In an exclusive blog written for Naukri Learning, Dr. Abhijit Phadnis – a Finance expert, who is a national rank-holder Chartered Accountant, Cost Accountant, Company Secretary, Chartered Financial Analyst, Ph.D. from IIT Bombay and has over 32-years professional and consulting experience, shares from his teaching experience of nearly 26 years, about how finance learning could be made more interesting. He has worked for reputed firms like Johnson & Johnson, Grindlays Bank, UBS & Credit Suisse. Abhijit has conducted more than 300 finance workshops for over 55 companies from diverse sectors
I qualified as a Chartered Accountant and Cost Accountant when I was just 21 and got an opportunity to teach subjects such as accounting, costing and finance just a year later. It was an opportunity to teach students of a post-graduate diploma program in management offered by a reputed commerce college in Mumbai. In those days, young students of such programs used to be quite committed to learning.
They would ask a variety of questions and it was a delight to be able to think at the spur of the moment and respond to the questions convincingly. In fact, I noticed that my own conceptual thinking became a lot clearer when I started teaching. When one is at the center of attention in a class, particularly among focused inquisitive students, one’s intellect gets sharpened. Perhaps, concentration is at an elevated level and if one is not fearful about standing in front of students, one’s best can potentially come out.
Exactly like a performing art, the response to teaching is instantaneous. As a ‘performer’, a teacher / trainer / facilitator is at the center of attention. Unlike a stage performer, the role of a teacher is quite dynamic. The feedback is instantaneous as in any performing art but on top of it, there are questions which need to be satisfied at the spur of the moment.
On one hand this is a challenge and on the other hand, it is a wonderful opportunity to win several friends in one go. The opportunity is even greater, if one is teaching the seemingly complicated topics such as accounting, costing or finance.
Key to success lies in how the teacher ‘treats’ the students in the class. While it is our tradition that a teacher is held in the highest esteem by students, it is a privilege which cannot be taken for granted but has to be rather earned. The way to achieve it is to treat the students as customers. This is true not only for young students but even more so for corporate executives who have the eagerness to learn and progress. Willingness to treat students as customers creates empathy, which is so essential in learning facilitation.
It prompts a teacher to use creativity to the best to facilitate learning. Treating students as customers really means understanding their point of view, their strengths, their challenges, their constraints and their limitations and factoring these in customizing the delivery of subject at hand. This implies that the teacher needs to take the perspective of a learner and starts to think how best the subject could be offered.
If there is one commodity today which is in short supply, it is time. It is therefore, important that the conversation focuses on the essential takeaways that the learner must carry. When it comes to business professionals, what they need to see is how the subject can be applied in business and how they could derive value from the perspective of their personal and professional growth.
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Anecdotal examples also help a lot in getting the perspective about why learning these concepts is not a luxury but an essential part of business armor. When the audience has professional background, it is wasteful use of time to teach them the ‘mechanics and processes’ of these topics. They would bog people down. One should rather devote time in emphasizing on the practical application of concepts while taking business decisions.
This could be done through caselets, cases, individual exercises, group exercises and even a game for constructing financial statements, for example. Participants can also be made to present their own thoughts on different learnings, through structured presentations. These are all tools to reinforce learning.
Even before one brings them to application stage, it is also important to remove the mind-blocks coming in the way of learning any subject. As mentioned in my previous blog, learning concepts of accounting, costing & finance is very important to reach leadership levels. Yet, the mind-block that these subjects are very difficult to understand keeps professionals away from these subjects unless they are really pushed to the wall.
It is absolutely imperative that the facilitator presents the topics in such a way that they are relevant and easy to understand, and are really a fun to learn. Less the bombardment of clichéd terms, the better it is. It is great to begin the discussion with real life business environment, with which all participants are usually familiar, and then bring the discussion over to the concepts.
A big picture understanding is always a good starting point rather than getting lost into details from the word go. This helps in acting as a good ice-breaker, builds relevance of these topics in learner’s mind and then easily launches them into the conceptual discussion without much of a fear-factor left.
Even better is if we allow professionals to ‘speak the language of accounting, costing and finance’. Trainers and facilitators, howsoever effective, just don’t have the opportunity to help professionals learn that language fully in the limited time. Yes, the exercises, cases help to a certain extent but there is a limitation of time.
The best way to teach these subjects is exactly the way a language is taught: conversations. Learning a language through the grammar route is very boring but conversation is a great way to learn a language. Accounting taught in classrooms is often like grammar. In the e-learning product that I have created, I have followed the methodology of conversations.
I have written a serial of 49 episodes which has been fully animated which offers a great way of learning the topics of accounting, costing and finance through conversations. Various concepts very naturally emerge during conversations, that too in the context of a real-life business environment, thus enforcing their direct relevance to addressing business challenges.
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