15 Oct Innovative pedagogy in management education
The best teachers never go out and seek their feedback after the class. It comes to them in the forms of satiated smile from students. Teaching is a co-creation. No more monologue. A good professor should never act as a Chef cooking delicacy alone; rather he or she should act like a Symphony Conductor, tickling students’ interest to bring out their best contributions in the learning process; as how the Conductor brings the best out of every musician’s instrument.
Management education is evolving as any other field. A great deal of innovative thought is required for a successful teacher to bring the best out of students in classroom environment – especially with young generations’ short attention span. At DSIMS, plenty of experiments have gone in, in the last few years after many reputed recruiters gave two major observations about our students – lack of conceptual clarity and poor soft skills.
Our faculty team council went through a tormenting time debating different pedagogical designs. Senior management educators from leading B-Schools were drawn into our discussion board to help us addressing these issues. In all earnestness, I daresay, some of them worked; and some flopped. I am sharing few of my experiments wherein my students finally could meet up with benchmarked outcomes as against the previous batches. I have been teaching marketing subjects for more than twenty years. My experiments may work for you.
Split the classes
I must thank Prof. Sreeram , School of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, for driving this crazy idea! In one of his FDP sessions, he cried out loud! “Split your classes in three parts. Do whatever you want; but compartmentalize”. So I divided my classes into slots of 30 minutes. I used to discuss concepts first and facilitate peer discussion next; and finally ask them to volunteer for short-pitch presentations. You may design your own ingredients. But do split. It worked very well for me. I could see boredom doesn’t creep in, in the learning process.
Write Write and Write.
Many good management teachers do peripheral reading. They often take interesting articles as a precursor before kicking off a new topic. Students like it because they can relate those snippets to the concepts that are taught subsequently.
Generally, a course or subject is taken up by one faculty member say for 20-45 hours single handedly. We tweaked this model a bit. Professors who are good in a specific topic or modules were encouraged to chip in other professor’s classes. I teach marketing management for first year students. Many a times, I invited few of my colleagues to take a few topics. One of my colleagues Prof. Amit Srivastava is a versatile practitioner of sales and distribution subject. Whenever this module came up for discussion I invited him to take couple of sessions. My students not only learned effectively, but they enjoyed classes more meaningfully. On the other hand, I go to his marketing management classes to teach consumer behavior, which is one subject wherein, I delved deeper with my bit of practical researches.
We have even tried this model with our international faculty. Recently, we had one Professor Hugh Munro, from Canada, visited our campus to teach Corporate Strategy. Two more professors trailed him in the classes. My senior colleague Prof. Ravi Banerjee closely followed Prof. Hugh where the visiting professor drives the concept and Prof. Ravi connects the concepts with Indian examples and cases which went off well in tandem. Students not only enjoy co-teaching, they also find this model extremely useful.
Discipline – No offence!
Millennials are rebels too! Disciplining them is a challenge. But to me, it worked. Set the house rules at the very beginning of the class. Big problem with students now-a-days is that they tend to use mobile phones in the class and arrive later than the designated time, just to name a few. Professors have to walk the talk. I don’t take my mobile phone in the class. I caution them not to show their phones either when I am taking my session. I tell them “your phone belongs to me, if I happen to see them. Please keep it under wraps”. Late coming is a big no! My students have the habit of seeing me in the corridor five minutes prior to the scheduled time. They were probably amused in the beginning because, like a mannequin, I stood outside their classroom. On entering, I took their attendance immediately and found a nice way to prevent anymore disturbance by putting a post-it-card with ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign outside the door. Students are, at least civilized, not to knock the door after seeing ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign. They do appreciate professors who deliver values in spite of being quirky in the name discipline.
Dirtying the hands
Field visits are equally essential; sometimes rated more important than classroom learning. I take them out often to relate concepts. There are different approaches to field visits. While I deal with cases, particularly, I insist students to visit market places. In one instance, I took Puma HBS case for class room discussion. The case describes Indian footwear industry and different national and multinational footwear brands. I took all my students to different markets. The mandate is that they must go as ‘ghost shoppers’ and touch all possible footwear brands. That feel is imperative. I encourage them to be inquisitive and ask questions on pricing, packaging, promotion etc. Now after this exercise, they must read the case once again before coming to the class for further discussion and analysis. Believe me it worked very well.
Personal Selling is another subject one has to learn by doing not reading. We tied up with an NGO Navnirmiti that sells educational toys to school children. We fix up one particular week and our professors and students go in various groups to different pockets of the city and sell these products on behalf of Navnirmiti. Initially, we faced a lot of resistance from students. But later with a bit of nudging and guiding, our students went out to sell. We took veteran professor T.Prasad from NITIE, another well-known management school of Mumbai, to convince students. Going out to see the world is, of course, essential part of learning.
Gadget A big tool
A mobile phone is a big weapon, in the class for learning. I let my students use the mobile phone in a controlled environment. Students love this practice. There are many ways to use mobile phones. For example, I need to explain the term ‘brand equity’. The easy method is to open a PPT and read. But rather, ask students to google and let them define in their own language after online research. If you google any term, obviously, one will find hundreds of results. Allow them to search first, encourage them to comprehend and push them to come out with their interpretation in the class. In this method, you are not teaching them, but facilitating a learning environment that works more effectively.
Be a Zen Master
Remember the kind of reverence Zen Master evokes with his sheer presence. These masters are soaked in decades of practices that command towering respects from his pupils. Professors must become like Zen Masters. This requires committed hours of preparation and practice.
When you do extensive reading, the confidence that comes in your body language would tell different story about your deep understanding of the subject. You remember that confident posture of Sachin Tendulkar at stumps when Shane Warne used to stare at him before his attempted googly! That assertive pose of Sachin conveys his countless practices behind the net. A teacher has to put a minimum hundred hours of reading before embarking on his teaching.
This is my strong opinion. Students must get a feeling that a master is standing in front of them to bring their best out!
Though it may sound like a cliché to mention Confucius’s famous quote “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand” This is no way different from Bloom’s Taxonomy. After all, students must become practitioners of what we ‘preach’ in class rooms. Innovative pedagogy transcends students from one layer to another layer of Bloom Taxonomy – remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating – gradually.
B-School leadership plays a critical role in steering their faculty pool in the right direction. Teaching, especially management subjects got its own challenges. Only innovative pedagogies can ignite the young minds to conquer new heights.
-by Dr. Chidambaram Babu, Director