(This is a modified version of a note I sent to students of IIIT-Delhi – it assumes the context of an Institute like IIIT Delhi which has highly qualified, all-PhD, faculty.)
We all know that the basic teaching-learning process is that the teacher teaches using various instruments like lectures, tutorials, assignments, labs, and student learns (exams etc are used to assess the quality/level of learning). But what is not often appreciated or understood is that there is an important role the students play in extracting the best teaching from the teacher in a college setting where the faculty member has considerable freedom in various aspects of teaching. This note discuss this aspect.
It is well established that the quality of teaching depends hugely on the teacher. In places which don’t have high quality faculty (which probably is the vast majority of the colleges in our country), quality teaching cannot happen. However, even when good quality faculty is available, the quality of teaching depends significantly on the environment created by the students. In this note we focus on the effect of students on the quality of teaching, when the teacher is highly qualified and capable of delivering good teaching.
Teaching a class is also a performance – with similar kind of performance stresses/concerns (what if the audience does not like it, is uninterested,…). I can tell you from my own experience and from that of my colleagues’ in the various Institutes I have been associated with,  that a teacher’s performance in the class depends hugely on the positive cues the teacher gets from students – interest in what is being taught, understanding in the eyes, engagement in the material, incisive observations/questions, etc. Like any performer, lack of positive feedback from the audience creates a negative energy which dulls the desire to perform well. And then, like a performer, the teacher can slip into a mode of “getting it over with” (i.e. just complete the syllabus.)
What this means is that the students play an important role in the *teaching* process, even though  teaching is the responsibility of the teacher, and how much a class extracts from a teacher depends a lot on the students in the class. So, whether a teacher prepares hard to give good lectures to communicate the depth of the topic he/she is lecturing, or is mainly eager to finish the syllabus – depends a lot on the students of the class.
Final word to the students. If you would like to have your teacher give the most to you, play your role well – engage, learn and show your learning, and emanate positive energy. You will find that your teacher will give you much more back in return, improving the learning significantly, and making the overall teaching-learning process much more enjoyable and fruitful.
Happy Learning. Happy Teaching.
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