Showing posts from March, 2010

Engaging Your Financial Accounting Students

I will be doing a 60 Minute webinar for FlatWorldKnowledge at 2 p.m. on April 1, 2010. At that time, I will be discussing the challenge of "Engaging Your Financial Accounting Students." I want to share some of the ideas that I use in my own classs here at the University of Richmond. As all teachers know, if students are interested in the material, the learning process goes 100 times better. This presentation is being made in connection with the publication of my new Financial Accounting textbook (written with C. J. Skender of UNC). If you would like to register for this program, go to

Deferred Learning

If you are in the Cincinnati area, I will be giving a program on teaching effectiveness next Tuesday, March 30, (followed by a panel discussion) at Northern Kentucky University. I think it should be a lot of fun. I love to talk about teaching. It is open to the public. If you would like the place and time, drop me a note at ** Over 2,000 years ago, the poet Horace wrote “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” which translates as “Seize the day, trusting tomorrow as little as possible.” Yesterday, I talked with my students about “deferred learning.” That is the strategy of doing as little work today as possible with the promise that you’ll do a whole lot more work tomorrow (or, more specifically, right before the test). In college, deferred learning is a very popular strategy. “I’ll do it tomorrow” is never far from the lips of most students. But, let’s be realistic. If a student is going to be tested based on memorization, isn’t this the best poss

Undergraduate Thesis on CDOs and the Credit Meltdown

This Harvard undergrad's senior thesis on CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations) and their role in the credit crisis was recently mention in Deal Journal. It the doesn't say anything new, but it does an impressive job of marshaling facts about the CDO markets - the author hand-collected a data set on over 700 CDO deals, and provides a wealth of information. What's more, she did it within a semester's time. HT: Marginal Revolution

Michael Lewis on Michael Burry

Michael Lewis, whose writing I generally enjoy, has a new book out. It’s not about the financial crisis per se, but about a handful of traders who made huge amounts of money from the crisis. There’s an excerpt available on the Vanity Fair website, in which Lewis talks fairly admiringly about one such trader, Michael Burry. I haven’t read Lewis’ book beyond this extract, nor do I know Burry personally (though I do know the trade he executed – it was a simple yet powerful idea, and full credit to him for conceiving it). But I do want to emphasize a couple of points that the VF article glosses over: First, any story of this sort suffers from a huge amount of survivorship bias. For every Michael Burry or John Paulson who foresaw the crash and made money off it, I can name ten – nay, a hundred! – hedge fund managers who knew full well that there was a bubble in the housing market but could not get their timing right, and hence went bust 1 . (Either they bled to death on the negative c

Second Test in Financial Accounting

Very quick note. I am giving my second test today in my Financial Accounting course. The first test is to help them recognize the kind of understanding that I want from them. So, I am always keenly interested in how well they do on their second test. Have they made the adjustments that I was hoping for them to make? If you are interested in a copy of my second test, send me a note at Unfortunately, because of some family issues, I had to write this test very quickly. I really hope that I made it fair and not too confusing. I guess I will find out later today. Always an interesting question on test day.

Hanging Out In Scenic Dayton

I'm here in Dayton at the R.I.S.E. forum (a very large student-focused conference on the investment world), and I'm waiting for my students to get their stuff together. Since I've been here several times, I'm skipping the lion's share of the sessions and mostly just catching up with friends. Last night, after making the obligatory pass through the Oregon District (a very funky place, with everything from art galleries to martial arts dojos (practicing with katanas) to peep shows), I went to my room to work on class stuff - my students are getting a video presentation on MBS pass-throughs to watch while I'm gone. In the meanwhile, since it's spring training season, I give you this classic but still funny piece (complete with a mention of a lesser-known greek figure about 2:17).

Using Power Point Slides

When I was in college, I took a class on the American Presidents. It sounded so interesting in the college catalogue that I did not check it out in advance. Unfortunately, the teacher walked in with a notebook full of yellowed class notes that he proceeded to read to us day after day. He read and we copied (or slept). It was a horrible experience. And, although Richard Nixon was then president of the United States at the time, the class ended with Harry Truman because that is where the professor’s notes ended. I honestly do not believe he had updated those notes in two decades. Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson didn’t exist in that class of American Presidents. A few years ago I was talking with some of my favorite students about education. I asked them what they liked least. I was surprised that they all expressed the same objection which was verbalized by one as “I hate it when a teacher comes into the room and throws up some Power Point slides a

Spring Break

I watch the television show Lost and each week it begins the same way. A serious voice intones “Previously – on Lost” and the station then runs through some clips of what happened the week before so that audience members can get back up to speed before the new action begins. My students are on Spring Break this week and, although I might dream that they are studying financial accounting, I imagine that few are. They were doing great right before Spring Break but they will have been away from the subject matter for 10 days by the time I see them again next Monday. We had done a lot of good work on the reporting of inventory but it is likely that much of that information is now jello knowledge (a term from an earlier post). So, next Monday, I will start out with my version of “Previously – in reporting inventory” and try to get them back up and running as quickly as possible. I will do this by starting out with a series of quick questions designed to rebuild the knowledge that m

