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Problem-based learning : does accounting education need it?

By Trevor A. Stanley and Stephen J. Marsden


Problem-based learning (PBL) has been used successfully in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, law and engineering. However a review of the literature shows that there has been little use of this approach to learning in accounting. This paper extends the research in accounting education by reporting the findings of a case study of the development and implementation of PBL at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in a new Accountancy Capstone unit that began in 2006. The fundamentals of the PBL approach were adhered to. However, one of the essential elements of the approach adopted was to highlight the importance of questioning as a means of gathering the necessary information upon which decisions are made. This approach can be contrasted with the typical ‘give all the facts’ case studies that are commonly used. Another feature was that students worked together in the same group for an entire semester (similar to how teams in the workplace operate) so there was an intended focus on teamwork in solving unstructured, real-world accounting problems presented to students. Based on quantitative and qualitative data collected from student questionnaires over seven semesters, it was found that students perceived PBL to be effective, especially in terms of developing the skills of questioning, teamwork, and problem solving. The effectiveness of questioning is very important as this is a skill that is rarely the focus of development in accounting education. The successful implementation of PBL in accounting through ‘learning by doing’ could be the catalyst for change to bring about better learning outcomes for accounting graduates

Topics: 150000 COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES, Accounting education, problem based learning
Publisher: Pergamon
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jaccedu.2012.08.005
OAI identifier:

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