Associate Professor Ryan Kruger has taught on every finance course offered at an undergraduate level, which he says has allowed him an understanding of the development that students undergo over the course of their academic careers.
He is well-known for his passion, engagement, ability to connect theory with the working world and for his focus on developing understanding rather than the mundane learning techniques.
Kruger's teaching philosophy includes making finance accessible to students, promoting critical and logical thinking, and encouraging students to formulate their own opinions and take ownership of their learning. He spoke to Chido Mbambe from UCT's newsroom.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Paarl, but have lived in Cape Town ever since moving into residence at UCT in my first year of studies (1998).
Why did you become a teacher?
I fell into teaching almost by accident. I had always planned to enter the financial services industry when I completed my master's degree, but I was approached by the then head of finance to convene and lecture on one of our service courses. I remember being petrified because I had always had a fear of public speaking and large crowds, but walking into my first lecture it was like a switch had been flipped and I felt completely at home. My grandparents were both teachers, so perhaps it's in my genes!
What do you believe makes a good teacher?
Passion, empathy and flexibility. Students respond better when they are engaged and interested, and a lecturer who is enthusiastic about his or her subject is a big factor in ensuring that. It's also important that we as staff realise that students are more than just faces in a classroom or marks on a spreadsheet. They have genuine fears and concerns and, like us, deal with personal issues outside of UCT. A little compassion is often all that is needed to make a big difference in a student's academic journey.
How would you describe your teaching style?
It frustrates me that finance as a discipline is seen to be something outside of the reach of those other than professionals. Finance has an elegance and simplicity to it that everyone can grasp and master, if it is made relevant to their situation. I have always aimed to teach finance in a way that is accessible to students of any background, to promote critical and logical thinking and to encourage students to formulate their own opinions and take ownership of their learning.
What do you love most about teaching?
Being part of the journey as students slowly puzzle out the pieces they're taught over a course and eventually put it all together. That spark of excitement when they “get it” is always very rewarding.
What is the importance of this kind of recognition?
Research excellence offers many avenues for recognition, but good teaching is something we often take for granted as it is so integral to our role as academics. Good teaching can take as much time, effort and dedication as research, however. I spend a fair amount of my time trying to ensure my material is current, relevant and practical. The DTA is a lovely validation of that effort and process.
What do your academic responsibilities entail besides research?
I'm also the head of the Department of Finance and Tax, so I spend a lot of time interacting with both staff and students. I also sit on numerous committees, many of which are related to teaching, such as the Commerce Teaching and Learning Working Group.
What 'floats your boat' in teaching?
Engagement. My favourite lectures are those where I engage with students in healthy debate and discussion. I always leave those lectures feeling energised. Interactivity is one of the cornerstones of teaching.
What do you like doing off duty?
I'm an avid reader and enjoy cooking for friends and family.
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