Using the Team-Learning Model in a Managerial Accounting Class: An Experiment in Cooperative Learning

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This paper reports on an experiment at one university where the professor changed two lecture-based managerial accounting classes to cooperative learning classes based on the Team-Learning Model advanced by Michaelsen (1998). For the professor who would like to implement cooperative learning, we provide a description of our experience with the Team-Learning Model. In addition, we investigate academic performance and student perceptions regarding the cooperative learning format. Although we do not find academic performance or student attitudes to differ significantly between the two learning environments, we document additional insights on cooperative learning, which extend the literature regarding this pedagogical method in accounting education.


The purpose of our paper is twofold. First, we provide a description of our implementation of the Team-Learning Model to assist accounting educators who have not yet tried cooperative learning methods. Second, we extend the body of literature in accounting education as it relates to cooperative learning. The general education literature reports agreement on a number of positive aspects regarding cooperative learning (Ellis and Fouts 1997; Johnson et al. 1998). However, accounting education research has yet to observe such a consensus of opinion. Studies reported in accounting education journals identify an aspect of cooperative learning (for example, the use of team exams) and test that in isolation. Such a narrow focus could limit our understanding of this type of pedagogy. We believe student performance and attitudes should be examined in a more comprehensive cooperative learning environment in the context of accounting education.

To address these concerns, we describe how we implemented an environment of comprehensive cooperative learning, and then examine student academic performance and perceptions within this environment. The paper proceeds as follows. In the next two sections we present a brief history of cooperative learning and a review of appropriate accounting education studies in this area. Next, we describe the design of our cooperative learning environment. Subsequent sections include our method, model development, and results. We conclude by identifying limitations of our study and offering suggestions for future research.


Ellis and Fouts (1997) believe cooperative learning is one of the more important educational innovations of our time. David and Roger Johnson have collected over 300 studies that compare the relative effectiveness of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning on individual achievement in college and adult settings (Johnson et al. 1998). (1) Over 168 of these studies investigated academic achievement and found that cooperative learning promotes higher individual achievement compared to competitive approaches (effect size = 0.49) or individual efforts (effect size = 0.53).(2)

Ellis and Fouts (1997) identify five major models of cooperative learning, one of which is the Learning Together Model. This model is based on five key elements that the professor should include. First, each student must perceive that (s)he is linked with others such that the student cannot succeed unless the others do (positive interdependence). Second, there must be individual accountability so that each student has an incentive to learn. Third, students must promote one another's success by helping each other (team interaction). Fourth, the students must be taught the necessary social and small group skills, such as decision making and conflict management. Finally, student teams must engage in group processing where team members identify ways to improve their own and each other's learning processes.

The Michaelsen and Black (1994) Team-Learning Model (TLM) incorporates many of the elements included in the Learning Together Model. (3) The TLM requires students to be actively involved in the learning process. …