Showing posts from September, 2010

Incentives Matter

(1) – I had my first test of the semester last week in Financial Accounting. If you would like to see a copy of that test, drop me a note at (2) - Several weeks ago I heard part of a story on National Public Radio. It was about British sea captains who were transporting prisoners to Australia in the 1700s. Unfortunately, many of the prisoners were dying along the way. So, the British government changed the way they paid the sea captains. They began to pay only for each prisoner who arrived in Australia alive. Not surprisingly, the death rate dropped to nearly zero almost immediately. The punch line of the story was that incentives matter. I am a believer that you can encourage people to do almost anything if you figure out the right incentives. With an incentive that matters, people can practically leap tall buildings in a single bound. Like every teacher, I get frustrated by my students on occasion. I give an assignment and they don’t do it or they d


I have been tied up with the start of a new school year and have not had time to post anything. So, a good buddy of mine (and great teacher) Steve Markoff of Montclair State wrote the following. His words are ever so true and he says it better than I could have. Thanks Steve!!! We’ve probably heard the expression that you were born with two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk. I remember the first time I heard this from an elementary school teacher over 40 years ago. Just how does this apply to teaching? How can we use this to become better teachers? In order to listen more, we need three things: 1. Someone to listen to, 2. Something to listen to 3. A reason to listen For too many of us, the answer to number 1 is “me”; after all, we have all the academic and professional qualifications along with all of the knowledge from our years of accounting – who better to listen to? It took me a long time to realize that there was someone el

The best analogy of the day

I'm a regular reader of the Rabbit Room , a blog run by a group of Christian artists mostly around the Nashville area. They're a pretty amazing group of people - artistically talented as painters, writers, and musicians, mature, deep and thoughtful in their faith, and (importantly in terms of keeping me coming back) funny as all get out. Recently they had a weekend get together where they had a numbr of speakers (and some kick-hiney food). One of the speakers was Walter Wanegrin , who wrote a book called The Book of The Dun Cow, a very powerful story where the protagonists are all animals fighting against Wyrm, the source of all evil in their world. It's insightful, thought provoking, and funny. One of the bloggers expressed how inadequate he felt felt discussing literature wit Wanegrin (note: this came from the blogger - by all indications, Wanegrin is an estremely humble and engaging fellow). Anyway, here's the quote: I felt a thousand things as he spoke, which

How The Financial World Views Itself

A former student of mine who works at a hedge fund just sent me this. For what it's worth, he says it's pretty accurate My favorite is how the traders view sales. Note: the image originally came from MacroMan .

Need Some Inspiration?

There are times when every teacher needs some inspiration. There will always be days where everything goes wrong and the idea that anyone actually learns anything in your class seems remote. We all need inspiration now and then and I believe you should not ignore those needs. We are human. One recommendation—the next time you are down and out about teaching, go to the video store and check out a movie from 1988 titled Stand and Deliver . You cannot possibly watch that movie without getting excited about the joys of teaching. It is the true story of a Los Angeles high school math teacher in a very poor area who drives his students to succeed on the AP test for calculus. He pushes them so hard that his students are accused of cheating because they do so well on the exam. They all forced to take the test a second time and they come back and pass it again. No matter what the problems they encountered, the teacher did not let his students give up. He willed them to succee

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

A couple of years back, I was on the train (coming back from a consulting gig), and, being an extrovert, I started talking with a guy sitting next to me. He was a "stock tout". In other words, he was one of those guys who sent out emails pushing one stock or another. He claimed it was a pretty profitable business. Now I have some evidence backing him up. Here's a pretty interesting piece on the market effects of internet stock spam spam. A couple of years ago, Well, Frieder and Zittrain did a study titled Spam Works: Evidence from Stock Touts and Corresponding Market Activity. They found that on spammers "touting" (i.e. pushing) a stock has some pretty significant effects on the touted stock's price and trading volume. Here's the abstract (emphasis mine): We assess the impact of spam that touts stocks upon the trading activity of those stocks and sketch how profitable such spamming might be for spammers and how harmful it is to those who heed

Be A Student

If you are always the king, it is very difficult to understand what it is like to be a peasant. Most college professors that I know have spent a long time being the experts in the classroom. They are the ones who walk in each day with all the knowledge. They are the people in charge. Trust me, that gets to be a very comfortable feeling. At times, teachers can forget the feeling of being a student. Consequently, whenever possible, I try to take classes where I am the student. I prefer to take classes in subjects where I have little or no knowledge. Over the years, I have taken classes in jewelry making, Russian culture, portrait photography, creative writing, and ballroom dancing. I think I managed to be terrible in all of those classes. I like being the person in the room who is worried about looking stupid. I like sitting through a 75 minute class where I am bored to death after 10 minutes. I like taking a class where I listen to a teacher and try (sometimes hop

Here We Go Again

All good things (and summers) come to an end - we're starting back up at Unknown University. For the first time in four years, I get to teach the undergraduate introductory course. For many faculty, this would be a bad thing (a lot of my colleagues simply don't like teaching the core course). However, I find it to be one of m favorite classes - it's easy, and I get to be an energetit and somewhat goofy evangelist for the Finance Department. While putting together my syllabus, I went looking for an appropriate quote or two (I usually stick a few in there, if only for my own amusement). I came across a perfect one for the Unknown Daughter. As I've mentioned before, she's extremely bright (I know, I'm biased). But she also hangs out with a great bunch of kids - she and her closest three girlfriends are all smart, creative, and nice. They now can have a group motto. The quote (attributed to Mark Twain) is: Knowledge is Power Power Corrupts Study Hard Be Ev

Writing Assignments

I want my students to learn to write well. Good writing skills should be a requirement for any college education, regardless of the major. Writing well helps people think more logically. Sentences must follow sentences in a pattern that makes sense. Words need to be positioned so that ideas are clear. The message must be delivered in a fashion that can be understood by the intended reader. Today, the writings of many college students seem to be influenced heavily by Twitter and instant messaging. How can a teacher assist students in developing good writing habits? I use a four-step approach. I grade each of these steps individually but I put the most emphasis on the finished product that comes from the final step. First, students need something to write. I instruct them to create a problem or a question (within our discipline) that needs to be addressed. I give them guidance on arriving at their question. They then write a letter or memorandum to describe this is