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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Indo-US Workshop on Effective Teaching at University Level

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.

4 comments:

balas said...

Dheeraj,

Great insight. This is precisely the core of what I am working on starting, which is to find new ways for students to learn that are far from the conventional teaching methods employed to date. I am also more interested in primary education, esp. for rural India as I believe that succeeding here equips a large number of future citizens into leading a productive and fruitful life for themselves. I would love for your learnings and thoughts during the formative stages of my enterprise.

Regards,
Sekar

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

Hi Sekar, would be happy to discuss and share ideas.

The Third Eye said...

In my experience, IITs provide very little value addition. The teaching is abysmal and there are very few professors who care about teaching. One of my professors (who incidentally was a good teacher) confided to us that he was actually jeopardizing his career by teaching us instead of doing research. So it looks like the system is designed to maximize research at the cost of teaching. Unless the underlying incentives change, good people like you will languish.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

Thanks. I don't think IITs have incentives or disincentives for anything. People are free to chose any focus (particularly after they have become a Professor), and that includes the choice to have no focus.