Tuesday, December 27, 2011

TEACHING AND LEARNING - Myth No. 1 - The Higher the Qualifications, the Better the Teacher

The Two Myths of Teaching

From my personal experience as a teacher at the post graduate level in Engineering, Technology and Management, I feel that the two myths of higher education are:

1. The Higher the Qualifications, the Better the Teacher 

2. Money motivates Teachers.

Let us reflect on what makes a good teacher, especially in higher professional education.

MYTH NO. 1 – The Higher the Qualifications, the Better the Teacher 

Does a Ph. D. make a Better Teacher?

Here are my musings on the Qualities a Teacher must Possess

A teacher is a trustee.

It is just like the birds. 

You take a flock of young students under your wings, nurture them, teach them to “fly”, and when they are ready, you release them into the world, set them free, watch them with pride as they fly into the sky, soar high above you, knowing that they will never come back, wishing that they reach great heights which you could never reach, for nothing gives a teacher more happiness than when his student excels and surpasses the teacher himself. 

I have learned from experience that teaching has got less to do with knowledge and more to do with communication.

Teaching is about relationships as well as pedagogy.

Teaching is more about feeling than facts. 

It is all a question of vibes.

Once you establish positive vibes with your students, you can feel the delightful chemistry being generated between you and your students. 

In the parlance of Electrical Engineering, it is like perfect impedance matching, the maximum power transfer theorem, and you can experience the classroom rocking with resonance, when all the resistance to the flow of knowledge disappears, the intellectual friction vanishes, the barriers to communication melt away and seamless effortless learning is achieved.

It is not important how much a teacher knows. What is important is how much the student learns.

Like I said, for a teacher, communication skills are far more important than qualifications.

Teaching is about relationships as well as pedagogy – it is more about feeling than facts.

Soft Skills outweigh Hard Skills as far as the art of teaching is concerned.

A highly qualified Ph.D. who does not know the art of teaching and fails to establish good vibes with his students cannot make his lectures engrossing and this often may results in students losing interest in the subject and in some cases an insensitive teacher who lacks the requisite soft skills, and has poor interpersonal and ineffective communication skills, may even end up making his students hate and despise the subject he or she is teaching. 

I have seen that many Ph.D. qualified teachers do not possess the requisite soft skills required for effective teaching.

In many cases, overqualification may be counterproductive and the demonstrated ability at carrying out research (Ph.D) may not guarantee good teaching skills, especially at the undergraduate level. 

Unlike in schools where B.Ed. is a must for teachers, and a DECE or Montessori Training is desirable for primary and pre-primary school teachers, the fact of the matter is that in higher education most teachers have had no formal training in the Art of Teaching or Pedagogy and are appointed as lecturers and professors solely based on their academic qualifications and research publications - whether they are proficient in pedagogy and the Art of Teaching is not considered - and that is why one sees so many well qualified professors with poor communication skills and inadequate teaching ability owing to which they are unable to motivate their students and this hampers their ability to transfer their knowledge to the students. 

Insistence on a Ph.D. for a teacher, even at the undergraduate level, precludes many otherwise talented persons including those with professional experience from entering as faculty in the teaching profession in higher and professional education and this is a great loss of expertise and results in only the "academicians" dominating the teaching profession. Of course, the ultimate losers are the students, and as a consequence, the industry and the society at large. In fact, this is one of the reasons that many organisations and employers have to invest heavily in induction training as fresh graduates, even in engineering and technology, are not industry-ready.

It is easy to make simple things difficult but difficult to make complicated things easy. 

It requires good teaching styleeffective communication skills and appropriate soft skills to make difficult things easy and enjoyable to learn. 

The process of learning must be enjoyable. It must not be dry, didactic, boring and painful.

It is important for a teacher to remember that learning comprises two pedagogic processes: 

Getting knowledge that is inside to move out,  
Getting knowledge that is outside to move in.

The second part of imparting knowledge from outside into the student is comparatively easier, once you’ve got the students interested, eager to learn, and the teacher is proficient in teaching skills and knowledgeable in the subject and domain specialization.

It is the first aspect, getting knowledge that is inside the student to move out, facilitating inward discovery on one’s self, motivate inquiry based learning to help unlock the treasure within the student that is more challenging, which the true test and indeed the hallmark of a good teacher.

End of Part 1
To Be Continued in Part 2 ...

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and he is currently working on his novel. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
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Email: vikramkarve@sify.com        

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