Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Using Mergers and Acquisitions and Socratic Pedagogy to Facilitate Critical Thinking on Relevance versus Faithful Representation in Financial Reporting

Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Using Mergers and Acquisitions and Socratic Pedagogy to Facilitate Critical Thinking on Relevance versus Faithful Representation in Financial Reporting

Article excerpt


Developing critical thinking skills in our students has become increasingly important as the landscape of higher education continues to change to keep pace with a more global, complex, and ever-changing world. For instance, "Mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009, according to an analysis by career-search site" [Korn, 2014]. As faculty, we receive the charge of developing critical thinking from a variety of outlets including institutional mission statements and accreditation standards, professional organizations, industry, and the media; often motivated by a belief that higher education is falling short on producing gradates that can critically think about complex issues [Korn, 2014].

Concerning professional organizations, consider the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In 1998, the AICPA embarked on a new profession-wide initiative, known as the CPA Vision Project, with a purpose to set a course for the future of the accounting profession. The study sought input from a diverse group of individuals including practicing CPAs, business, government, educational leaders, and students to clarify the goals, opportunities, and challenges of the profession through the year 2011. Proponents claim the project accurately predicted numerous trends that eventually affected the CPA profession and was instrumental in promoting significant changes such as sustainability accounting, enhanced business reporting, and work/life balance initiatives [AICPA, 2012].

In 2010, the profession initiated a new study, CPA Horizons 2025, as a follow-up to the Vision Project. By involving approximately 5,600 participants in surveys, forums, focus groups, and discussions, the new study reviewed and reevaluated the core values and competencies that successful CPAs must possess as previously identified in the CPA Vision Project and set forth ideas related to opportunities and challenges for the profession in the next fifteen years. With regard to critical thinking and evaluation:

"CPAs will expand their ability to gather data from a wide variety of sources and increasingly provide valuable, strategic interpretations for decision-making. Without jeopardizing the broader public interest, CPAs will find the real meaning behind financial and nonfinancial information and design criteria to evaluate performance in a variety of business areas. CPAs use strategic and critical thinking skills to pinpoint untapped areas of financial growth, opportunity, and success." [AICPA, 2012, p. 17-18]

Cultivating critical thinking and the ability to strategically interpret information in our students requires thoughtful pedagogy; it must be purposefully modeled in the classroom [Destler, 2014]. However purposeful pedagogy does not need to be formal in nature (e.g., exam questions, assignments), but can be informal, for instance, through the use of the Socratic method of instruction.

Socratic teaching is asserted to be ". . . the oldest, and still most powerful, teaching tactic for fostering critical thinking . . ." [Paul and Elder, 1997]. It involves not providing information directly, rather giving students questions and not answers:

"The Socratic questioner acts as the logical equivalent of the inner critical voice which the mind develops when it develops critical thinking abilities. The contributions from the members of the class are like so many thoughts in the mind. All of the thoughts must be dealt with and they must be dealt with carefully and fairly. By following up all answers with further questions, and by selecting questions which advance the discussion, the Socratic questioner forces the class to think in a disciplined, intellectually responsible manner, while yet continually aiding the students by posing facilitating questions" [Paul and Elder, 1997].

The instructor that employs the Socratic method of teaching advances a deeper learning in the classroom by administering a series of well-developed questions related to the topic. …

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