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Past Issue • Oct-Dec 2012

Doctoral Education and the Teaching Function

The market for business PhDs will value and reward those PhD graduates who have a specific proficiency in teaching−be they educators, researchers, or sophisticated practitioners argues Professor Arun Pereira.

Phanish Puranam  makes a compelling   case for modifying the traditional model of doctoral education through   specialised  “tracks” that  would   lead  to PhD  specialists. The three types of specialist tracks he suggests are “researcher,” “educator,” and the “sophisticated practitioner.”  Also, he  proposes a set  of minimum  requirements in the  curriculum that would  be common  to all tracks. I think  there is a strong  case to be made to broaden his proposed common  curriculum   to include  the  function   of  teaching, because irrespective of the specialisation, all three types of PhDs would be expected to perform  a teaching role, albeit to var ying degrees.

Even the most research-intensive business schools that recruit researcher PhDs will require them to teach, and excel in teaching−even if the teaching hours are limited. It may be true that the sophisticated practitioner PhD may not teach on a regular basis; however, such a person would fit the profile of a guest speaker, adjunct faculty, or visiting faculty in an academic setting, or likely be involved in learning and development functions in the corporate world.

The educator PhD would obviously be expected to be proficient  in teaching and related areas, but  I believe that the researcher PhD and the sophisticated practitioner PhD will also  be  valued  as effective teachers, and the PhD  market  will expect them to be so. Even the most research-intensive business schools that  recruit   researcher PhDs  will require them to teach, and excel in teaching – even if the teaching hours are limited.  It may be true that the sophisticated practitioner  PhD  may not teach  on  a regular  basis; however,  such a person  would  fit the profile of a guest speaker, adjunct  faculty  or visiting faculty in an academic setting, or likely be involved in learning and development functions in the corporate world. In other words, if Professor Puranam’s PhD model  gets wide acceptance, then I expect  to see that programmes with a teaching function  as part of their general curriculum  requirement  will produce PhDs who are more valued in the market, than programmes without this component.

The question is: how  should teaching and its related  areas be addressed in the curriculum of a PhD programme? This is a vexing issue, particularly because most teachers take time to develop, and typically need the hard grind of experience to mature   as effective teachers. However,  this process can be accelerated with an appropriate  teacher-training  inter vention – ideally, early in an academic’s career – to help move the  novice  teacher up  the  learning  cur ve  quickly. One  such inter vention   is  a “doctoral  consortium” on teaching that invites final year PhD students from business schools’ doctoral  programmes for intensive teacher training  and coaching, before they embark on their  academic careers. Such a consortium  was organised by the Indian  School of Business (ISB)  in 2012.

The question is: how should teaching and its related areas be addressed in the curriculum  of a PhD programme? This is a vexing issue, particularly because most teachers take time to develop, and typically need the hard grind of experience to mature as effective teachers.

ISB’s Doctoral Consortium on Teaching: A Training Intervention

The Centre  for  Teaching, Learning,  and Case Devel- opment at ISB piloted the Doctoral Consortium on Teaching in 2012 and invited final-year PhD students from  India’s  business school doctoral  programmes. The response was over whelming, and the participant feedback  was excellent,  helping  make  the  case for such a programme  to be an “inter vention” for PhDs before they graduate.

This  consortium   has caught  the  attention   of the International  Schools of Business Management (ISBM),  which is a group of 12 international business schools, including Kellogg-Northwestern, Stern-New York University (NYU),  INSEAD, London Business School, Bocconi, HEC-Paris, IMD-Zurich, China Europe  International   Business School (CEIBS)-  Shanghai, and  the  ISB.  As part  of its  mission to improve the quality of teaching in business schools across the world,  ISBM  runs a two-week residential  teacher training programme called the International Teacher’s  Programme.   This  programme   has  been held annually since 1971  and has trained  over 1,300 business faculty.  However,  it has been outside the financial  reach of most  Indian  business schools. As such, ISBM  has been looking  for a different model that can work  in India,  and they have seemingly found one in ISB’s Doctoral Consortium on Teaching. The ISBM  Board  has offered  to sponsor the Doctoral Consortium  on Teaching, so that is affordable for India’s doctoral students.

Key Objectives of ISB’s Doctoral Consortium on Teaching

The consortium will address various issues with regard to teaching excellence in the MBA classroom, including the critical element of one-on-one coaching. The aim is  to expose doctoral  students  to tried  and tested practices  as well  as exciting   emerging  innovations in the  area of teaching. It will help PhD students

get a head start in developing their own individual teaching style, by first understanding what enables deep and long-lasting learning. Thus, traditional case writing and case teaching will be addressed, as well as the value of active learning that is student- centred, as opposed to the teacher-centred model. Further, the consortium will highlight innovative approaches to effective teaching by taking advantage of new technologies; for example, today’s technology enables the “flipped classroom” where traditional lectures (passive learning) can be taken out of the classroom and offered as assignments, and traditional group assignments (active learning) can be brought into the classroom to be managed by the teacher for more effective learning.

Conclusion

I expect the  market  for business  PhDs to value and reward those PhD graduates that  have a specific  proficiency   in teaching-be they educators, researchers or sophisticated  practitioners. One approach to ensuring that India’s PhD graduates have the foundation  to build  such proficiency  is to provide   an  appropriate   inter vention  before  they begin their  careers. ISB’s Doctoral  Consortium  on Teaching, sponsored by the ISBM,  has the potential to be one such inter vention  that can help provide a foundation   for our PhDs,  by targeting  them  in their  final  year of their  doctoral  studies. Further, the consortium  will attempt to spark  a change  in the approach to teaching and learning in India, by encouraging the next generation of Indian business school faculty to move from  the traditional  “sage on the stage” model to one where the teacher takes on the role of a “guide  on the side.” It will encourage India’s  future  teachers to embrace new  initiatives like the “flipped classroom” so that business schools in India can reverberate with student-centred,  active learning.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  • Arun-P-Feb7-2014

    Arun Pereira

    Clinical Associate Professor of Management Education, ISB; and Executive Director, Centre for Learning and Management Practice at the Indian School of Business (ISB).
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