What Makes a Good Actuarial Professor?

Good Actuarial ProfessorI believe teaching is one of the most noble professions. Teachers have an enormous impact on students’ lives, hopefully for the better. Tong Teh and I have the opportunity to teach at Drake this Spring as adjunct professors. So, I’m interested in your feedback, on what makes a good actuarial professor? Please provide any feedback in the comment section.

Here are some thoughts from Tong:

Effective Instruction

Students come to class and these efforts should be rewarded, not be discouraged. Professors should maximize the utility of student’s class time by giving effective instructions. An effective instruction may consist of 3 parts:

  • Start the class with an overview of topics that will be covered that day so students see the forest before overwhelming themselves with the trees. 
  • Then, teach concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. Illustrate concepts and the application of the concepts with examples. Many difficult concepts often become clearer and easier to the students once they see how the concepts work through examples. Use technology (Excel etc) to illustrate whenever relevant to help students understand the concepts. 
  • End the class with a summary of key concepts taught throughout the class that day.

Frequent quiz/tests

Frequent quiz/test should be given to make sure students are on pace. Students will be able to identify their weak areas sooner rather than later through frequent quiz/test.

Tong’s feedback provides practical advice. I believe the world’s information is expanding exponentially and is changing fast. So, if you consider the information needed to be successful in your entire career, most of it is learned after graduation. So, I think an additional goal is to motivate students to learn and teach them how to learn effectively. Actuaries, in particular, need to be skilled at not only deriving good answers, but learning to ask smart questions. I’m not sure how I will accomplish that at Drake, but it is something I’m hoping to achieve.

Again, I ask for your feedback. Please share any thoughts you may have to inspire future actuaries and actuarial professors. As a result of my teaching, I will be taking a break from writing blogs. I plan to have the next 10 blogs to be authored by one of my Coaching Actuaries staff. I’m confident they will have unique and helpful insights. So, I appreciate your patience until the semester ends and my blogging continues. May your learning be like a good annuity: continuous, increasing, and lasting a lifetime!