My approach to teaching is guided by the premise that students are life-long learners, and it is my privilege to facilitate their learning process. Although this may seem simplistic, it has a profound impact on my teaching approach, my interactions with students and my effectiveness both inside and outside of the classroom. I have heard colleagues complain that students today perform poorly because they are less engaged, act entitled or lack a strong work ethic. I believe that all students are capable of learning, and it is my job to enable the learning process. To achieve this, I have several key priorities that I strive to facilitate within all of my classes: mutual respect, student engagement, analytical thinking, active learning, small group cognition and innovation.
Accounting is a difficult subject area for many students and I recognize that students are often intimidated by accounting classes, especially in large lecture halls. Because of this, on the first day of classes, I immediately try to set a tone of a cooperative, engaged learning environment. I want students to feel comfortable, creating an environment in which they will ask questions or provide input during our discussions throughout the semester. I also impress upon my students that our relationship is a partnership— each of us has responsibility for the learning process. For example, on the first day I normally ask students to list the qualities of a high achieving student. Then I ask them to think of a “great” teacher they have had in the past and to tell me what characteristics made that teacher “great.” After we have developed a pretty extensive list, I pledge to them that I will do my best to meet all of those expectations on that list, but in return they need to also work hard to be a “great” student. I believe setting this expectation on the first day of classes is very important and builds mutual respect between myself and my students.
Students often come into my accounting classes with the misconception that accounting is boring or irrelevant to their everyday lives—it is just a class they are forced to take. I try to dispel that myth on the first day of classes by immediately engaging students in the accounting conversation. I often tell a story (related to real world examples) in order to teach certain concepts and try to illustrate how accounting is relevant to them in everyday life. To teach the early concepts in accounting, I will normally build a story around some of the students in class, creating a fictitious business and asking students to think about the accounting information these students might need in order to run their new startup. By engaging students in the conversation, it makes them understand that accounting information is relevant and can even be fun!
I also believe it is my job to assist students as they develop their analytical and critical thinking skills. Accounting is an extremely technical discipline and requires students to comprehensively apply what they have learned. Students entering my classes normally struggle with this because many students have learned to simply memorize information and repeat it on an exam without ever really learning the material. I use several different techniques throughout the semester aimed at developing students’ analytical thinking skills while recognizing students have different learning styles. Although I do have some traditional lecture time, I also incorporate active participation, group work and problem solving in every class because I feel this helps to keep students engaged and also helps them retain the information much better than a traditional lecture format.
I also incorporate hands-on cases, using both Tableau and Excel each semester. I believe it is critical for students to know how to use data analytics tools such as Excel, Power BI and Tableau because they help students understand how businesses use data and information to make better decisions. Students will be able to identify relevant issues and use professional judgement to suggest solutions to business problems.
I also feel it is important to serve as a mentor to my students outside of the classroom. I stress to students that I have an open-door policy and that they can come to me for help at any time. After the first exam in each of my classes, I encourage students to come into my office to go through the exam and discuss test-taking strategies and how to improve their study skills. In my role as a faculty-in-residence at Juniper Poplar Hall, I have held certain student events and invited my own students, including final exam reviews and workshops on personal budgeting.
My ultimate goal is to provide a challenging, engaging learning environment built upon mutual respect for each student. I hope to develop their critical thinking skills and experience with data analytics tools, preparing them for their future classes in business or accounting.