Painting by Numbers: Using Whiteboard Technology to Illustrate the Uses of Accounting Information in the Teaching of A-Level Business Studies

Article excerpt

Why do some teachers of Business Studies reserve the use of financial information exclusively for the Accounting and Finance module? Is that the best way to help students to appreciate the wider role of financial data in the real world of business and industry? This article sets out to illustrate how whiteboard technology can be readily incorporated to illustrate aspects of A-level Business Studies with numerical information typically found in company accounts.

WHAT ARE WE AIMING TO ACHIEVE?

* Identification of alternative ways to illustrate corporate objectives and business activity

* A greater understanding of accounting information

* Enhanced student confidence using numerical data

* More interesting ways of learning

The lesson centres upon the use of two case study companies - British Airways, and Marks & Spencer. Most plc businesses lend themselves to this lesson, but choosing companies of which students are likely to have heard often avoids unnecessary questions such as what the business's core activity is. Also, high profile companies tend to feature regularly in the press and this can facilitate independent student learning and research.

THE CLASS

The lesson was delivered to a small, mixed ability Year 13 A-level Business Studies group consisting of ten students - four boys and six girls. Predicted ALIS grades ranged from C/D to B.

THE LESSON PREPARATION

Taking approximately 75 minutes, it was delivered over a double period and built into preparation for the Unit 6 (AQA) synoptic examination.

Not surprisingly, the CTC is equipped with the latest ICT resources. To prepare this lesson, I needed internet access. To deliver it demanded access to an electronic whiteboard - of the Promethean calibre or one of the so-called generation of 'smart' boards. The course textbook or a newspaper can readily punctuate aspects of the delivery.

Initially, such lessons can be very time consuming to prepare, but a long-term view must be adopted. I will be able to run this lesson over and over again, with one or two minor amendments to maintain topicality. The internet is a major resource but, like any other, it can drain valuable planning, preparation and assessment time if not used wisely. Probably 60% of the lesson preparation involved researching information about the two businesses. Their respective company web sites were a useful starting point as many high profile companies have now developed pages of information accessible to a wider audience than corporate shareholders and job seekers. CAROL (Company Annual Reports On Line) and BBC News are other ready-made resources freely available on the net. The remainder of the preparation time was divided equally between planning integration of appropriate student exercises and actual presentation of the lesson content.

THE LESSON PLAN

Recent high profile cases such as Shell and its changing oil reserves and the financial disaster at Parmalat in Italy have illustrated perfectly how statistics can be used to represent and misrepresent business activity and performance. In this lesson we will examine how numerical data can highlight the objectives and activity of two strong brands - British Airways (changes in a dynamic market place) and Marks & Spencer (cost-cutting).

We need first to set the scene so that students can appreciate the business context and more fully appreciate the numerical data to follow.

BRITISH AIRWAYS: CHANGES IN A DYNAMIC MARKET PLACE

In 2001 BA introduced its Future Size and Shape programme. This strategy was intended to cut costs, especially manpower costs by reducing the size of its workforce.

This list of events (which can be presented on the whiteboard using PowerPoint software) clearly illustrates the dynamic nature of this particular market. We can now focus attention on the trend in passenger numbers using the company's own figures. …