Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Demographic Factors and Student Preferences on the Syllabus in the Principles of Accounting Course

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Demographic Factors and Student Preferences on the Syllabus in the Principles of Accounting Course

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

At one time, the course syllabus was a one-page document. Today's typical college syllabus is a multiple-page document that addresses a number of issues and contingencies. This paper presents the results of a survey of 1,726 students from 31 universities in 19 states regarding the course syllabus. The survey instrument was administered during the spring 2002 term and contained 28 items that previous research indicates are likely to appear on a course syllabus. The primary purpose of this study is to assess the relative importance students in the Principles of Accounting course place on different items that frequently appear on a course syllabus. The results are analyzed by the following demographic characteristics: gender, age, years of college experience, and grade point average. The findings of the study indicate that students do not attach the same amount of importance to all syllabus components and that the level of perceived importance varies by the demographic factors. Faculty members may use the findings of this study to adjust their syllabi to improve communication to different types of students.

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, groups as diverse as the American Association for Higher Education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, state legislatures, business leaders, students, and parents have called for improvements in higher education (Seldin 1990). Specific calls to improve accounting education at colleges and universities have been made by the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC), the American Accounting Association (AAA), the major accounting firms, and many others (AAA, 1996; AECC, 1993; Albrecht & Sack, 2000; Kerr & Smith, 2003). The AECC identified five dimensions it considered critical for effective teaching, and the Committee on Promoting and Evaluating Effective Teaching reaffirmed the importance of the five critical areas (AAA, 1996). The five dimensions are designing/developing curriculums and courses, selecting and using appropriate material strong presentation skills, using suitable pedagogical methods and assessment devices, and providing guidance and advisement to students. Although most accounting syllabi do not specifically address presentation skills, they often reflect the design of the course, the selection of appropriate material, the pedagogical methods and assessment devices that will be used, and some guidance to the students on how to successfully complete the course.

Furthermore, the instructor prepares the course syllabus for several stakeholders: students, colleagues, administrators, and accrediting agencies. Jervis and Hartley (2005) suggest that faculty may use syllabi from other schools to aid in developing a course, and several AAA sections support syllabi exchange websites. Faculty and administrators often view the syllabus as a formal contract between the instructor and students. Unfortunately, when a procedural difficulty occurs in a course, the lack of information in the syllabus is often the source of the problem. Consequently, the syllabus may be a major consideration in student appeal proceedings (Parkes and Harris, 2002). In addition, the syllabus is used in decisions regarding accreditation of educational institutions and programs. Perhaps the mixture of several purposes and stakeholders has created a variance in the length of course syllabi. Where the syllabus was once a one-page document, it has evolved into a detailed course guide of several pages that addresses a number of issues and contingencies (Garavalia et al., 1999).

A review of the literature also indicates some dissension on the purposes/components that make up an "ideal" syllabus. According to Matejka and Kurke (1994), an ideal course syllabus should include the instructor's plan of action for the course, the standard provisions for a contract between student and instructor, a statement of the course's general purpose, the instructor's orientation to the content and, finally, the information that should be given to the customer (i. …

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