Research and engagement in higher education teaching and learning

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Research and engagement in higher education teaching and learning
Research and engagement in higher education teaching and learning

By Dr Mani Ram Banjade and Mr Ishwari Banjade

The landscape of higher education teaching and learning marks a remarkable shift. As per the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the number of students enrolled in higher education institutions continue to rise. It is expected that the number of enrolments will reach 594.1 million by 2040 compared to 214.1 million in 2015. Despite the improvement in students enrolment globally, enhancing the quality of teaching-learning remains a major challenge.

In our own context, the conventional method of teaching-learning continues to dominate the education system. The one-way lecture mode of teaching which focuses on rote learning has resulted in growing unwillingness among students to attend classes. This is evidenced by the increasing number of students absenteeism in our classrooms. What is noticeable here is that even those students who don’t attend classes fare better in exams.  In other words, the nature of our assessment system which demands memorization skill has aided rote learners who perform well without taking a class. But the important question is: How can we bring them back in classrooms? Are our students really learning? How will they obtain the necessary set of knowledge, skills, confidence and mindsets to excel in life within the existing system? Are our graduates chiselled to stand out against the expertise and qualities demanded by the market?

Our recent field visit to half a dozen of districts in Nepal was an eye-opener to understand the changing dynamics of students motivation. Through the series of workshops and seminars among education stakeholders- students, teachers,  college principals, education activists, we discovered that the entire education fraternity wishes for a major overhaul in the current education system but no one is willing to step up for inducing reform. On a sad note, the heated debate about the quality of education, the question of integrating the changing learning needs and interests of students have received little attention.  What types of classes students really expect? What is their notion of quality education? Is our pedagogy catering to their expectations? Exploring these issues have become extremely urgent to reignite the passion of education among today’s students.

Furthermore, based on our interaction with students at NIMS, we have drawn some key insights regarding students’ expectations. First, students expect practically engaged education. To put it simply, they want to be involved in every lesson in various possible ways rather than being at the receiving end. Whether it be team building activities or problem-solving exercises, students have found them really interesting. In this regard, a Masters level Sociology students remarked, “We find the practically engaged education really exciting. The recent research camp was not only refreshing but also provided us with an opportunity to apply the knowledge of sociological theories and principles in the field. Such areas of students engagements serve as great motivators for us to come to college.”

Second, students expect an interactive class. They want to engage in the subject matter being discussed. No matter how knowledgeable the lecture is, they don’t find it engaging unless there are avenues for them to be in continuous interaction with the topic. One of the undergraduate level management students commented, “We dislike boring one side talk on any topic. But if the same topic is presented by allowing us to express our views and prior knowledge, it becomes really meaningful and exciting.”

Third, the research-oriented class is on high demand. Students are keen to work on various project-based assignments that help them explore issues from multiple dimensions. Having said that, such assignments also test the patience and commitment of students toward learning. Despite some initial hiccups, students usually have expressed their commitment to be a part of such teaching-learning activities as it fosters their critical thinking and analytical skills in addition to other qualities.

We have also figured out that students expect a friendly teacher who can be easily accessible. The acceptance of young faculties is high among students compared to those with many years of experience and owing to the enthusiasm and amicable trait that the new generation of faculties bring in class. On the contrary, students have found even the classes of experienced teachers uninteresting due to their authoritative nature. However, those with humility and gratitude in the same group are highly revered.

As a part of its activities to cater to changing student expectations, NIMS college has recently introduced online learning platform. Although this plan received some resistance in the early days, this system has now slowly been accepted. Students now have found this new method of learning quite interesting. Even the teachers have now started preparing themselves accordingly devoting much time realizing the changing need. In this regard, one of the existing faculty at the undergraduate level said, “I found it pretty challenging to adjust to the online learning system in the very beginning. But I gradually updated myself with the necessary skills and knowledge and find it relatively easy to use. Even my students have shown deep interest in study after the implementation of the google online platform.”


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