Joe Hoyle

Teaching the art of teaching

April 9, 2024


Accounting professor Joe Hoyle wants his students to have better undergraduate experience than his.

“I didn't have a single teacher that thought my education was their number one priority. I had a few pretty good teachers. I had an awful lot of average teachers,” Hoyle said, from his office on the third floor of the Robins School of Business. “I wanted better teachers.”

After 50 years in education, Hoyle still finds room for improvement in the field. That’s why he’s written an e-book that he hopes will inspire educators. The digital tome is available free of charge through the UR Scholarship Repository.

Hoyle is excited that nearly 2,000 people across the U.S. have already downloaded Transformative Education—How Can You Become a Better College Teacher? since he made it available in August. More than 750,000 have read his blog and he’s just started a new podcast.

“There are a lot of people out there that want to become better teachers and don't exactly know where to start,” Hoyle said. “I'm a big believer in Nelson Mandela's statement that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Professor Joe Hoyle's advice set Catherine Lofland Bixler, a 2009 alum, on an unconventional path for an accountant. Today, she travels to offshore oil rigs all over the world for her job.

Hoyle’s teaching methods focus on the active engagement of every student in his class, every day. He thinks professors should talk no more than 50% of the time.

He’s not an easy teacher. In his classes, he doesn’t let students fade into the background. He asks unusual questions and uses the Socratic method to keep students engaged — though he gives them advanced warning of the questions he will ask.

“I try to be as kind a person that I possibly can while I try to push them as hard as I can. I want them to be great. I want them at the end of the semester to be truly amazed about what they have learned,” Hoyle said. “But you can do that and still be a kind person.”

At the University, he's been named Distinguished Educator of the Year four times, Professor of the Year twice, and received the Robins’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

Nearly every square inch of his walls is covered with souvenirs, postcards, and photos from students he’s taught over the years.

Catherine Lofland Bixler’s photo is among them. She remembers the time she visited his office during her sophomore year, distraught after being rejected for several accounting internships.

“He looked at me like I was nuts. I can still hear him saying, `Why the heck would you want to do an accounting internship? You have the rest of your life to be an accountant. Go do something crazy,’” recalled Bixler, a 2009 graduate.

That summer, she worked as a housekeeper at a fishing lodge inside Katmai National Park in Alaska, which could only be reached by float plane. She had no phone or internet access for 17 weeks. “It wound up being one of the most transformative experiences of my life and proved to me that I can do really hard things,” Bixler said.

Today, she enjoys traveling to offshore oil rigs around the world as a senior sustainability reporting specialist for Transocean. "I'm exactly where I want to be," Bixler said. “I think the key takeaway from Professor Hoyle's advice is that you don't need to take the obvious path in your career."

At UR, he’s found colleagues who share his devotion to students.

“We understand they're going through this transformation. We want it to go very well so that when they walk across the stage at graduation, they can be thoughtful, satisfied, happy members of society,” Hoyle said. “I wouldn't have been here since 1979 if I didn't think this was a place that made a difference.”