How to make a classroom session engaging – Q&A with Prof. Subhra Pattnaik

After pursuing her MBA from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, Prof. Pattnaik worked as an HR consultant with PwC, helping companies improve their HR practices, before she decided to join the academia to share her knowledge with management students.

Q. You have worked with PwC HR consulting practice in Mumbai and have gained professional experience. How do you use it for the benefit of students in the classroom?

A: Firstly, I try to plan sessions in a way that students gain insight into real-time applications of theoretical concepts. I realize that you need to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical learning in the classroom. That’s why I resort to innovative methodologies that make classroom learning an engaging experience for students. It’s been a short time since I have joined KSOM as a full-time faculty member, but I have been given the liberty and flexibility to design courses, which is definitely encouraging for any faculty member.

Q. Can you tell as more about your teaching methodologies and how they can make a positive impact on the learning experience of students? Do you have any strategies that you have devised for immersive classroom learning?

A: I definitely believe in encouraging classroom discussions because interactive sessions flow very organically and are a wonderful learning experience for both students and faculty members.I often use small case-lets, which offer students insight into real-life corporate issues and make them think out of the box. They can start exploring solutions for business problems. This will help them develop a strong problem solving attitude, which will help them in the long run. Video case studies, simulation games and role plays are some of the other techniques that I use to drive my point across to students. As classroom instructors we need to understand that people have different learning styles and the best thing to do is use different types of tools to reach out to all students in the classroom.

Q. Being an MBA yourself, you probably understand what the students are going through in the classroom. Do you delve into your own experiences as a student when preparing for the classroom as a faculty member?

A: Of course, preparing for your sessions in the class is vital for all faculty members. But sometimes I have found that it’s good to give the control of the class to students. It’s amazing what can come from these sessions as students can be brilliant at facilitating discussions. I also motivate them to make presentations and put their views forward on the subject.

Yes, I also look back at my time doing my management program, and I want to ensure that my students don’t face the same difficulties I faced on the job. I remember being asked to do an assignment for PwC where I knew the concept but just didn’t know how to go about it. So now I give my students assignments that give them practical knowledge of things.

Q. A faculty member can only make a difference to the learning experience of students when supported by the management institute. Do you get the required support from KSOM?

A: It is a great place to study and a great place for faculty members because the infrastructure is fantastic. If I need something for my class, it is provided to me even at a short notice. I also benefit from it for my own PhD because I have access to databases and other resources; also, I gain valuable guidance from senior professors here. My PhD is going a lot better since I joined the institute as a faculty member.

Q. What, according to you, are subjects that students need to focus on to make a career in the world of HR?

A: Organization Behaviour (OB) and Human Resource Management (HRM) are the two core subjects that form the base for subsequent HR electives. Besides them, you also need to have a solid understanding of manpower planning, recruitment and selection, performance management and compensation or Training and Development. Students should also keep abreast with the latest in the industry they want to work in. Those working in a manufacturing setup need to know about Labour Laws & Industrial Relations, while concepts like employee engagement or knowledge management are crucial to IT. For the FMCG sector, you might want to know about designing sales incentive to motivate the sales force. These skills will help you go a long way with your career in HR, a field that has exciting opportunities in store for you.