Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Using Cooperative Learning Structures to Enhance Pedagogical Effectiveness in Accounting

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Using Cooperative Learning Structures to Enhance Pedagogical Effectiveness in Accounting

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The business environment of corporate America is changing rapidly and has necessitated a change in accounting education to keep pace with the needs of the business world. Accounting educators are being urged to reevaluate the curricula and focus on improving students' critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills, and active participation in the learning process. Businesses need more speed, flexibility, and integration to operate successfully in both the local and global economies. They are finding that the flow of information across business functions is critical to achieving good decision-making. To facilitate the flow of information, companies are developing various types of work teams. The purpose of this study is to discuss the proposed changes in accounting education, provide an overview of the use of teams in the workplace, introduce THE GAME, a structured and collaborative exercise designed to increase student participation in the learning process, and develop some short activities that students work on collaboratively. These exercises contribute to active learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal skills, which are attributes critical for success in the accounting profession.

BACKGROUND

The transformation of the business environment has accounting educators facing pressure from the accounting education change movement, especially from the American Accounting Association (AAA, comprised of accountants and accounting professors), the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC), and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Most recently, the AICPA (1999) endorsed a Core Competency Framework for Entry into the Accounting Profession. This framework specifies interaction, leadership, communication, and project management, among other competencies, that students need to develop for entry into the accounting profession.

The AECC (1990) espoused effective teams as the most important interpersonal skill that accounting students should obtain. The AECC objectives go beyond the traditional lecture, textbook and exam paradigm. Slavin (1983) showed that group assignments do lead to increased learning. He notes that students in teams can address higher level learning tasks, such as analysis and synthesis. Michaelson et al. (1993) states that educators can benefit from industry's experience with high performing teams. He says that the key to success of a student or work group lies in the way in which teams are formed and managed, and the strength of tasks that they are expected to accomplish.

TEAMS IN THE WORKPLACE

Companies need more speed, flexibility, integration and innovation to operate successfully in both the local and/or global economy. Because of the rapidly changing economy and the diverse workforce, accounting educators are being challenged to advocate group work, improve students' communication skills, and encourage students to think critically (Cottell & Mills, 1993). Companies are finding that the flow of information across business functions is critical to achieving good decision-making. To facilitate the flow of information, companies are developing various types of work teams. For instance, Retail Financial Services (RFS) senior management accepted its employees' recommendation that company centers should be organized around teams, with no managers at all (Ashkenas, 2000). When the teams were given the same levels of authority that prior managers had held, improved customer satisfaction and reduced costs resulted.

Another example of the benefits of work teams is Fidelity Investments. Management designed a cross-functional team to reduce direct mail costs and increase customer usage of automated services. Ashkenas (2000) notes that, in addition to reaching their primary objectives, employees also learned to be team players.

Siegel (2000) notes "... three-fourths of management accountants work in companies where they and their colleagues are members of cross-functional teams. …

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