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2024 PRME Faculty Teaching Award


Dr. P Balasubramanyam

Dr. P Balasubramanyam

Goa Institute of Management

What is your innovative pedagogical approach and how was it delivered in a way that facilitated student engagement effectively?

Role play is a active engagement and innovative pedagogical approach that transcends traditional methods of teaching by immersing learners in interactive scenarios where they assume specific roles and engage in simulated real-life situations. The enthusiasm it creates in the class room is really very high and learning experiences is also very great. It offers a unique platform for experiential learning, fostering active participation, critical thinking, and emotional engagement. Through role play, students can explore diverse perspectives, enhance communication skills, and develop a deeper understanding of complex concepts across various disciplines.

In my course of Customer Analytics, the biggest challenge is, for any given scenario, how to choose the best software, how to choose the best analytical model, how to choose the best data variables and this is key point to arrive at the successful solution for that scenario. I made them to learn about this choosing the best combination through the role play model in the class room.

We can start with any point, say for different customer analytics problems like engagement, attrition, development etc. and then mapping them to the analytical models. This certainly draws lot of arguments between students for the simple reason that there is no straight forward solution for any scenario. For example, for customer attrition problem, you can go with logistic regression model or clustering models depending on your data and domain. After selecting a right software tool also important as there is always open source and licensed software will create confusion in the minds of students.

This activity of role play enhances communication and interpersonal skills by requiring students to engage in dialogue, negotiation, and collaboration within the context of their assigned roles. For example, there needs to be a strong collaboration between software that you are using and model that you are applying as some software has specific features that will help to take better decisions. Through verbal interaction and nonverbal cues, students learn to express themselves effectively, negotiate conflicting interests, and work towards shared goals. This collaborative aspect of role plays mirrors real-world scenarios, preparing students for future professional endeavors where teamwork and communication are essential.

What made this pedagogical approach successful for you and your students?

For me, as a professor, the success of the role play pedagogical approach lies in its ability to actively engage students in the learning process and create meaningful learning experiences. At the end of the role play, every one in the class should be able map between different components of customer analytics problems with valid reasoning behind that.

Here are some key factors that contribute to its success:

Active Engagement: Since almost everyone involved in the role play including some students played as judges, this activity draws huge engagement from the students in the class. I saw that after the session is over, students are still discussing this outside like their tea break and lunch breaks. Role play encourages active participation, as students are directly involved in the learning process through assuming specific roles and interacting with their peers. This active engagement promotes deeper learning and retention of information compared to passive learning methods.

Experiential Learning: Role play provides a hands-on, experiential approach to learning, allowing students to apply theoretical concepts in practical contexts. For example, students aware that SAS software is very strong in the area of data security , but they are able apply this strong point to Banking data analysis which requires huge data security as a prerequisite.

Emotional Engagement: Role plays often evokes emotional responses from students as they inhabit different roles and engage with realistic scenarios. This emotional engagement fosters empathy, encourages critical reflection, and enhances the overall learning experience.

Diverse Perspectives: Role play encourages students to explore diverse perspectives by assuming different roles and viewpoints. This exposure to multiple perspectives promotes critical thinking, empathy, and a more nuanced understanding of complex issues.

Communication Skills: Role play provides a platform for students to practice and improve their communication skills, including verbal communication, active listening, negotiation, and collaboration. These skills are essential for success in both academic and professional settings.

Creativity and Innovation: Role play encourages creativity and innovation as students explore different approaches to solving problems and achieving goals within the constraints of their roles. In my class of role play, I saw lot of innovation in terms of highlighting their strengths and weakness to the other members like in the form of poems and songs as well. This creative freedom allows students to experiment with new ideas and develop innovative solutions.

Inclusivity: Role play can accommodate diverse learning styles and preferences, making it accessible to a wide range of students. Whether students prefer hands-on activities, group discussions, or creative expression, role play offers flexibility and inclusivity in the learning environment.

How might this be a useful model for others?

The role play model that I utilized in my class room is very much useful to other faculty members in term of enhancing their teaching methods, and making their class more dynamic and engaging. They can modify their curriculum according the role-play model and its output for the business school graduates. Role play can help faculty focus on developing not just technical skills, but also soft skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

On the other hand, Students gain practical experience by engaging in real-world scenarios, which prepares them for industry challenges. Since they are trained to play practical industry roles, they can face any practical industry challenges in their career. It helps improve essential soft skills such as collaboration, communication, and leadership. Students become more confident in their abilities to handle real-world data science problems.

For the academic institutions like Goa Institute Of management, this is an innovative approach they can adopt that differentiate their programs and attract more students. Role play can facilitate interdisciplinary learning, allowing students from different fields to work together and learn from each other. In the current role play that I adopted, students can learn the data sets, software tools, analytical models, and their interconnections in a better way. Offering cutting-edge teaching methodologies can enhance the institution's reputation and attract partnerships with industry leaders.

Industry partners may see the value in collaborating with academic institutions that use role play to train their students, leading to potential internships, projects, and recruitment opportunities. Companies can benefit from students who have experience solving real-world problems through role-playing scenarios, as they are likely to be more adaptable and innovative.

At PRME, we embrace iterative practices, engaging in cycles of reflection and feedback. What have you learned since implementing this approach and what, if any, would you change?

My Learnings in this approach:

Successful implementation of role-play model in data science domain given me a thought about series of other innovative pedagogical approaches and some new modes of student engagement. Students are more engaged and motivated when participating in role-playing activities compared to traditional lectures and this had made me to change some of my traditional teaching practices.

Students show significant improvement in soft skills, including communication, teamwork, and leadership. Simulating real-world scenarios helps students better understand the practical applications of theoretical concepts. Role-play activities help students grasp complex concepts more thoroughly by applying them in practical situations. They become more confident in their abilities to tackle real-world problems and present their findings.

Some proposed changes in future:

1. Introduce a wider variety of role-playing scenarios to cover different aspects of data science, including ethics, data privacy, and project management. Similarly, incorporate interdisciplinary role-playing activities that involve students from different fields, such as business, engineering, and social sciences, to provide a more holistic learning experience.

2. Utilize advanced technologies like virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) to create more immersive and realistic role-playing experiences. Alongside we might also think about Develop more robust assessment methods to evaluate both the technical and soft skills acquired through role play.

3. Find ways to scale the role-play model to larger classes without losing the effectiveness of the interactive experience. It might also useful to provide additional training for faculty and facilitators to ensure they are well-prepared to guide and assess role-playing activities effectively.

4. Establish a continuous improvement process where students and faculty can provide feedback on the role-play activities, leading to ongoing refinement and enhancement of the approach.

5. Better integrate role-playing activities with the rest of the coursework to ensure a seamless learning experience and reinforce the connection between theory and practice.

6. Collaborate with industry partners to design role-playing scenarios that reflect current industry challenges and practices, ensuring that students are learning relevant and up-to-date skills.


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