Teaching Is Serious Business

I was talking with a friend by email yesterday who teaches in Georgia. I mentioned that I had been named one of seven “Tough Love” teachers at the University of Richmond a few years back because, I suppose, I push the students pretty hard. This conversation reminded me that I had written an essay at that time on “tough love teaching” for our alumni magazine. Now that I am halfway through the current semester, it seems like a good time to remind myself why I believe that pushing students to excel is so important. Here is that essay. ** Teaching is serious business. We have wonderfully bright and talented students here at Richmond. They have almost unlimited potential. For most, this is their one shot at college; they deserve nothing less than an excellent education, an academic experience that challenges them to excel from their first day to their last. Faculty members have a responsibility to the world to coax the very best from their students because they will certainly become

Stess Tests and Shaved Wookies

Just had a stress test (there was a minor irregularity in an EKG at my recent physical). I'd been putting in a lot of seat time (on the bike) at the gym up until about 3 weeks ago when some other problems had me stopping altogether, so I wasn't too worried. But my doc ordered the test just to be sure. Unfortunately, they shave parts of the chest to make sure that the leads for the EKG have good contacts. And I am, shall we say, a bit on the hirsute side (kind of like saying Ed "Too Tall" Jones is too tall). So I came home with a few patches missing. I took the clippers to the rest, and now I have nubs. TMI, for sure. But I'm all about the sharing. I now have more sympathy for my wife.

Memoir of Gene Fama

Here's a pretty good "brief" memoir Eugene Fama wrote for a journal. I say "brief" because it runs pretty long - but that's to be expected given all the work that Fama has done.

Two Essential Questions

Before I get started, I wanted to mention that I chatted this past week with Professor Steve Teeter of Utah Valley University by way of e-mail. In the course of that conversation, I read his teaching philosophy on the Internet. I was impressed by it and he was kind enough to let me pass it along. I really like the idea of the community of teachers sharing such thoughts. Here is Professor Teeter’s teaching philosophy: “An education is not a true education unless it is real, that is to say useful in a student's life outside the classroom regardless of the field they go into. I believe in students coming first and having the right to a great education - an education that encompasses a balance of academics, real-world exposure, high expectancy from themselves and from me their instructor, rigor, and an environment where students have the opportunity to succeed and be the best they can be. If we can help our students succeed, they will thirst for more success which will, in turn,

Market Meltdown Game

We're getting close to the point where I cover the credit crisis in class, and it's also almost time for March Madness (even if my UCONN Huskies have soiled the matress to the ext thqt they'll get an early vacation)). So this comes at an ideal time - the Market Meltdown Game. Here's the article from the American Economic Association Last August, the University of Chicago Magazine asked Allen Sanderson to create an NCAA-like tournament with four regions, brackets and seeded teams. But instead of a field comprised of basketball squads, this one - dubbed "Market Madness" - was to contain 16 competitive factors contributing to the global financial meltdown of the last two years. (Their only constraint was that The Chicago School of Economics had to be a competitor.) To get started, each "team" got a name and a brief description as to why it was included in the tourney. Chicago Alumni and friends then participated in on-line voting in Autumn 2009 t

Training Dogs

I exchanged emails yesterday with Dr. Fred Phillips of the University of Saskatchewan. We discussed our teaching philosophies. Those are the kinds of conversations that I love to have but are, it seems, all too rare in college teaching. It is hard to improve if you are limited to the inside of your own head for ideas. In my discussion with Dr. Phillips, I described a speech that I had given at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia last year. I had decided to speak on “Patterning Student Behavior.” My question to that group was: How do you get your students to do what you want them to do? For example, I want my students to prepare for class, I want my students to find the material interesting and engaging, I want my students to learn both the how and why of the subject matter, I want my students to actively participate in class. Most of all I want my students to develop the ability to think for themselves. How do I go about trying to achieve those goals? Somehow st

Sesame Street Has Gone PC

When Jonathan and his sister were young, I learned to do the voice of many of the sesame street characters. Their favorotie was definitely Cookie Monster. FIrst, he's got a pretty cool voice (I can only do it for a while before my throat gives out, but it's worth it). Second, he has imulse control issues. THird, he's a bit of, shallwe say, a MORON. In other words, a typical guy. But lately, they've been trying to rehabilitqate him by making him eat more fruits and vegetables (he now sings " A Cookie is a Sometime Thing". Were Jonathan here, he'd agree with the unknown daughter - "Dad, that's just wrong in so many ways". So, in Jonathan's honor, I give you what Cookie Monster says in an unguarded moment: I still suspect some One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest type action - look for the scars.