4 tips to teach credit classes (credit reports, scores & cards)

Credit classes are a popular financial education offering. However teaching credit classes can be difficult for a variety of reasons. First, credit is a complicated topic; as opposed to teaching classes on budgeting, saving, investing, etc., it's hard to be a credit expert. As with other financial education programs, credit classes can be uncomfortable for students. This may come from a lack of confidence in the material, a lack of relevance to one's everyday life and the degree of financial proficiency and math one often needs to master the material.

The Good Credit Game is a complete credit teaching kit that helps educators overcome such challenges. It builds in solutions to the typical issues that arise when teaching credit classes. The following are a few tips from The Good Credit Game that may help you with your own credit classes.

Go beyond credit reports

Many credit classes only cover credit reports. Generally this means that students get to look at a handout of a sample credit report. However, as anyone who's ever looked at a credit report knows, it can be very confusing and intimidating. Credit reports are full of numbers and codes that credit counselors understand. However, for on-experts, a credit report is hard to decipher. Also, starting credit classes with a sample credit report skips over some more fundamental material. We therefore suggest working up to looking at a credit report—or encouraging participants to schedule a one-on-one meeting with an expert—rather than starting with it or only covering it.

Integrate trust in credit classes

Lots of financial educators note that attendees in their credit classes are often not very familiar with credit. Therefore, we start our credit curriculum by building on the basic idea of "Would you trust someone to pay you back if you loaned him/her some money?" Credit seems more real, tangible and practical if people understand it as a way to measure trustworthiness. You can then progressively build from one person making a loan to another to what "trust" looks like in the financial system. This is activities 1-3 in The Good Credit Game.

Make credit classes fun

One typical challenge of credit classes—in fact, all financial classes—is they become very much about numbers. However, people tend to not find numbers very fun. Credit classes also tend to involve a lot of lecture and PowerPoint, which is also not much fun for the teacher or the attendees. Our solution is to build a class around hands-on activities and to have people work in small groups. We find that a good measure of how fun classes are is how much people are laughing, talking and smiling. By giving students the freedom to interact and laugh and talk, they're more engaged and find credit classes more enjoyable. If you're using The Good Credit Game lesson plans, there is hardly ever a time when you will be speaking for more than a few minutes before people get to break and do activities on their own.

Make credit classes relevant

As with any class on any subject, it's easier to want to be there and pay attention if the material seems interesting, important and relevant to your life. In our credit curriculum, credit classes build up to the big idea of answering the key question: Why does it matter what my credit score is? Using the Cost of Credit calculators, the fifth activity clearly spells out how having a different credit score—even one that's slightly higher or lower—can mean a difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars over the course of a year.