Mateev Finance
  • Teaching Philosophy

Dr. Miroslav Mateev's Teaching Philosophy

When I think about teaching, I ask myself "what will students take away from my class that they will remember and use a year from now, five years from now, 20 years from now?"

To answer this question and help my students develop intellectually, professionally, and personally for the long term, I design courses that help students think - not memorize, communicate cogently - not list information, and become emotionally connected - not passively receive. Because, after all, education is not just passing test after test, only to find that one's knowledge is gone a few short months after the last exam. While teaching, I also constantly remind myself to appreciate the wonderful opportunity I've been given as a professor-the rare privilege and joy of changing someone's life path by making a direct, deep, and long lasting difference in the way someone thinks and how he or she sees the world. As I answer my question, I also realize that without sincere concern for the students' welfare, an ability to see things from their perspective, and the patience to listen and hear beneath the surface of their words and actions, that all the intellectual knowledge in the world will not help me be a truly effective teacher or mentor. Whether with MBAs or undergraduates, teaching is not just providing knowledge, but changing students' thinking patterns.

I teach many courses in the field of finance (including emerging markets finance) and this is a wonderful opportunity because our world is becoming increasingly global and complex. Again, education is not memorization, so I do complement the required teaching materials with optional readings. We discuss short articles from the popular finance press in every class. This alternative cognitive approach sidesteps students' time and language limitations, while showing them that the course material is not dry theory, but rather something that surfaces everyday in the fabric of international business life. The course structure nurtures personal growth and self-confidence, while reinforcing the course's intellectual messages about ambiguity in international business environment. To solve this "ambiguity problem," students can choose from suggested readings should they need additional information or if they wish to clarify what was presented in class. This helps students develop critical information search and selection skills for the real world, where no one tells you what to read, when to read it, or how much of it to read. By requiring students to make personal and professional judgments, they learn to assess the business themselves, and to make responsible and realistic decisions. These skills regarding ambiguity and information assessment will last a lifetime, and can apply to any job.

Another very conscious cognitive choice I make when sculpting my curriculum of Investment and Portfolio Management course is to center on core financial concepts that will have long-term value. In other words, I try to help students see larger historical patterns, again arguing that knowledge of general behavioral patterns will help them more throughout their careers than memorizing specifics that may change in a few years or even months.

Communication skills are also central to my classes, particularly writing and speaking, because they too transcend both discipline and time. No matter what you do or when you do it, you need to communicate effectively or your genius will not shine through. Furthermore, although people talk of separating ideas from their expression, this is sometimes difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, to succeed you not only need to have good ideas and think clearly, but you must express those ideas well.

Another thing I try to do, especially with MBAs, is help students become aware of their overall business writing patterns. I noticed that students' reports grades often correlate quite highly over a semester, and began wondering why. Some students are unthinkingly resigned to their lack of improvement, telling themselves and me that "I am a B- or C+ student" simply because they've always received those grades. But how often do they receive those grades not because of their intelligence, but because they get graded reports back class after class without enough feedback or guidance that would help them write better in the future? To break this cycle of resignation, I sit down with students and show them what they are doing wrong, not so much in terms of course content, but rather in terms of their thinking, time management, writing styles and habits. That usually means dissecting their papers and making them aware (often for the first time) of their report's reasoning, argumentation, structure, logic and outcomes.

In addition, when I grade students' reports I would like to be sure I give plentiful comments to explain my grades, and to compliment students for a job well done. More important, however, is that I try to get students to see exams and reports not merely as means of evaluation (students focus too much on the grade only), but as means of learning to do better. Unfortunately, most students rarely talk to me about their paper reports afterwards to learn from their mistakes and do better next time. Rather, the vast majority takes their grades as evaluations and - satisfied or not with their grades - never contacts me to learn how to improve. I make it very clear that my attitude is different - that the best students are those who continually follow-up and learn what they don't know to use for next time.

