Magazine article The CPA Journal

Motivation in the First Accounting Course

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Motivation in the First Accounting Course

Article excerpt

In any undergraduate business curriculum, the first accounting course has several purposes. Most important, it introduces potential business and accounting majors to a new body of knowledge. The first course is also a recruiting tool for the accounting profession.

Because the first course is usually taken by both accounting and nonaccounting majors, one of the challenges is finding the appropriate balance of material for both groups. Another challenge is motivation, because not all freshmen and sophomores recognize the importance of the course, and many lack enthusiasm.

There is evidence that both accounting and nonaccounting students do not perceive much value from the first accounting course (Clement C. Chen, Keith T. Jones, and D. David Mclntyre, "The First Course: Students' Perceptions of Introductory Accounting," The CPA Journal, March 2004). Both groups are unconvinced that the course will help them succeed in their careers. The proper motivation will help change this perception and make the course more effective.

Many agree that motivating students is a primary task of educators. Most also agree that there is no motivational "magic bullet" (Kenneth Cox, "Motivating Students for Lifelong Learning," Web Tools Newsletter, July 2000). Furthermore, it has been suggested that whatever level of motivation students bring to the classroom is transformed, for better or worse, by what happens in the classroom (Barbara Gross Davis, Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 1993).

The authors sought to determine if motivation can be increased by showing the relevance of the course material to a student's main concentration of study, whether it was accounting, another business area, or a nonbusiness area. This motivational tool is based on the presumption that the more that students believe they will apply accounting concepts in their careers, the greater their interest and enthusiasm for the course. The results were encouraging and showed that relating accounting concepts to chosen professions clearly enhances the learning process, and makes accotating more interesting and relevant to accounting majors and other business and nonbusiness students.

The Motivational Tool and Process

Two introductory accounting classes, taught by the same professor, were compared. One class was taught in a traditional manner and the second by using career-usage topics. The professor selected career-usage topics that relate the concepts in the introductory course to each student's chosen discipline. Exhibit 1 lists these topics.

The students were organized into groups of four, based on their majors. In the career-usage class, there were three groups of management students, two groups of marketing students, one group each of accounting, finance, and entrepreneurship students, and two groups of nonbusiness majors.

Two types of evidence were used to judge the effectiveness of the motivational tool. First, some statistical analysis was undertaken, and second, anecdotal evidence was recorded by the professor. It was particularly important to discover if this motivational tool affected the following:

* Class excitement about accounting and its usefulness

* Students' eagerness to learn

* The percentage of students that drop the class

* The number of students that change their major to accounting

* Class grades

* Class attendance

* The percentage of students that submit homework assignments

* The percentage of students who take tests on time

* Class participation, including questions asked in class

* Students' requests for assistance outside of class. …

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