Michael P. Griffin [mgriffin1958]
What subjects do you teach? What types of students do you have?
I teach cost accounting and principles of accounting. I also teach our internship course at the Charlton College of Business, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. My students are mostly business majors. Most are motivated and bright and eager to apply their knowledge in real world situations - internships and jobs.
Can you provide a link to a site where we can see something about what you do or the center where you work?
My bio can be read at: http://www.umassd.edu/charlton/faculty/alphabeticallisting/griffinmichael/ and information about our internship program, which I run, can be found at: http://www.umassd.edu/charlton/internship/ I maintain a blog on the topic of internships and that can be foyund at: http://www.businessinternships.blogspot.com/
How have your past experiences prepared you for teaching? How did you become interested in education?
I started in business right out of undergrad school (Providence College) when I went to work at R.I. Hospital Trust, a commercial bank that was headquartered in Providence, RI. I was an auditor and that experience helped me learn how a bank works and how internal audit is an important aspect of accounting. I have used my experiences as an internal auditor and my background as a bank examiner in the classroom. Soon after earning my MBA at Bryant University, I started teaching part-time at a local community college and at Bryant (www.bryant.edu) and enjoyed it. That lead me to leave the business world in 1986 and pursue teaching full-time at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I have been there ever since as an accounting professor (and also the internship director). I have also held the position of Assistant Dean, but my first love is teaching.
Who was your most influential teacher and why?
Many of my teachers had an influence on me and its very hard to single out one or two. I had elementary school teachers who impressed me and influenced me. My fourth grade teacher, Miss Harrington (Mrs. Santos now) was a terrific teacher. My sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Beynon was tough and instilled some important learning discipline - she showed me how to outline our readings and preached a healthy work ethic. Both Miss Harrington and Mrs. Beynon were teachers at Luther School in Swansea, MA. I had good teachers in junior high and high school. My english teachers helped me to write - teachers like Mrs. Powers, Mr. Dumont (Dr. Ray Dumont who was also a collegue of mine at UMASS Dartmouth), and Mrs. Connolly (Marcia Knight) were very influential. At Providence College, I had Mr. Joe Gemma for several business courses and his style of teaching was very impressive. I tried to model myself after Joe who had the student's best interest in mind and worked to prepare solid lectures that kept students engaged. Joe is still at PC and is an Assistant Dean.
What is your educational philosophy?
I like to cover all the key topics of well written textbooks and keep students engaged and interested in the material. I like some group and hands-on projects but mostly I like to lecture and take questions from the class. I think the time I spend in class is best spent by going over the material and adding value that way. I like to bring in outside material. I'll give you an example. In my AIS course we talk about accounting system fraud. We study a local case of embezzlement - a situation where a bookkeeper stole millions of dollars from a small business. Because it is local and because it is a sensational case, the students really dig into it. And it reinforces the topics of my lectures and the readings from the basic textbook.
What is the most challenging aspect of teaching for you?
Keeping students interested, engageds, and on track is a challenge - especially today. Students want to be entertained and in some ways they have a right to be. Education can't be effective if it is boring. So finding ways to make it interesting is a challenge - especially when teaching dry stuff like debits and credits and the cost of a manufactured item.
What kind of relationship do you have with your students?
I think my relationship is generally good. My evaluations show that students appreciate my efforts. I think that my students sense I want them to succeed. I think they believe that I want them to be solid professionals and have good careers.
What is the secret to instilling interest in knowledge?
Not sure that there is a secret. I try to explain why the material is important and if I can relate it to a job or something in the real world, students like that.
What is your philosophy on homework and grading?
Generally I don't collect a lot of homework but I do assign many homework assignments which we review in class. I preach preparation and practices as a way of succeeding on quizzes, exams, and graded projects. I want students to do well and often let students redo a paper or project for a better grade. I sometimes offer re-takes of quizzes and exams when most of the class has problems. I want students to learn and have a chance to show their mastery of material with a variety of assessments and frequent opportunities to stay on track. So I like lots of quizzes and exams along the way. I don't want one bad day to haunt a student.
Is it possible to teach creativity? how?
I am not sure about that. I have watched so many artists and athletes at their craft and think much about creativity is inherent in the person. I have studied how writers produce scripts and novels. I have read about how the Beatles wrote songs and I watch the creativity of point guards and quarterbacks and marvel at the way they invent. However, I do think activities such as brainstorming can help and an environment that encourages innovation is a key.
How do you establish authority? What do you do when a discipline problem arises?
I don't have a problem with discipline, for the most part, at the college level.
How do you individualize your teaching? How do you handle the different ability levels of students in classes?
It's a good question. I have a body of knowledge that must be mastered by the end of 15 weeks. With accounting, there is a lot to cover and if people fall behind things can get crazy and snowball. For those who start to slip, we have tutors. I also offer extra help during office hours and assistance online.
What cooperative learning means to you. How have you used it?
Cooperative learning for me, as the internship director, means internships. We have an internship program that awards 3 credits for a successful completion of an internship (minimum of 135 hours in the field). Students apply classroom and book knowledge to real world business issues.
What do you expect from your supervisor? What qualities would you like to have in your principal?
Since I am in a college, my supervsior is the chairperson of our department and instead of a principal - we have a Dean. I like honestly and fairness. With that, everything else falls into place. Without honesty and fairness, all hell can break loose.
What issues in education are of greatest concern to you?
The cost of education is a huge concern. At the college level, it is not uncommon to see annual cost of tuition, fees, room and board at $55,000. My daughter was accepted at a fine private institution last spring and we couldn't afford to send her there. Students are leaving school with over $100,000 in student loans. And many are having trouble landing jobs that will help them with a rapid payback. Even public institutions are costing more than $100,000 for four years.
Would it be a good thing if teachers had economic incentives based on student performance?
Besides more financial resources, what do today's schools lack?
What are some ways you have incorporated technology into the classroom.
I blend my offerings with Web resources. I have also used iClickers in class to spur class engagement and monitor activity/participation. We also require MS Excel assignments in the accounting courses and use a web based homework system.
In light of new technologies, do we need to reinvent the school, its methods and objectives?
If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
It would have far more practical elements. More field trips, speakers, internships, service learning, real-world projects but would also retain traditional learning - reading, writing, math, and lectures. It would have a greater sense of community and an atmosphere of possibilities. And I would throw out standardized testing.
What do you think schools will be like in 20 years?
Without more money and more creative leaders, schools won't be any different from what they are today. And I don't see there being much money in the next 20 years.
What are your professional goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
I am in my 50s and I have been teaching for more than 25 years. I am still enthusiatic about the profession but realize I won't be doing this forever. I'd like to write more and do more consulting. Over the next five years I might phase out of teaching or perhaps teach part-time.
What qualities would you need to see in someone before advising him/her to go into teaching?
Michael P. Griffin
Swansea, MA USA