Auditing Section Research Summaries Space

A Database of Auditing Research - Building Bridges with Practice

This is a public Custom Hive  public

research summary

    Learning the ’Craft’ of auditing: a dynamic view of aud...
    research summary posted October 19, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.01 Supervision and Review – Effectiveness, 11.05 Training and General Experience 
    Learning the ’Craft’ of auditing: a dynamic view of auditor’s on-the-job learning.
    Practical Implications:

    Although the results in this study are only collected from a single group, audit partners, it provides valuable insights for both audit firms and their employees in respect to the development of technical knowledge in auditing. The results heighten the awareness that professional learning is a complex web of different factors. Audit firms might reconsider the fundamental model of learning in today´s professional environment.


    Westermann, K. D., J. C. Bedard, and C. E. Earley, 2015. Learning the ‘Craft’ of auditing: a dynamic view of auditor’s on-the-job learning. Contemporary Accounting Research 32 (3): 864-896.

    Auditing, Learning, Apprenticeship, Personnel Development
    Purpose of the Study:

    In the current environment audit practitioners must master a comprehensive body of intricate knowledge in order to obtain the class of professional proficiency requisite to comply with auditing standards, pass over supervisory inspections, and uphold their public responsibility. Besides mandatory requirements to become certified, that is partly retrieved at a university, a significant part of knowledge gained by auditors occurs trough on-the-job-learning. A learner (audit staff) shows how to perform a particular task and eventually this guidance will evoke in mastery of audit procedures by the youngster.

    The researchers in this study are mainly interested in the question how technical knowledge of auditing is created and reinforced in every day practice that is situated within the social context of performing engagements. In more detail the researchers are interested in the processes through which new auditors learn technical knowledge (i.e. the craft of auditing) on the job, relying on candid comments of audit partners to depict these processes within the social and economic factors comprising their everyday work environment of the firm.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors used a semi-structured interview approach. Thirty practicing audit partners of a single big four audit firm in the USA participated. The interview instruments are developed via several stages: in the preliminary phase comments were received of two audit directors and one manager and in a later stage a pilot test was executed in conjunction with a retired big 4 partner. Interviews were conducted in the late 2008 and the early 2009 and are collected via phone or in person.


    The data in this article reveals that on the job learning is a movable process that is subject to societal and economic forces. The authors have structured their findings in chronological progression of trainee development from hiring towards promotion as an audit senior. Audit partners placed their perspective on learning technical knowledge in the following categories: requirements and induction, learning on engagements, supervisory review and feedback practices and on-the-job learning in the senior role. 

    Most significant detailed expressions by partners were: (1) an important part of technical learning takes place on engagements, but success strongly depends on facing challenging situations and gaining skills via trial and error, (2) audit partners are consistent regarding the magnitude of coaching and supervisory feedback (both formal and informal). It directly improves audit quality and enhances learning in technical accounting knowledge, and (3) on more complex accounting levels audit partners concerned the current structure of senior development. Seniors are less exposed to higher level issues since more complex work is more often being performed at higher level (manager or partner). This structure has only a short term benefit to audit quality because limits the opportunity to engage and learn complex accounting transactions.

    Overall the researchers concluded that effective learning is a long, complex, multifaceted, and integrated process that achieves success trough a delicate balance of specific conditions in order to nurture development.

    Audit Quality & Quality Control
    Supervision & Review – Effectiveness, Sustainability ServicesTraining & General Experience