The Use/application of Mnemonics as a Pedagogical Tool in Auditing

By Seay, Sharon S.; McAlum, Harry G. | Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, April 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Use/application of Mnemonics as a Pedagogical Tool in Auditing


Seay, Sharon S., McAlum, Harry G., Academy of Educational Leadership Journal


ABSTRACT

Mnemonic techniques are learning strategies which can enhance learning and improve recall of the information learned. Research has proven that mnemonics are effective aids in learning new, abstract, and/or complex concepts. Most auditing courses are conceptual in nature. Students often experience difficulty understanding auditing concepts, which may appear abstract due to the students' lack of an adequate frame of reference necessary to analyze and understand these concepts. This difficulty can be attributed to students' lack of exposure to real-world accounting systems, source documentation, evidence accumulation, or report writing. Although coursework cannot provide the frame of reference achieved through work experience, accounting educators can provide students with techniques that boost their recall of auditing concepts, thereby, equipping students with a significant advantage academically and in the marketplace. This paper presents mnemonic techniques which can be applied to teach basic auditing concepts more effectively and better prepare students for professional auditing careers.

INTRODUCTION

Auditing encompasses a comprehensive, complex body of knowledge. Auditing students must demonstrate a detailed knowledge of auditing concepts in order to pass the auditing section of the CPA exam and enter public practice; a good general knowledge is insufficient. These students must also demonstrate a detailed knowledge of other accounting and business concepts to pass remaining sections of the exam. Given the amount and complexity of information the accounting student is required to learn, accounting educators must assist their students with the methodological aspects of learning the subject matter as well as the content itself. In other words, we must help our students learn how to learn. Accounting educators must break down the content to be learned to make it easier to comprehend and remember.

The Accounting Education Change Commission and the American Accounting Association (Francis, Mulder, and Stark, 1995) call for "intentional learning in the accounting curriculum" whereby students are called upon to be active learners rather than passive listeners, and accounting educators called to create classroom environments and employ teaching strategies to promote intentional (active) learning. Educators have to replace staid teaching methods with techniques that motivate students to practice and learn. One such teaching technique, which is the focus of this paper, is the use of mnemonics to teach auditing. Using mnemonic devices to teach new, complex, abstract material has a long track record of proven learning effectiveness (Hutton, 1987; Iza & Gil, 1995; Male, 1996; Stephens & Dwyer, 1997). While auditing education literature is sparse, and there is a dearth of information relating the use of mnemonic techniques to accounting education, prior research does indicate the effectiveness of mnemonic techniques for learning a variety of other subject areas.

MNEMONIC INSTRUCTION

Mnemonic devices are defined as memory-enhancing techniques that improve learning and information recall through the use of imagery . Bellezza ( 1 98 1 ) defined mnemonics as a strategy that creates and uses a cognitive cuing structure to organize and encode information for the express purpose of making it more memorable. Mnemonics appear to work to circumvent the limitations of working memory by retrieving information directly from long-term memory via a single association with an existing memory code (Levin, 1993; Wang & Thomas, 1995). Dominic O'Brien, the 2000 winner of the World Memory Championships, explains that the three keys to good memory formation are "imagination, association, and location" (Butcher, 2000). The important features of mnemonics are (a) they require the learner to practice the targeted material in order to integrate it into an existing memory representation and (b) they provide an effective means of information retrieval (Levin, 1993; McDaniel & Einstein, 1986; Wang & Thomas, 1995). …

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