Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research for Business Instruction

Engaging Students-Use of Active Learning Activities to Enhance Student Learning in an Introductory Managerial Accounting Course

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research for Business Instruction

Engaging Students-Use of Active Learning Activities to Enhance Student Learning in an Introductory Managerial Accounting Course

Article excerpt


There has long been consensus that "...the lecture-only, lecture mostly classroom doesn't teach students enough of what they need to know. It encourages passivity and denies discovery and clearly doesn't teach collaboration, problem solving or creativity" (Boehm, 1992, p. 38). Almost 80 years ago, John Dewey asserted that it is essential for educators to focus on the learning experience of the students, rather than deliver the typical structured lecture. Dewey (1998) stated that educators should assess the needs of the students and create lesson plans that fulfill those needs. "The planning must be flexible enough to permit free play for individuality of experience and yet firm enough to give direction..." (Dewey, 1998, p. 65). Educators should "...arrange for the kind of experiences not repel the student, but rather engage his activities..." (p. 16). As a result of getting students more engaged in the learning process, the learning experience will be enjoyable. Furthermore, interaction is an essential element of a quality learning experience and thus education can be viewed as a social process (Dewey, 1998). When experience is the core of the education process and this experience is viewed as a social process "...the situation changes radically. The teacher loses the position of external boss or dictator but takes on that of leader of group activities" (p. 66). Thus, the teacher becomes a coach, encouraging and guiding the students to solve problems and learn the material.

The lecture method is often viewed as being easier to deliver and more efficient since more material can be covered (Broadbear, 2003). However, students perform better and enjoy the learning process more in an active learning environment (Qualtars, 2001). Albrecht and Sack (2000) stated that "our pedagogy lacks creativity, involves too much lecture and dependence on textbooks, and does not develop the students' ability-to-learn skills" (p. 43). The authors also noted that accounting students need to be taught how to critically think. Students will be better able to solve problems if they can think more critically (AECC, 1990; Albrecht & Sack, 2000; Gainer, Bline, & Zheng, 2014; Snyder & Snyder, 2008). Accounting educators can encourage students to critically think by requiring them to apply concepts to a specific situation or problem (Gainor et al., 2014; Snyder & Snyder, 2008) or by integrating active learning exercises into the classroom (AECC, 1990).

Critical thinking is a skill that must be learned, and to do this, educators need to frequently integrate critical thinking activities into the classroom. In order to accomplish this, Snyder and Snyder (2008) stated:

...focused attention needs to be placed on the application of content... teaching techniques that promote memorization (often temporary knowledge) do not support critical thinking. Although some content, such as vocabulary definitions, do require memory, it is the application of the content that stimulates thinking. (p. 91)

Students will become more actively engaged in the thinking process if educators emphasize the application of content rather than focus on memorization (Snyder & Snyder, 2008). Educators must challenge students by integrating critical thinking questions into their classes in order to help students develop these skills (Chalupa & Sormunen, 1995).

This paper presents examples of active learning activities (techniques) that primarily apply to an introductory managerial accounting class and are intended to supplement traditional teaching methods. These activities not only engage students in the content presented, but may improve retention of the material presented as the activities make the learning more meaningful. Most of the projects require students to critically think when solving problems and making decisions since many of these activities have more than one correct answer and require students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information rather than merely requiring them to memorize information (Albrecht & Sack, 2000; Snyder & Snyder, 2008). …

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