Richard Peter, Assistant Professor, Finance
Richard Peter, Assistant Professor, Finance

Teaching in higher education can pose many interesting challenges, from helping students engage in academic discourse with honesty and integrity, to facilitating effective group work, to going beyond traditional teaching methods and “flipping” course content. The strategies instructors incorporate into their course depend on course content, instructor experience and creativity, and the prior knowledge and motivation of students.

 

In this series, we will highlight an array of teaching strategies implemented by instructors at the University of Iowa. Each strategy, provided directly from the instructor, enhances student engagement and broadens the scope of understanding. 

 

“I am an Assistant Professor in the Finance Department in the Tippie College of Business. I primarily teach risk management and insurance classes as part of the Certificate in Risk Management and Insurance, which is offered by the Vaughan Institute. Below are some concepts that are reflected in my teaching to help students be successful.” – Richard Peter, Assistant Professor, Finance

 

  1. Relevance: I emphasize that certain topics in class are directly applicable to the students’ personal finances. Good examples are auto insurance and homeowners or renters’ insurance, and in one of my classes we also discuss financial planning more generally, including life insurance and employee benefits. Realizing the direct applicability to one’s own personal life outside the classroom can be a great motivator for students.  
  2. Experiential learning: One of my classes also has a strong experiential learning component where student teams work on a semester-long risk management consulting project for organizations in the greater Iowa City area. They perform a risk assessment that involves some concepts covered in class but most projects go beyond that. The students document their results, including suggested recommendations in a written report, and they present it to the partnering organization toward the end of the semester. Most students find it very rewarding to work on a project that creates direct value for an organization
  3. Autonomy: I developed several problem sets that allow students to rehearse certain type of problems at their own pace. The level of difficulty varies, and I provide short sample solutions for the students to check their results and identify those areas that still need further attention. Students typically enjoy the flexibility and feel more confident as they take the midterm or final.
  4. Information about performance: After each exam or assignment, I provide specific information about the performance distribution for that particular item of the gradebook, which goes beyond what students can see on ICON. I also encourage students to inquire about their exact rank in class, and often I provide an outlook on how far away in the distribution the next grade is in either direction to make sure that students hold realistic expectations. My experience is that having a very clear understanding about one’s ranking in class is instrumental for students to be in a position to set reasonable goals and to work towards achieving them.
  5. Approachability: I make it very clear that I will do my best to help every student be successful, and  I make myself available in office hours and beyond that to work with them. In my experience, being very approachable allows you to challenge students more because when they get stuck, they know that you will help them figure it out. In one of my classes, I establish that explicitly by having elements early in the semester that involve one-on-one interaction with the students. Obviously, I am in the lucky position that this particular class is typically small enough for that to work out.