Bringing Today's Business Challenges
into the Classroom

Q:    What do three outstanding College of Business instructors have in common?

A:    Innovative approaches to teaching, consistent excellence in the classroom, and a positive impact on students.

Active student participation and use of real world examples are key components found in the classrooms of Joe Broschak, Kentaro Koga, and Andrew Reffett, who were named this spring as outstanding teachers in the College. Each is a recipient of an outstanding teaching award sponsored by the College of Business Alumni Association: Broschak for graduate instruction, Koga for undergraduate, and Reffett for teaching assistant.

Joe Broschak, Business Administration.Joe Broschak, an assistant professor in business administration, teaches MBA and EMBA courses on organization design and human resource management. He calls his teaching style interactive and unconventional because he believes that students learn more when class is fun and relevant. "Encouraging students to question and debate makes learning fun and dynamic. I try to make class as dynamic as possible. It's not just me lecturing, it's also me leading a discussion" he says.

During his six years at Illinois, Broschak has taught both undergraduate and graduate students and notes that he approaches those classes differently even though he teaches some of the same material to both groups of students. "The quality of the conversations, the type of questions I try to pose or answer, the knowledge that they walk away with, differs based on how much practical experience they have." For undergraduates he frames the material as if they are going to work for the first time. With MBA students, who are older and many of whom have previously worked full-time, he presents the information assuming they are going to be managers in an organization. For Executive MBA students who are working full-time, he puts the information into a daily work context.

Ken Koga, Accountancy.Like Broschak, Kentaro Kogo, assistant professor of accountancy, likes to get students talking and to offer a variety of examples in class. He believes that students learn best when they are active and involved so he relies on case discussions and group projects to jumpstart his classes.

"I describe my teaching method as a simulation of a real business situation because my teaching method involves real world cases. Students are asked to seek information anywhere - not only information from the textbook or in the assignment. They are allowed to go out and collect their information though the Internet, bring in newspaper or magazine clippings, and bring their own experiences to the class," says Koga.

In the three years that he has been teaching Accountancy 304 in the Project Discovery program, Koga notes that he has made incremental changes to his teaching methods but no drastic ones. "I focus more on the issues and problems that students stumble on. Through the years I have seen a pattern of mistakes among the students." As a result, he has added information and projects to his syllabus to focus on those issues.

Drew Reffett, Accountancy.Another believer in real world examples is Andrew Reffett, a teaching assistant for Accountancy 304. As a former auditor for Ernst & Young LLP, he has a wealth of examples of the daily challenges auditors and accountants face to bring into the classroom. "Concrete examples to help students conceptualize the more abstract concepts," says Reffett.

He begins each semester by assessing the experience level of the students in his class. To make the class as interesting as possible, Reffett uses those real world examples as a way to visualize the core concepts of the course. For example, in ACCY 304 he teaches that three conditions are needed for a "fraud triangle": a means to commit fraud, a personal justification or rationalization, and the need or desire for money. Some examples from his career solidify the lesson.

"I can give students a preview of a job as an auditor. I tell them that it's no different than any other job, with positives and negatives. It's an incredible experience to be exposed to the inner workings of a business," he says.

Spring Luncheon link.Three outstanding instructors, honored by the College of Business Alumni Association for their teaching excellence, use the same device to demonstrate how textbook knowledge applies in the real world. Joe Broschak, Ken Koga, and Drew Reffett agree that real examples, coupled with active participation in the classroom, keep students interested and make the classroom a dynamic place to learn.

-- Karen D. Kalal
March 2005