Given that I stress communication as a cornerstone of effective teaching management, one thing that I find quite useful for continually improving my courses is constant feedback. I use several methods. First, I establish a feedback committee of three or four students with whom I meet with once a week to find out how students feel about the course and what adjustments might make the course more valuable and enjoyable. Second, I do an online mid-term survey and use that information to fine-tune the second half of the course. Third, I conduct my own end-of-the semester course survey where I ask students about how much they enjoyed and benefited from the course's specific cases, articles, videos, exercises and lectures, hoping to improve the syllabus when I teach the course in future years. These are all invaluable ways to learn about students, but also means of sincerely showing students that you care about what they think and feel.

A last communication strength I offer is in discussing articles and cases. Rather than give the students answers, I try to teach students how to ask the right questions. My case discussion style is also one of trying to get students to see the links among the various opinions expressed on any given issue, and to see the big picture at the end of the discussion. In particular, I continually prod students to expand their reasoning by asking "why", or "what are the implications" or "can you give me evidence to back up your opinion." (At times I play devil's advocate to get them to see that there are other alternatives.) Taken together, my case discussion style is a great blend of my desire to both improve students' communication and thinking skills.

Complementing cognition and communication are emotions. You might have the best intellectual knowledge of your topic, but without an emotional connection between you and your students, you're not really teaching or mentoring. In some ways connecting is simple: love what you're doing and your joy and enthusiasm will be contagiously obvious. More concretely, little things that show my involvement and concerns go a long way in helping students trust me not only as a source of knowledge, but also as a friend and peer. Once you shift their perspective of your role, their intimidation melts, helping them relax and open up, both personally and intellectually.

What else helps? Grading all students' papers to get to know them, allowing students to call on my first name, learning their names, speaking Russian to help them feel at home, having weekly meetings with student project teams, and having an end-of-the semester lunch so that we can talk as friends. Really listening to students and being flexible towards workload and due dates clearly conveys that my concern is not just lip service, but sincere. My learning their names sends the message that I care about them as individuals (which I do) and improves the give-and-take of learning. Allowing them to call on my first name reduces their intimidation and allows them to talk with me more openly. Taken together, these things go a long way towards breaking down traditional, formal, and isolating professor-student roles, building the bridges and trust needed for effective learning to take place. The more than 20 letters of reference students have asked me to write each semester suggest that these bonds endure beyond graduation. In short, I believe that my ability to hear the feelings and implied meanings behind the students' words is a strength that has contributed to my success and satisfaction in the classroom.

Recognizing students' feelings also goes a long way in helping them overcome their reticence to speak out in class, quite important for the highly interactive classrooms I like to run. During class discussions there are no wrong answers, just opinions and supported arguments; I try to transform any student's "wrong" answer to something with a grain of truth so that the student saves face and that others know that I would do the same for them if they decide to speak up. Whatever their manifestations, students' emotional connection starts with their commitment to the class and instructor, is supported by a teacher's sincere concern, and eventually carries through to their emotional engagement with course material and its application in the real world.

In the end, effective teaching seems complex to implement. Cognition, communication, and emotional commitment: these three big picture elements, when coordinated and clear, are the cornerstones of my courses, and my solutions to effective, long-term intellectual, professional, and personal growth for my students.

Courses by Prof. Mateev See All Courses

This course provides students with the fundamentals of corporate finance which enables participants to understand what capital funds the business needs, how these funds are obtained, and how they are managed. At the end of the course, the student should ... [More info]

This course is intended to introduce the concepts and tools of security analysis and portfolio management. The course content covers market structure and trade execution, client characteristics and their effect on portfolio construction, the asset ... [More info]

The primary objective of this course is to prepare you to use modern finance theory to better understand how companies are valued and to make capital allocation decisions that lead to long-run value maximization for the corporation. The emphasis of the ... [More info]

This course applies the concepts and principles of corporate finance to the multinational corporation. A corporation that operates across national borders faces risks not faced by a purely domestic corporation, such as changing exchange rates and ... [More info]

Copyright Miroslav Mateev 2014.