Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Assessing Student Performance and Attitudes Based on Common Learning Goals and Alternative Pedagogies: The Case of Principles of Financial Accounting

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Assessing Student Performance and Attitudes Based on Common Learning Goals and Alternative Pedagogies: The Case of Principles of Financial Accounting

Article excerpt


In the mid-1990s, the accounting department at a comprehensive, public university on the West Coast completely reengineered its two introductory undergraduate accounting courses. The model for these courses was disseminated to six other colleges and universities across the U.S. as a result of two grants from U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). The goals of the revised Introduction to Accounting I and Accounting II courses were "to (1) introduce students to decision making processes involving financial data, (2) bring about accounting literacy, and (3) develop students' problem-solving skills. The strategy moved away from the traditional rule based, procedure oriented mode to a more dynamic, interactive learning mode" (DeBerg, Adams & Lea, 1998). Almost all of the instructors teaching the courses during the five-year grant period were tenured or tenure-track faculty.

The re-designed courses had drastically altered the role of the instructor both in and outside the classroom. For example, within the classroom, the instructor was expected to call on students frequently during interactive, full-group discussions which required skills in use of the Socratic teaching method. The instructor also had to assist student teams as they worked on their in-class group assignments, which required coaching/facilitator skills. Instructors were also expected to take a more active role in providing useful feedback to students regarding their writing and oral communication skills, which also required additional coaching/facilitator skills.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the accounting department drifted back to a more traditional approach. This occurred for several reasons, but the main reason was the replacement of retiring faculty with temporary or inexperienced faculty to teach the introductory courses. Except for one professor remaining from the FIPSE project, the replacement instructors were not trained to teach the re-designed courses.

Between 2001 and 2004, the accounting department had little choice but to revert to a traditional model. The traditional model did not rely on a course coordinator for both courses; instead, instructors were allowed to choose their own learning goals and objectives, they had the freedom to choose their preferred textbook, and they authored their own final exams. Collaboration among faculty was minimal. Gone were the FIPSE days of weekly faculty meetings to have conversations about course content, teaching styles and approaches that worked.

However, the environment changed in late 2004 when the College of Business adopted 10 learning goals and related student learning outcomes as part of its assurance of learning efforts to inform and influence continuous improvement efforts. These goals and outcomes were identified after the issuance of new standards by the Association for the Advancement Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB, 2003), which emphasized outcomes assessment and accountability. Moreover, in 2005, the College of Business created a set of formal course coordinator guidelines for courses with multiple instructors. The development of consistent learning outcomes, the appointment of a course coordinator, and a renewed emphasis on assessment spurred the accounting faculty to be more systematic and rigorous in evaluating pedagogical outcomes.

This study focuses on one semester (fall, 2007) when all five instructors teaching the course: (a) agreed to focus on 17 common student learning outcomes, (b) designed a common final exam to test whether these outcomes had been achieved, and (c) encouraged one instructor (who was also the course coordinator) to teach in a nontraditional format. The nontraditional format included heavy reliance on technology (e.g., the instructor chose not to use a textbook; instead, he relied on free Internet content and Excel spreadsheets as the primary learning materials) and small group collaboration. …

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