An Effective Active Approach for Teaching Accounting in the 21st Century: Using Active Learning, an On-Line Course Management System, and a Student Response System
Raux, Donald J., Review of Business Research
One of the primary objectives of a college accounting courses is that students learn and retain concepts for use in learning and retention of material learned for subsequent use in later courses and the student's eventual career. Anecdotal evidence and some recent studies (such as Raux and Smith, 2007) suggest that many students learn more and retain the information better when active learning techniques are utilized. This paper provides guidance to accounting educators working with primarily Generation Y students (born between 1977 and 1994) to implement effective methods to increase the amount of learning and the retention of such material through two specific active learning strategies: student response systems and web-based learning. The following sections illustrate why active learning (utilizing a new pedagogy and SRS) and online learning are methods that may help students (particularly Generation Y students) to master and retain the course material more effectively. This new course pedagogy that uses on line learning and student response systems is structured around discussion of the concepts--most professors do not emphasize concepts much, yet concepts are the key to understanding.
1.1 WHY USE ACTIVE LEARNING INSTEAD OF PASSIVE LEARNING
Information on average learning retention rates from the National Training Laboratories (NTL, 2006) in Bethel, Maine indicates that students retain as little as 5% from lectures and 10% from reading. This clearly demonstrates that the passive learning activities of reading the textbook and attending lecture are not effective methods for helping students to retain material. This is especially true in accounting education where understanding concepts will be necessary for students to learn subsequent material because material learned in earlier courses is the foundation for material learned in later classes. Even when the teaching methods are combined, such as a Power Point presentation that is seen, heard, and read, the retention rate is only about 20%. However, when a student learns by actually doing something, active learning, they retain about 75%. If the student actually does something and then explains it to someone else, then the retention rate increases to the 90% range.
Other studies (Bonwell and Eison, 1991, Meyers and Jones, 1993, and Raux, 2004) have examined classroom learning methods and found that today's students learn more, retain more, and are more successful when active learning methods are employed in the classroom as opposed to traditional passive learning methods. Smith and Meador (2001) found that students using active learning methods in principles of financial accounting had statistically higher grades (12.8% fewer D and F grades) and statistically lower drop rates (12% lower drop rate) than students using passive learning methods.
The American Accounting Association's (AAA, 1986) Committee on Future Structure, Content and Scope of Accounting Education (the Bedford Committee) called for accounting education to take a much broader role than what is still currently offered by most universities today. Consider the following quote from the Bedford report: "There is little doubt that the current content of professional accounting education, which has remained substantially the same over the past 50 years, is generally inadequate for the future accounting professional. A growing gap exists between what accountants do and what accounting educators teach....Accountants who remain narrowly educated will find it more difficult to compete in an expanding profession....The Committee's analysis of accounting practice has indicated that accounting education as it is currently approached requires major adjustments between now and the year 2000." The Big 8 White Paper (1989) advocated changes in accounting education and felt so strongly that change was needed that they contributed five million dollars to fund the Accounting Education Change Commission (1990). The Commission called for significant changes in accounting education in several publications and funded of innovations in accounting education programs at several schools.
These studies clearly indicate that professors need to increase the use of teaching methods that promote active and cooperative learning in order to achieve the goal of increasing student retention. This requires some major changes in the "typical" accounting class. Historically, according to the above studies, accounting classes have been predominately a lecture format that promoted passive learning by students. Many accounting students are introverted and reflective and would prefer to be passive in the classroom, therefore, professors may need to convince some students that active learning techniques will result in a better educational experience.
These previous efforts have given us sufficient warning that accounting education must change to meet future needs of students. The traditional passive classroom does not facilitate learning, retention, or the development of second-level skills such as critical thinking, communication skills, interpersonal skills, technical skills, and analytical skills. Several of the above cited sources also emphasize the importance of students becoming better life-long learners and active learning facilitates that objective (Meyers and Jones, 1993). Thus, passive learning methods need to be replaced with active learning methods.
1.2 WHY ONLINE LEARNING THAT UTILIZES HOMEWORK MANAGERS AND STUDENT RESPONSE SYSTEMS
The feedback helps both the instructor and the students to gauge whether or not the students understand the course material. Traditional, passive, feedback is conducted via exams and quizzes. These sources of feedback are infrequent and do not encourage the student to do additional work to master the material because the feedback arrives too late and the student has already moved on to new material. Lectures do not provide adequate feedback either as the students are passive listeners instead of active participants. "Passive listening is a one-way communication that does not give the speaker feedback. For learning to be effective, a two-way process must exist so the sender knows whether the message has been understood (McIntyre-Birkner and Birkner, 2001)."
Online, or web-based, learning includes the use of online homework managers that can give students immediate feedback. The online homework manager "improves learning by increasing student effort, engagement, and course preparation..." and results in "better-prepared students, more effective use of class time, enhanced discussions, and more in-depth learning." (Thomson Learning Corp, 2007) Online homework managers allow students to complete selected homework problems and receive instant feedback about whether their answers are correct or not. If the student's answer is incorrect, the homework manager can guide the student through a review of the appropriate textbook material and then allow the student to reattempt the problem. Homework managers also can provide students with additional upgraded practice problems, 24/7 tutoring, and vocabulary quizzes (WileyPlus, 2005). "In fact, students have come to expect these types of technologies, which are an extension of the materials they became accustomed to in their K-12 years (Skelly, 2007)."
Student response systems ((SRS), also called clickers) are a tool used whereby students can interact with the professor and provide responses to live questions "Clicker technology can dramatically alter the atmosphere in large lecture classes, transforming students from passive observers to engaged learners who interact with each other and with the professor (Loebbaka, 2007)." A poll of students using clickers in the classroom revealed that 90% of the students said clickers increase the instructors' awareness of their teaching effectiveness and 80% of the students said the clickers helped them to understand the material better (Loebbaka, 2007). Thus, clickers and online tools such as a homework manager can help to transform the course into an active learning environment and they both also provide the …
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Publication information: Article title: An Effective Active Approach for Teaching Accounting in the 21st Century: Using Active Learning, an On-Line Course Management System, and a Student Response System. Contributors: Raux, Donald J. - Author. Journal title: Review of Business Research. Volume: 12. Issue: 4 Publication date: July 2012. Page number: 86+. © 2008 International Academy of Business and Economics. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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