Trigger Points: Enhancing Generic Skills in Accounting Education through Changes to Teaching Practices

By Watts, T.; McNair, C. J. | Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Trigger Points: Enhancing Generic Skills in Accounting Education through Changes to Teaching Practices


Watts, T., McNair, C. J., Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal


ABSTRACT

In 2001 a small Australian university implement particular intervention strategies designed to improve specific educational outcomes in its accounting degree program. These outcomes mirrored the three core areas of the Graduate Careers Council of Australia's Course Experience Questionnaire: (1) good teaching, (2) overall satisfaction, and (3) generic skills. Five areas were identified for intervention: (1) the effective allocation of full-time staff, (2) the effective use of sessional staff, (3) greater commitment by sessional staff, (4) the introduction of common subject outlines, and (5) the proactive response to student evaluations. The results indicate a statistically significant improvement in 2003 in the three core areas, supporting the argument that improving student satisfaction with their educational experience will improve student outcomes. A similar, but less significant, improvement of grades in the three final year accounting subjects was identified. Suggestions for the decline from 2004 are also explored.

Key words: Accounting education; student performance; student satisfaction; Intervention

(1) INTRODUCTION

This paper describes the events leading to and the results of an intervention strategy implemented specifically to improve student outcomes, as measured by the three core outcome areas of the Graduate Careers Council of Australia (GCCA). These outcome areas are: good teaching, generic skills and overall satisfaction. The course chosen for the study was a small accounting program. Five mechanisms were identified, which it was believed, would influence the attitudes of students towards their teaching and learning experience, and through these measures improve satisfaction. A sixth mechanism was identified that would provide a monitoring and accountability function. Considerable effort was spent on identifying and responding to statements relating to teaching and learning in the student evaluation process.

(2) BACKGROUND

In 2001 the School of Business at the subject university established a working party in the accounting faculty to implement specific intervention strategies that were designed to improve specific student outcomes as measured by the Graduate Careers Council of Australia's Course Experience Questionnaire. While the university's performance measures for each of the three core outcome areas of the questionnaire (good teaching, generic skills and overall satisfaction) were comparable to, and in some areas exceeded, the national performance measures, it was felt that improvements could be made by improving students' satisfaction of their educational experience. The impetus for improved student satisfaction was a recognition that (1) student satisfaction is, in itself, an important educational outcome, (2) increased student satisfaction may increase graduate support students become practising professionals, and (3) that the improved satisfaction, reflected in various publicly available publications (such as the Australian Good Universities Guide) may entice students to the subject university.

The subject university is a small government-funded public university operating in New South Wales, Australia. The accounting program, Bachelor of Business (Accounting), is accredited for professional membership by the professional accounting bodies in Australia. The student body consists mainly of school leavers with some international and mature-age students. The accounting program is designed as a three-year, 'full-time' course, with little accommodation for part-time students or evening offerings. As with many accounting programs in Australia, the first year is a common year for all Bachelor of Business students irrespective of their major.

(3) THE PROJECT'S FRAMEWORK

To provide a rigorous base for the project the working party adopted the three primary components identified by Argyris (1970) as critical to an intervention process: valid and useful information, free choice and internal commitment.

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