centers of several US universities. Prof. Pankaj Jalote, Director, IIITD, was the main force behind it, and he certainly has done a great service to the teaching community by organizing this workshop.
The most important lesson that I learnt was that the focus of a teacher has to be on "learning" and not so much on lectures. Lectures are important, of course, but if one focuses on whether the students are learning or not, then one realizes that the job of a teacher is much more than just lecturing. Students learn not by listening but when they do some intellectual activity involving the content that you taught. These intellectual exercises could be some small group activities within the class, or assignments, projects, term papers, presentations, etc. Unfortunately, a large number of university/college teachers focus on just lectures and not on any other thing that could enhance learning of the students.
I learnt that an individual faculty member could get instantaneous formative feedback, which could really help in improving the quality of instruction and learning. One participant suggested that at the end of each lecture, we could just ask the students to write down a couple of top concepts that they think they have learnt in the lecture that day, and also a question that they have in mind related to those topics. The faculty member could go through this feedback very quickly. And this would tell him/her whether the learning has taken place as intended or students have missed the important points. Also, if the faculty member answers those questions in the beginning of the next class, it creates a rapport between the teacher and the students, which improves their interest in the course and hence improves learning. I will certainly do this next semester.
I hope that there will be a proceedings of the workshop coming out soon.
I have been so excited about the things that I have learnt that I volunteered to host discussion session with my department colleagues and several other faculty members at IITK. It was a lot of fun to share my learning with them. But I wish that some IIT will take lead in setting up a teaching and learning center, which can do research in such issues in the Indian context.