My thoughts on teaching: Easier said than Done.

Most of my understanding of teaching comes from my experience as a student. Thus I think, a useful pedagogical framework not only allows students to learn effectively but also a teacher to simultaneously reflect on his personal practice. I plan and organize the teaching units well in advance. However, I do like to go beyond the scope of learning unit at times. Having taught a variety of subjects (mostly engineering/tech. subjects) in both academic and non-academic settings, I’m learning to teach more effectively.

The most important learning according to me is that no matter how well you plan or anticipate your class, the chances are that it may not interest all students. Not because some may be uninterested, but as a student, some might not be in the right frame of mind to accept the class. It is a teacher’s responsibility to prepare the students to be ready for the class, or they would lose interest sooner or later. I advocate a very systematic and organized way of learning to inhabit discipline as it helps to channelise the focus. Conflict arises as it is unlikely many designers would agree with this statement — the unstructuredness in the design learning that enables the student to open up and think beyond boundaries. It is certainly arguable, but the point I’m trying to make is that it is equally important for the student to also learn the fundamentals while they are in the academic setup at least. Your exploration, however, could be unstructured. I believe a strong foundation is required to experiment. Very close to the previous statement, it should not be confused with teacher imposing his interests on the students but just exposing the students enough for them to see the glimpse of the subject. A teacher should never try to impose his interests on the students consciously.

The design graduates in India are already competing with the engineering graduates and vice versa. As a teacher, it is also necessary to empower the students to sustain themselves in the industry. The future holds for the people who appreciate and understand this dichotomy of making things. My core teaching style comes from here — Connecting purposefully one subject to another (and more often they are either Physics or Mathematics) while ensuring they don’t get intimidated. Some might ask why Mathematics? “Mathematics is the framework for abstraction and logic. It is the language to decode and design.” Besides being my interest, I believe it will empower design students to create more efficiently.

My classes are a mix of theory and hands-on activity, to engage and ensure that the students have a solid takeaway after each class. My teaching principles are —

  • to ensure leveled/plain field, to begin with.
  • to set expectations of my class.
  • to ensure that students understand the basics.
  • to encourage them to ask more questions.
  • to reduce math anxiety.

Apart from teaching, I also want to pursue research in my areas of interest while being in an academic setup. This setup, will not just connect me with students, but also with faculty from other disciplines, which I could leverage for my research. Though I still need to figure about how am I going to balance the academic and research work, so it benefits each other. Also, some of my thoughts here might appear naive as I’m just beginning and I will become more critical over time. The process of reflection that I have now might change in future as I progress.

Notes.

  1. Review and Suggestions by Swati Sharma.