Managerial First: Reversing the Sequence of Introductory Accounting Courses

Article excerpt


As accounting programs have grown and developed over the past 75 years, they have gradually adopted a very consistent curriculum model for the introductory courses. In this curriculum model, the financial accounting topics invariably precede the managerial accounting topics. In recent years, a number of forces have caused accounting educators to reconsider many of their assumptions about curriculum and its implementation.

The Bedford Committee (AAA, 1986) and the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC, 1990) have, for example, been the stimuli for many interesting innovations in accounting education in the past decade. Solomon and DeBerg (1994) have recently supervised the development of a new core competencies model for accounting programs in the State of California. Increasingly, accounting educators are trying new ways to help their students develop critical thinking skills (Doney, et al., 1993; Kimmel, 1995), learn how to learn (Bartholome, 1991; Basu and Cohen, 1994; Geary and Rooney, 1993), learn better in challenging environments (Baldwin, 1993), and deal with technical information overload in accounting courses (Anderson and Boynton, 1992).

The increasing prevalence of outcomes assessment (Herring and Izard, 1992) at many universities is motivating accounting educators to specify desired skill sets more clearly and identify ways to measure student mastery of those skills more accurately. The accounting profession has not been silent about the skills it desires in its new hires. Even the accounting professionals in industry have funded a major study that purports to tell educators what they want to see in the accounting graduates they hire (Siegel and Sorenson, 1994).

These pressures on accounting educators have led to much experimentation and many new ideas. Somewhat surprisingly, experiments that alter the traditional sequencing of introductory course content has been rare.


Ainsworth (1994) and Ainsworth and Plumlee (1993) report the results of an AECC innovation project at Kansas State University. In this curriculum revision, the first introductory course covered how one might use accounting information in making operational decisions. The second course focused on financing and investing decisions. In the first course, therefore, the revised Kansas State curriculum integrated many managerial accounting topics.

Suadagaran (1996) included some managerial topics in a revision of the first introductory course. That revision yielded a first course in which he tried to destroy students assumption that bookkeeping and accounting were synonymous. He accomplished this objective, in part, by including managerial accounting topics which students found to be more interesting and analytical than financial accounting topics in the first course.

Most AECC-sponsored and other curriculum innovations (e.g., Pincus, 1995; Solomon and DeBerg, 1994) have retained the traditional ordering of financial topics first, managerial topics second. One drawback to using blended approaches such as those used by Ainsworth and Plumlee (1993) and Suadagaran (1996) is that book publishers create materials for the more traditional financial/managerial split. Therefore, an instructor using a mixed approach would need to cobble materials together from disparate sources.

Often, faculty that are willing to teach a financial principles introductory course feel ill-prepared to teach managerial topics. The opposite is often true for faculty that feel their teaching strength is in cost and managerial accounting. In many schools, the introductory courses are staffed by adjunct faculty or doctoral students, which can make such course customization extremely difficult.


We believe that a logical argument can be made for introducing student to accounting using predominantly managerial topics. …