Saturday, June 25, 2011

Preparing to Teach

I have taken on teaching responsibilities starting this week. I wish I didn't, as the preparation for this has now been added to my already crazy schedule; but, then, I wanted to teach. This is the first reason I took on my current job. From the small amount of teaching I have done over the last year, I know I enjoy teaching too: It gives me the excuse to prepare, and learn more myself through conversations with students.

However, this week's teaching commitment is slightly different from what I have done so far. I am supposed to do a 'tutorial' as opposed to a lecture. Personally, I am not sure what the tutorials are supposed to achieve. We are teaching for an MBA, and the stated purpose of the tutorial is to ready the students for examinations. While I know this may be necessary for some of our students, who clearly find writing nuanced essays a challenging task, the idea of preparing for the examinations run counter to my belief what MBA should be about. I am trying to push forward an agenda of an MBA which allows the students critical thinking and engagement with 'conventional business wisdom'; preparing them to write examination questions in the right way, to me, is surrendering to that conventional wisdom all over again.

Some colleagues argued that it does not have to be so. I can indeed talk about opposing ideas and cite literature of different kind. I guess this is exactly what I am going to do, but I am mindful of the risks: This is not an one-to-one affair answering the students' individual queries, but something delivered in a lecture theater with more than 40 students present. I am struggling to see how the tutorial can be different from the lecture. My preparation activities, which I am doing now, is to negotiate the point.

This is what I am trying then: I shall focus my tutorial on critical engagement with a topic of importance. Mindful of the examination preparation requirement, I shall keep it to a topic which is most likely to be covered in the assessment. However, I am trying not to lecture, but structure the session in terms of three activities - one solely individual, one group activity and another individual and then group activity. My plans are to break down my available three hours into three 50 minute segments, each started by a small 'context' lecture done by me, followed on by the activities. In the end, I wish to give them a selection of literature and pointers, and a question from the past papers to write and submit on Moodle, which I shall give feedback on.

The topic I have chosen to cover is something I have done before: International Business Culture. This is rooted on the same Hall/ Hofstede kind of material, though I shall refer to Pankaj Ghemawat and other business writers extensively. I am also using a quiz - a mix of questions on politics, culture and history of different countries - which is not exactly relevant to what I am trying to teach, but indicates the need for a global mindset and hopefully this will set the context for discussions.

Despite the trouble of preparation, then, I am looking forward to this session on Thursday. I do this every week thereafter - one day a week to teach. This will make quite a difference in my lifestyle and would possibly ground me for a while. However, my plans to travel to India looks quite distant still and these teaching commitments will last only 8 weeks, freeing me up mid-August again.

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