Monday, 28 December 2015

Faculty training and motivation—ground realities

I presented this paper at a National Conference on “Technical Education in the New Millenium: Management and Challenges” conducted by Universtiy College of Engineering, Osmania University, Hyderabad between 12-13 March 2000.

Technical education is a global expression covering comprehensively various aspects that are related to it and that influence the quality level of planning, organizing and implementing it. Production of quality engineers and technologists depends on the provision of quality technical education. Such provision is not only desirable but also inevitable for the simple reason that India would otherwise be left far behind in the global market to catch up with the rest.

This paper is related to the implementation stage, to faculty training and motivation. No education is possible, let alone technical education, without students, faculty and infrastructure. However good students may be, they cannot do much without support services like the laboratory, the library and the classroom. They can’t shine either without appropriate guidance from the faculty. If the infrastructure provides the necessary accessories, the faculty provide the vital link between the student and the infrastructure.

Naturally the faculty are needed to
       •     define, shape and give meaning to learning
      •     strengthen the weak learner with compassion
       •     support the average learner with understanding
       •     kindle the exceptional learner with zest.
It may be said that the internet, multimedia and software can and will eliminate the teacher and the infrastructure. But the computer is a nonhuman source and if at all, it can speak only in monotone and will thus totally lack the infinitely communicative nonverbal body language that two bodies and mind can generate and share. It is a cold machine and will thus totally lack the warmth and the bondage that bind forever the disciple to the guru and the guru to the disciple. Such is the fatally vital link. Such is the crucial role of faculty in the life of the learner and thus in the growth of technical education.
Are teachers born? Or are they made? Just as there are three categories of learners, there are also teachers who are exceptional, who are average and who are weak. What do I mean by the three attributive adjectives?
The exceptional come to teaching by choice.
The average are generally motivated but require training. They wish to prove themselves to be good teachers but are disappointed, unlike the exceptional, if they are not appreciated. They are large in number.  
The weak are least motivated and require training and guidance constantly. They do not come to teaching willingly. Therefore they teach with their body and go through the motions. They hop on to lucrative jobs overseas or in private sector. The residue continue to occupy teaching positions. They may not be strong in their disciplines. They may not be inclined to update their knowledge either. As a result, they may not be able to cope with the demands of the thirsting learners and fail to gain respect and admiration. Frustration may set in and they may take it out on the student community. It is not my intention to find fault with this category. I am drawing our attention to existing realities only to focus on the need to motivate and train these weak teachers so that, using their intrinsic potential, they perform with competence, so that they do justice by their students who are placed by the state in their protection. I am confident that once steps are taken to enable them to see meaning in teaching, they will be equal to the task of building their nation as teachers.

Colleges offering technical education employ as faculty postgraduates with or without prior teaching experience. They may even have to appoint graduates as the supply is far less than the demand, and we all know hundreds of colleges in several States offer technical education. They also appoint at senior level experienced executives from public or private sector. All these teachers require training to impart and share their knowledge with their students and to manage them in a humane manner. But the only training they have had is their association with their teachers as they listened to them and observed them as teachers. In today’s context and probably that of the immediate future the bulk of faculty fall into this weak category.

Obviously this situation is far from satisfactory. The need for training and motivating them becomes all the more evident as technical education is going to permeate the next millennium and all human endeavour. Of course, faculty attend winter and summer schools sponsored by AICTE and ISTE and orientation programmes organized by Academic Staff Colleges. But they do not do anything more than indicate the direction teaching should take. They do not bring about permanent changes.

To produce quality engineers and technologists, faculty require to be professionals. To be professionals, faculty need to be excellent repositories and disseminators of knowledge and to maintain motivation at a high level throughout their teaching careers.

Offering training courses through external agencies may not ensure permanent changes in the prospective teachers for three very good reasons. I do no know if postgraduates, graduates or for that matter experienced executives would be attracted to the teaching profession if they have to undergo a one-year training programme, especially in the context of the supply of teachers being far less than the demand, or qualify through a written test that may be planned by AICTE. Two, they would be focusing more on acquiring a training degree rather than using that training to make perceptive changes in their attitude and behaviour. Three, more importantly, their performance would be moulded negatively or positively by the kind of atmosphere that would prevail in the colleges they would be joining as faculty. Therefore training and motivating will become meaningful only if they are part of day-to-day teaching-learning activities, only if they are part of their growth as teachers.
It then becomes incumbent on the part of the Managements of technical education colleges—be they government or self-financing—to provide an atmosphere which will ensure provision of quality technical education. They should weave training and motivating their faculty into the fabric of the teaching-learning process. That is, they should provide a constantly conducive atmosphere.

What does this conducive atmosphere entail? The Managements should
       •     respect and admire the exceptional teachers
       •     praise the average
       •     nurture the weak
       •     pay accepted pay scales
       •     provide excellent service rules
       •     give them additional perks
       •     provide for and encourage research
       •     bear all expenses for national/international conferences
       •     admit their children freely to engineering courses
       •     provide house loan at subsidized rate
       •     appoint exceptional teachers as HODs and professors
       •     get exceptional teachers from other institutions to give demonstration lessons
       •     provide excellent library and laboratory facilities
       •     provide ample audio-visual aids
       •     make arrangements for macro and micro teaching sessions with help from nearest TTTIs
       •     arrange for interactive sessions between faculty and expert professional groups for growth of healthy attitudes and practices.

Heads of Departments and Senior Professors should
       •     have the average and weak faculty sit in their classes to observe them teach
       •     make notes on the responses to their teaching
       •     have post-teaching sessions for free frank exchange of reactions without hierarchical obstructions
       •     praise their strengths and help them get over weaknesses
       •     encourage faculty to publish papers in international journals
       •     strengthen the library with excellent titles and journals for syllabus and reference purposes.

Such conducive atmosphere should enable the average and the weak faculty to
        •    accumulate sufficient discipline knowledge
        •    update this knowledge continuously
     have a good repertoire of reference journals
              instill confidence in the weak learners
              guide the average learners
              kindle the curiosity of the exceptional learners
              not exhibit superior attitude and avoid attendant negative behavior
              show interest in and solve personal problems of students.
I
n conclusion, I am sure there are colleges of technical education that have realized the significance of smooth relationship between students and faculty and have therefore taken several of these measures I have suggested. I am proud to say that my College is one of them. My College Management is doing its best to promote healthy learning environment. The new millennium demands that technical education colleges brush aside any constraints they may have and send out into the world a horde of expert engineers and technologists in whose hands lies the future of mankind.