Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Dr. Eshwaraiah Punna is currently working as a Professor and HoD of Mechanical Engineering Department at GITAM University Hyderabad Campus. He has a Bachelor of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering, Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering and Ph.D. from IIT Delhi. He has a total work experience of 20 years including 5 years in teaching and 15 years in the industry (Aerospace, Automobile and Information Technology).
Dr. Punna has worked as Professor, Senior IT Consultant, Project Manager, Deputy Manager and Software Engineer in his earlier job profiles. Dr. Punna’s research papers have been published in national and international journals. He has provided research guidance to 3 PG students, 20 UG students and currently guiding 8 Ph.D. scholars. He has attended various Seminars/Conferences/Workshops/FDPs. He has also delivered various Guest Lectures.
Ensuring outstanding teaching and learning practice across the department
First of all, I am proud to say that GITAM introduced CBCS (Choice Based Credit System) in the curriculum revision in 2015. This enables and exposes students to Outcome-based Education (OBE) and Activity-based learning. In line with the CBCS model, in our department, enhanced focus is given to activity-based learning through laboratory practice sessions coupled with skills enhancement programmes at our Skill Development Centre (SDC) equipped with the latest digital Manufacturing facilities (CNC Milling and Lathe machines), Rapid prototyping/Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing, Computer Aided Modelling and Engineering Software tools and Industrial Robot to provide skills which the industry is looking for and expected skill sets from the UG and PG students.
Strategies for underachievers in Dr. Punna’s classes and classes taught by other teachers in the department
The students’ performance in the internal / Mid-term examinations is one of the means to understand who the underachievers are in the class. One of the first measures is to do an analysis of the mid-term examination results, followed by counseling of the students. Through this, the teachers will be able to understand the student’s problems and difficulty in any specific areas of the subject or other non-academic issues. Based on these counseling, fine-tuning in the teaching-learning process (like the speed at which syllabus covered or encouraging these students to participate more in the class, etc.), is done at an individual teacher’s level. For other faculty /department level, a similar process is followed. In addition, the department head will counsel the faculty and students, to identify any issues with the faculty approach in teaching learning process or student’s behavior and capacity to learn. If the required department head will take appropriate decision to correct the process and approach followed based on the need. This type of monitoring and correcting is a continuous process and a strategy followed throughout the semester.
The vision of the ideal weekly department meeting
We conduct department meeting with all faculty members once in a month and also as and when required. In these meetings, all aspects related to day to day academic issues, syllabus completion and planning activities in terms of work allocations etc. are discussed in a free and fair manner at length to arrive at a consensus among all members of the faculty. These kinds of meetings should provide a platform to all members of the department to openly express any concerns related to academic activities and disagreements if any.
Responding to parents who contact to express concern about the teaching of a teacher in the department
I would patiently listen to the parents who come to express their concerns be it academic or otherwise.
Then, in front of the parents, I would counsel the students to find facts. After that, to ascertain the facts I will also discuss with other students of the same class about the teacher and if the majority of the students expresses the same fact, then I will take an appropriate step after consultations with the department academic committee and authorities of the institute.
Most important functions in a HoD role and how Dr. Punna prioritizes them
The most important functions of the role are:
- Ensuring smooth conduct of class work /lab work as per the timetable and lecture plans.
- Ensuring availability of equipment and consumables to smooth conduct of laboratory experiments.
- Acting as a lesion between management and faculty members in the department
- Being instrumental in developing new courses and programs and last but not the least
- Enabling faculty to do Research and Development (R&D) in cutting-edge technologies with social relevance or industry needs.
Strategies to ensure that students excel more
To make the most able students excel even more, the teaching-learning process should be pitched at a slightly higher level for them by assigning different challenging tasks that will engage them. These tasks could be more of application based learning in the form of assignments or group work.
Views on centralizing all the department resources so that every teacher uses the same resources and sets the same homework /tests
I believe centralizing all the departments is not a good idea, as it will not work for non-circuit branches. Also, giving the same homework/tests will only encourage copying, which will not give scope for independent thinking, it kills the creativity. Subject faculty needs to spend a good amount of time to frame different assignments/homework/tests.
"Mission statement" for the Engineering department
- Impart Mechanical Engineering Education with latest teaching learning process.
- Equip the students with the advance tools to make them suitable for global employment and societal requirements
- Train the students to solve engineering problems in multi disciplinary areas
- Inculcate professional ethics and human values.
Establishing a relation with the students
Talk to them as a friend, listen to them attentively, and encourage them when they try something innovative and creative, pat on the back for their small or big accomplishments.
Pushing the placement opportunities further available at GITAM School of Technology
Enhanced focus on Basics/Fundamentals/Concepts in the core and enhance awareness programs on emerging and cutting-edge technologies in the chosen area of specialization.
‘Collaborate and conquer’ not by ‘divide and rule’, the majority of times my leadership style is collaborative
Suggestions for the youth
Do not think that Google is the only guru on this Earth, do not think that Facebook is the only face to look and do not think that WhatsApp is the only available application in this world. And finally, remember that there are three R’s: Respect self, Take Responsibility for all your actions and Respect others.