Recommendation #5: Our Students

improve the ability to attract high-potential, diverse entrants into the profession

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    Gordon Peter Wilson
    What aspects of the model are you already including in your...
    discussion posted August 22, 2013 by Gordon Peter Wilson 
    487 Views, 1 Comment
    discussion:
    What aspects of the model are you already including in your teaching?

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    • Susan M Curtis

       The entire model!   Various parts of the model are emphasized at different points in the semester of my Introductory course.

      Just an example of how I set up discussion of ACCOUNTING JUDGMENTS the first day--with POETRY:

      With the poem projected on a large screen, I read Jaberwocky by Lewis Carroll.  I asked students for their interpretation of the poem.  You might imagine the expressions on the faces of 300+ students in that lecture hall!  How in the world does a poem with all of these nonsense words have anything to do with Accounting?

      We discussed the first (and last) stanza of the poem in greater depth:

      'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

      did gyre and gimble in the wabe.

      All mimsy were the borogroves

      and the mome raths outgrabe.

      I started by asking students what part of language they thought the key words were.  For example:  Is "sligthy" a noun, a verb, an adjective or an adverb?  There was general agreement it is an adjective.  A bit more discussion and we agreed that the phrase "slithy toves" brings to mind an image of slimey toads.   [Former English majors--bear with me--the exercise is, afterall, intended as an anology about judgments in accounting!]   We proceeded through the entire stanza discussing all the key words.

      The point of the exercise (which I shared with them) is that bringing our knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary to the task--we can begin to interpret the poem.  First lesson:  we can intepret this poem--but we have to bring some of our background knowledge to it.  In our course--students will be learning the basic background knowledge needed to begin to understand accounting information and reports!

      English grammar is a STRUCTURE--not unlike the algebraic equations used in accounting (e.g. Quantity * (Sales Price - Variable Costs) - Fixed Costs = Profit; and Assets = Liabilities + Equities).   In our course, I explained, students will  do exercises and problems to learn the basic algebraic structures used in accounting.  To learn the structures, often, students will be given some of the numbers and asked to solve for others.  This type of exercise helps students learn the equations--but  it also leads to students perceiving those numbers as precise, BLACK and WHITE, and gives the impression of a RIGHT-WRONG or YES-NO answer!  Uh Oh!  Another lesson is needed!  [All words in bold are part of the misperception of accounting portion of the picture developed by the Pathways Task Force with Dan Roan!]

      JUDGMENTS in accounting are something like our use of vocabulary knowledge in the poetry exercise.   [Keep in mind--we could not start to make these judgments until we thought through the STRUCTURE of the grammar used in the poem!]  We used our vocabulary knowledge to take a GUESS--make an interpretation that is something like an ESTIMATE in accounting.  

      At our next class meeting:   I will bring in a brief bit of material that discusses Carroll's own interpretations of the nonsense words in the first stanza.  Some of them are consistent with our interpretations and some are not!  The point here is that with a bit of extra work and RESEARCH, we are able to IMPROVE our judgments about the what the poem means!  

      To bring this lesson home to the students in the course---(i.e. help them understand ACCOUNTING JUDGMENT)-course projects require students to do research, make assumptions and judgments to determine which numbers SHOULD be used in the reports they will prepare as part of the projects.  [I talked briefly about what those projects will be like already on the first day.]

      The POETRY discussion from the first day is a SURPRISE for the students beginning the study of ACCOUNTING.  And I will refer back to this discussion periodically throughout the course as parts of the our discussion become relevant.

      [For those who might be interested---we also discussed the poem Smart by Shel Siverstein.  Check it out!  It's serves as a great basis for a discussion of VALUE and the JUDGMENTS that might be necessary to place a monetary value on something!]

      Susan Curtis, University of Illinois  Urbana-Champaign