Academic journal article Global Perspectives on Accounting Education

Concept Mapping - Exploring Its Value as a Meaningful Learning Tool in Accounting Education

Academic journal article Global Perspectives on Accounting Education

Concept Mapping - Exploring Its Value as a Meaningful Learning Tool in Accounting Education

Article excerpt


This paper provides a framework for using concept mapping for meaningful learning in accounting education. It includes a review of the extant literature on the effectiveness of concept mapping, an inventory of ready-to-use concept maps for introductory accounting, and a step-by-step guide to introduce concept mapping in the classroom. In addition, a limited research study on learning outcomes is discussed as well as constraints in using this pedagogical approach.

Concept mapping is widely used in other disciplines as an enriching learning tool to help students organize information and develop higher-order thinking skills. It involves a process of externalizing, through drawing and diagrams, the mental connections and association patterns that a student makes on knowledge learned (Angelo and Cross, 1993). It is an innovative classroom pedagogy that promotes development of self-learning and life-long learning skills sought by the early change agents in our profession, validated more recently in the joint AAA, AICPA, IMA report (Albrecht and Sack, 2000).

Key words: Concept mapping, meaningful learning, higher order thinking, introductory accounting, life long learning, and innovative pedagogy


The accounting profession has generated a litany of calls demanding that accounting education change the content covered, teaching methods used, pedagogies employed, and explicitly develop professional competencies and skills (AAA, 1986; Perspectives, 1989; AECC, 1990; Kimmel, 1995; Porter and Carr, 1999; AICPA, 2000a; AICPA, 2000b; Demski and Zimmerman, 2000; Albrecht and Sack, 2000). In 1995, Kimmel observed, "traditional accounting programs emphasize algorithmic exercises and focuses excessively on development of rote knowledge" (p. 299). Albrecht and Sack (2000) described this as a "perilous" state of accounting education, observing that educators do not promote meaningful learning in the classroom and have failed to develop students' thinking skills. Even the AACSB, the premier business school and accounting program accreditation body, revised its standards by emphasizing mission-based strategic planning and recognized the need for continuous curriculum improvements to meet the needs of the profession. Clearly, as accounting educators, we must take these charges and concerns seriously. Concept mapping, an approach discussed in this paper, is one way to implement a classroom pedagogy that promotes meaningful learning and also helps develop students' thinking skills.

What is Concept Mapping?

Concept mapping is an innovative classroom tool and technique that can deepen our curricula as students advance through an accounting program. It is an enabling skill to enhance the development of students' thinking skills through more meaningful learning activities. By "enabling" we mean that the skill, once learned, can help students to organize what they know and think in more complex ways.

Concept maps are drawings or diagrams that show the mental connections and association patterns a student makes on knowledge learned (Angelo and Cross, 1993). In its simplest form, a concept map is only two concepts connected by a linking word (Novak and Gowin, 1984). For example, "accounting requires complex thinking" represents a simple map forming a valid statement about the concepts "accounting" and "complex thinking." The art of externalizing knowledge, through drawings or diagrams in the form of concept maps, is called concept mapping. Figure 1 illustrates this simple concept map.

Key components of concept maps are the propositional relationships or links, two or more concept labels linked by words that read as a unit. The links are usually action words explaining the meaning of the relationship. In the early stages of developing this skill, links may be less important than basic concept identification. In Figure 1, the linking word "requires" connects the concepts "accounting" and "complex thinking" in a meaningful proposition unit. …

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