Research Spotlight

Learning to Teach in the Business School Classroom

The recently organised Doctoral Consortium for Teaching 2017, organised by ISB for the first time in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, aimed to train the next generation of India’s business school faculty.

How do you keep a class full of talented management students engaged and motivated to learn? How do you convince students about the relevance of classroom learning to their future careers?

These were some of the questions that came up for discussion when future business school teachers gathered to learn how to teach, at the ISB-IIMB Doctoral Teaching Consortium during August 23-26, 2017. Now in its fifth edition at the Indian School of Business (ISB), the Consortium was for the first time organised in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB).  Led by Professor Arun Pereira, Executive Director of the Centre for Learning and Management at the ISB, and Professor Sourav Mukherji, Dean of Academic Programmes at IIMB, the programme hosted 27 doctoral candidates who will soon be starting their academic careers as business school faculty after completing the Fellowship Programme in Management at India’s top business schools.

The Doctoral Consortium met an increasingly urgent need to build capacity for India’s burgeoning management education sector. In one back of an envelope analysis for ISBInsight in 2012, Professor Phanish Puranam of INSEAD estimated that India’s roughly 4000 business schools, which educated about 350,000 students annually, were facing a shortfall of about 16,000 faculty members. Even more pressing in Professor Puranam’s view, however, were concerns about faculty capacity as efforts to ramp up the production of PhDs in management and allied topics faced the hazard of sacrificing quality for numbers.

Professor Rejie George Pallathitta, Chairperson of the Fellow Programme in Management at IIMB, who was closely involved in the Doctoral Consortium’s organisation, pointed out that the lack of resources for building teaching – as opposed to research - capacity was a lacuna felt both by faculty and doctoral students at IIMB. As head of IIMB’s doctoral programme, Professor Pallathitta noted the various initiatives undertaken at IIMB to train doctoral candidates in the tools and techniques of empirical research aimed for top international journals. However, he observed that the doctoral programme had paid less attention to the ‘teaching element’, or what Professor Pereira at ISB called the ‘essential craft of teaching’.

Here, the Doctoral Consortium model, pioneered by Professor Pereira at ISB, offered a ready model for collaboration between India’s two most research-intensive business schools. Arguing that teaching continues nonetheless to be the core function of business school faculty, Professor Sourav Mukherji remarked that he had found several complementarities in the sessions led by Professor Pereira and himself.  Most importantly, Professor Pereira’s attention to the changing role of technology inside and outside the classroom spoke to issues that in Professor Mukherji’s view, business school faculty will increasingly grapple with in their course of their careers: What are the implications of the spread of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs? What value addition are business school faculty making as teachers?

These questions lay at the heart of the Doctoral Consortium. Speaking to the global competition for the best and brightest of business students, Professor Pereira of ISB said, “For Indian B-schools to continue to grow in quality and global stature, it is critical that the classroom experience is on par with the best in the world, and programmes like this attempt to make that a reality.”

Providing background on the programme, Professor Pereira stated that the Doctoral Consortium was supported and funded by the International Schools of Business Management (ISBM).  Headquartered in London, the members of ISBM are HEC Paris, IMD Lausanne, INSEAD Fontainebleau, Indian School of Business, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, London Business School, SDA Bocconi, Milan, Stern School of Business, New York University, Stockholm School of Economics, IAE Aix-Marseille Graduate School of Management, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), and the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD).

The Doctoral Consortium has had a unique hands-on pedagogical approach to the teaching of teaching. “We have a practical component where each participant is required to teach, and we provide substantive feedback, along with a recording of their teaching for review and reflection,” Professor Pereira explained.

Feedback from the participants underlined the invaluable function that the Doctoral Consortium played in preparing doctoral students for teaching careers in India’s premier business schools. As one participant from IIMB concluded, “The workshop changed my understanding of the role of a teacher. That the role of the teacher is to facilitate ‘active learning’ is the most important take-away from the course.  Teachers are no longer lecturers alone.”