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This issue of CDTL Brief is the last of a two-part Brief that features the teaching practices of the 2004/2005 Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) winners.

September 2006, Vol. 9, No. 4 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Harnessing Work Experiences of MBA Students for Better Teaching and Learning
Dr Chng Chee Kiong
Department of Finance & Accounting

At the NUS Business School, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme is a flagship programme that has a good reputation not only in Asia, but also around the world. Students taking the course have to complete 17 modules, comprising ten core modules and seven electives.

In this article, I shall share some of my experiences in teaching one of the core modules, BMA5003 "Financial Accounting", over the last five years. In particular, I will relate how I harnessed my MBA students' work experiences for more effective teaching and learning of financial accounting.

Profile of MBA students

Full-time MBA students hail mainly from India and China, while part-timers are mainly Singaporeans and Malaysian permanent residents. In every cohort, I also had some students from other countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, U.K. and the U.S.

About 70% of MBA students have engineering, computer science or science degrees, while the rest have degrees in business, economics or arts. Thus, the majority of students have no previous formal study in financial accounting or finance. The typical MBA student would have worked at least two to three years, with some holding junior management positions. Many students' last or current jobs are in information technology, manufacturing and engineering companies, while others come from consulting, banking, trading and other types of companies.

Examples of harnessing students' work experiences

In the following paragraphs, I shall give three examples of how I tap on the work experiences of MBA students who have relevant knowledge and experiences in finance for better teaching and learning in BMA5003:

  1. In a lesson on financial ratios used by financial institutions to analyse the liquidity and solvency of companies, there is no universal agreement on the formulae for a class of ratios called the debt ratios. Thus, I called upon a student who had worked as a credit analyst in a renowned international bank to tell the class about the ratios her bank used to analyse prospective borrowing corporations. Not only was the student able to tell the class how her bank analysed prospective companies, she also explained how her bank applied variations of debt ratios in different circumstances. These were matters I could have taught the students directly, but I believed the message got through better when it came from a practitioner.

  2. Another student, an ex-finance manager from Europe, related his real world experiences about the difficulties of keeping track of expenses in a 24-hour iron-ore smelting operation. This example was brought up during a session on principles in financial accounting, where students were taught that expenses had to be recorded exactly in the period which they were incurred. The student's example was something I could not possibly have shared as I have no experience in such operations.

  3. For the topic on accounting for bad debts, I encouraged students to share their experiences since this is an issue that is easy to relate to in the real business world. A student, whose last job was with a management consultancy firm, told the class how he and his team under took a project to analyse and help improve a multinational client's bad debts. The student and his team systematically employed ageing analysis of the debtors' accounts and recommended ways for the client to follow up with the different 'ages' of accounts. Eventually, the client's situation improved tremendously. The student's anecdote not only added realworld substance to what I had taught in class earlier, but also made the rest of the class realise how accounting can be used in a proactive way, rather than merely as a means of recordkeeping. As the multinational client is a large and well-known company in the computer industry, the class also realised that there are always avenues for improvement even in supposedly well-run companies.


As illustrated above, students' knowledge and work experiences in finance can reinforce the teaching of financial accounting. This makes for more effective learning, especially when the majority of the class has limited or no experience in finance and accounting. It also makes the study of financial accounting more interesting when students share their experiences from different countries and industries. Fur ther, I believe students like to learn from their peers. Lastly, harnessing students' work experiences is helpful especially in cases where an instructor has limited work experiences.

An obvious prerequisite to using this technique is that lecturers need to know the profile of students. In this regard, the MBA Office in the Business School prepares a basic profile of students for instructors at the start of the semester. The profile consists of students' age, previous education, last or current job's company and position. The instructor will, of course, need to learn a bit more about the students by talking to them. Finally, I hope this technique is potentially useful for other graduate programmes besides the MBA programme.

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Inside this issue
The ‘Pavlovian Reflex’ in Students
Applying Principles of Constructivist Pedagogy to Foreign Language Teaching
Holistic Approach to Educating Students for a Win-Win-Win-Win
Harnessing Work Experiences of MBA Students for Better Teaching and Learning
The Making of a Doctor— Perspective of an Anatomist
  My Approach to Educating Students