Ear to the ground
Prof. Jeevanjyoti Chakraborty, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, received Top Feedback from First Year Undergraduate students for Spring 2019. His faceweb page reveals a lot about his connection with students. More than the academic exploits of the teacher, it talks about how students should proceed if they wanted to collaborate with him in research or what they ought to do for a recommendation, and so on.
With little more than a decade separating Prof. Chakraborty from his students, and given that he has spent a considerable time of his student life at IIT Kharagpur – from his BTech years to his PhD – this connection is perhaps expected. But he has also been pro-actively reaching out to students. And he is not alone in doing this at IIT Kharagpur.
In an informal discussion on teaching styles and his memories of his time at IIT KGP, Prof. Chakraborty informs that he, like Prof. Mrigank Sharad of the Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship, proactively seeks students’ opinion by issuing a Google Form which the students are asked to fill in. Unlike the Institute’s feedback ritual, which takes place at the end of the semester, this comes early on. “If I ask them what they like and don’t like only a few weeks after the classes start, I can adjust my teaching accordingly,” explains Prof. Chakraborty, who ascribes the idea to his younger colleague, Prof. Sharad. “Since this is completely anonymous, students have no problems giving their free opinion,” he says. He also adds, “To keep an open channel with students, specifically related to course work, I also give my personal email address to students so that they can write whatever they want.”
There are also things that he is doing differently. He says, “This year, I took rigorous tutorial sessions, which I sometimes neglect in the higher classes. For the 1st year, I borrowed one hour from the lecture time for the problem sheets that students were asked to solve and which I later discussed threadbare. I was asked to do this by Prof. Anirvan Dasgupta of our department who has also won best teaching feedback earlier.”
This grilling, one would expect, would make him pretty unpopular. But the opposite seems to have happened.
Students’ peculiar preference for rigour, through which they also seem to sniff out the dedication of the teacher, was evident in the case of Prof. Koeli Ghoshal, Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, who earned the second slot after Prof. Chakraborty for the Spring 2019 1st Year UG feedback. Prof. Ghoshal, by the way, has won top teaching feedback consistently in different subjects since 2014, when the feedback system was put in place; this was her seventh time win.
Onkar Sabnis, Prof. Ghoshal’s student from the Chemical Engineering Department who attended her class in the Spring semester, says, “Prof. Ghoshal took the MA2 course, which is not a simple course but her teaching methodology, passion and dedication towards the subject made the course seem quite easy and interesting…Ma’am used various methodologies depending upon the topic but the one which I would like to highlight is that in every new lecture she revised the concept taught in the previous one so that students could recollect what was taught in the previous class.”
That perhaps sums up what students prefer. The handholding. The care. The diligence.
Prof. Ghoshal says, “I don’t consider teaching a job, it is my passion and responsibility as well.”
Like her and Prof. Chakraborty, the teachers who have won top feedback from students have tried to live up to their responsibility in their individual ways, as have done others.
Prof. Saibal Gupta of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, who received the INSA Teachers Award for 2019, says, “I present the subject in such a way that they begin to appreciate what they are studying… It is basically giving them respectability about themselves, to make them feel that what they are studying is worth it… something that has a lot of science in it, and also a bit of romance in it….”
Not surprisingly, one of his students said, “Sir is a master story-teller. The interest he evokes in the subject, which he lives and breathes, is infectious.”
Prof. Partha Pratim Das, Head, Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship, recently talked about how IIT Kharagpur has constantly experimented with “what would work” with students in “Avenues of Excellence”, a recent film on IIT Kharagpur shot for Doordarshan: “There have been experiments with flipped classrooms.. there have been different ways of handout-based teaching…We have tried to focus on the methods that have worked particularly well here in terms of increasing the engagement of students.”
“The day you take a good class, you know you’ve taken a good class. It’s like having a good meal. You know it when you have enjoyed a good meal, don’t you?” said Prof. Saibal Gupta laughingly.
At least in class, both students and teachers at IIT Kharagpur seem to be enjoying the spread.