One of my teaching goals is to encourage students to focus and think about how they will apply what they learn in the classroom once they graduate. I try to help students make these connections by drawing upon my own industry experience. For instance, when the subject of variances arises in my Managerial Accounting course, I ask students to think about why accurate variance explanations are important. I understand the importance, because when I worked as a financial analyst, it was frustrating when I received inaccurate and incomplete variance explanations. I would often have to contact regional controllers in order to resolve these issues, which was time-consuming and inefficient. My hope is that my students can benefit from my own industry experience.
I also try to provide students with real-world context for the material covered in class by inviting guest lecturers who are current industry practitioners to my upper-level and graduate Accounting classes. For example, in my BUAD 437 class, senior managers from Grant Thornton have discussed the Information Technology (IT) Auditing and Advisory career track. A Vice President of an IT consulting firm discussed pricing issues associated with government contracting with my MBUS 559 course. These guest lecturers not only help students see the real-world application of the material, they also offer the students a chance to network with practitioners in the field. I further provide real-world context for the material via cases and short class field trips. For example, I have taken my undergraduate AIS students to the UMW data center. Students bring a short checklist to the data center and perform a scaled-down audit.
Another one of my teaching goals is to help students understand how business education fits into a liberal arts setting. I believe that taking business courses in a liberal arts setting enables students to make connections among the various functional areas in business. This exposure encourages students to view business problems from diverse angles. I stress this interdependence in the classroom. For instance, the writing assignment I have given on Freakonomics in my Principles of Accounting class is designed to emphasize the relationship between Accounting and Economics, specifically how incentive structures influence behavior—an important concept that touches on Managerial Accounting and Economics.
I also emphasize communication skills by including written and oral assignments in my classes. For instance, I often include writing assignments in my undergraduate Principles of Accounting course and include mini-case research writing assignments in my upper-level AIS courses. I also require presentations for my honors and graduate courses. My efforts to infuse the liberal arts into my courses have not gone unnoticed; I received the “box of awesome” teaching award from the UMW Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation for integrating the liberal arts into my courses.
I think my primary teaching strength is enthusiasm. I learned the importance of enthusiasm as an undergraduate student at Mary Washington College (MWC) in the early 1990s. One of my favorite MWC professors had a legendary enthusiasm for the subject that was contagious. I have attempted to model my teaching approach after this professor.
Another one of my teaching strengths is approachability. I want students to feel they can ask questions during office hours and express themselves during class. Since students have additional demands on their time outside of class, it is also important for me to be available outside of class. I often go out of my way to help students grasp difficult concepts beyond normal office hours. This interaction is one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching.
My final teaching strength is helpfulness. As a representative example of my helpfulness, student comments from BUAD 131 indicated that printing chapter notes from canvas was cumbersome and expensive. To alleviate this burden, I combined all chapter notes into a single document for BUAD 132. This document was copied, three-hole punched, and made available for students at the UMW bookstore. Student comments indicate that the chapter notes not only serve as important reference material, they also help students focus during lecture.
In addition to end-of-semester evaluations, I consistently ask students for feedback on my courses during the semester; I then use these comments to adjust my pedagogical approach. I also diligently read student comments from the end of semester evaluations and include their feedback the next time I teach the course. For example, student comments for my spring 2013 AIS course indicated that they would like to cover additional Accounting problems using Microsoft Excel. I subsequently included additional Microsoft Excel material, as well as a second Microsoft Excel case, in my spring 2014 AIS course.
My teaching strengths have resulted in positive student evaluations. My student evaluations exceed the average for UMW College of Business for ten out of the twelve standard student evaluation questions.