A Perspective On The Education System For The Educators In The Management Field

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The purpose of management education is to prepare students for the corporate world.  They should be able to understand, appreciate, apply, analyze, and evaluate theoretical knowledge in the context of what is happening in the real world, and develop appropriate skills to prepare themselves for the workplace. In terms of courses, it necessitates not only a relevant syllabus, quality content design, projects, and assessments; but also, industry-oriented learning and impactful course delivery. Thus, the role of teachers is central to an effective foray of students into the management profession. 

Let us look at what makes a person qualified to teach management students. The primary criterion is a PhD degree in a management stream. During the PhD program, scholars delve deep into a specific area of interest, to make a theoretical contribution to academic research. The goal is to write and defend a thesis report, and eventually be granted the PhD degree. The program involves extensive research of existing literature, identification of gaps, conceptualization of a framework, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, and subsequent description of the theoretical and practical implications of the research. The whole process can take any time between 3 to 9 years. 

PhD program is an intensive research training. However, most of these programs do not offer any modules to train scholars in pedagogy. The only opportunity is in the form of a teaching assistant (TA) role. In most educational institutes, taking up a TA role is optional as the work of TAs is independent of the thesis work.  PhD scholars may opt for it if they are intrinsically driven, or need the extra stipend that some institutes offer for the role. If none of these conditions apply, they prefer not to take up this opportunity, as it eats away time from their thesis. Most scholars cannot afford that, since the stipend for a PhD is for a limited duration. Even if anyone opts to be a TA, it is on rare occasions that they may be involved in the teaching as the basic purpose of the role is to aid the faculty member in taking attendance and grading assignments. 

Consequently, fresh PhD graduates who start as faculty members have hardly any training or experience in teaching a class. This creates challenges in two major areas:

  • Course content – Faculty may be expected to conduct courses that may be peripheral to their area of expertise. Many of them may have limited or no prior work experience, and therefore no hands-on knowledge in their area of specialization. This means that they need to start from scratch every time they take up a new course: read books on the concerned subject, update with the latest business news pertinent to the subject, prepare course material, plan activities, and design assessments– things that they rarely have prior exposure to.  
  • Course delivery – Faculty are required to be eloquent and fluent communicators. They need to have the ability to excite, enthuse, and engage the students. Alongside, they need to have skills in managing big classes, dealing with disinterest, and giving feedback. This requires certain soft skills, aptitude, and attitude, which the PhD program neither requires nor is intended to develop. Nevertheless, they are extremely important, especially for teaching Generation Z students with whom one-way lecture sessions are rarely effective. 

In the current times, these challenges for faculty have been compounded by factors like the availability of alternate sources of information (e.g. online courses) and Generative AI, which have made traditional pedagogy redundant. Teaching methods that worked a decade ago no longer work now. Pedagogical innovation and technological upgradation are required continually, apart from student management and mentoring skills. 

For faculty to be better ready for their first job, it might help if modules are incorporated in the PhD program itself on understanding academics as a profession, developing teaching skills, and learning about pedagogical tools and techniques. PhD scholars can be trained in developing a practical approach toward course content, designing useful assessments, networking with corporates, public speaking, communicating effectively, and mentoring.

Strange as it may sound, many individuals choose to go for a PhD due to their interest and curiosity for research, rather than for their ability or inclination for teaching. Others take the PhD route simply to become qualified for teaching jobs, though they may have no idea or disposition for research. Despite this ignorance, most of the PhD graduates turn out to be effective teachers over time, mainly because of their quest for knowledge and habit of self-learning, learned capability for conceptualization and structuring, and comfort with rigor. However, considering the growing number of management institutes, the dire need for making students industry-ready, and easy access to curated content from the internet, it may be a good time to reflect on the design of the education system for educators.

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