Evaluating the effectiveness of a newly developed simulation in improving the competence of audit students
De Villiers, Rikus Ruben
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Accounting education, and specifically audit education, has been calling for change in the teaching methodology applied by audit lecturers in higher education since the 1950s. This call for change is evident in current literature, which indicates that the approach followed in audit education has been creating a knowledge-to-application barrier. Despite the vigorous research on how to change the way audit students are taught at universities and other higher education institutions, consensus has yet to be reached on the teaching methodology that would produce competent and self-efficient young professionals entering practice after graduation. The literature review performed in this thesis indicated a gap between research and practice in accounting education and research, first, because the research seems too technical for practitioners to understand and, secondly, too many research objectives seem unrelated to the realities of practice. Based on these findings, this thesis provides the novice researcher in accounting education with some guidelines on the research methodologies that could be applied in this field. It also highlights some best practices that should be followed when conducting research in this field. It was noted from the literature that all the variables in the audit teaching-learning environment need consideration when attempting to bring change to this environment, because each variable would have an impact on transforming the current approach followed in audit pedagogy. These variables were identified as: • The audit lecturer; • The audit student; • The subject content of the audit teaching-learning environment; and Summary • The milieu of the audit teaching-learning environment. In an attempt to answer the call for change in audit education, this thesis sought to develop an audit simulation as an educational tool which takes into account all the variables in the audit teaching-learning environment and can be applied at universities and other audit training institutions around the globe. A framework for simulation design was developed based on the findings of the literature review and informed the development of the audit simulation. The simulation was, subsequently, applied and evaluated at a university accredited by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. The newly developed audit simulation was evaluated by applying a mixed methodology research design, which had been proven to be a resourceful and trusted design in accounting education research in the past. Pre-test and post-test questionnaires were administered to the respondents as part of a quasi-experimental design. The quantitative findings from these tests were supported by qualitative findings from focus group discussions. The empirical findings from the pre-test questionnaire confirmed the call for change and the room for improvement in the current teaching methodology in the audit classroom. Participants indicated lower levels in some competencies relative to other competencies, which also did not particularly score satisfactory when the competence levels were evaluated. The competencies that showed the lowest level of achievement due to the current teaching methodology, as perceived by the participants, included executing the work plan, evaluating the evidence and drawing conclusions, and drafting the report upon completion of the engagement. It was also established that the call for change was not confined to only one university in South Africa, which broadened the generalisability of the research findings, conclusions and recommendations of this study. The results of both the quantitative and qualitative analysis support the view that the newly developed audit simulation is able to assist in bringing change to audit education. The simulation had a positive effect on the audit students’ perceived competence levels in the competencies of auditing and assurance, and the various generic and pervasive skills tested in this study. Furthermore, it was established that the audit simulation had a greater effect on the audit students’ perceived broad competence levels (i.e. auditing and assurance, and generic and pervasive skills) and their understanding of the audit process as a whole, in relation to just attending normal lectures. The qualitative findings from the focus group discussions informed the quantitative findings by indicating that the audit simulation proved to be an instrument that, among other things: Summary • Gave students the opportunity to obtain a holistic view of the audit process; • Assisted students in visualising how the audit theory is applied in practice; • Actively involved the students in the learning process; and • Replicated audit practice. Finally, it was confirmed that the newly developed audit simulation takes into account the variables in the audit teaching-learning environment which need consideration if transformation is to take place in the way the audit subject is currently being taught at higher education level. Recommendations on the way forward in audit education, based on the findings in this thesis, were also provided. This study provides audit lecturers and other audit educators around the world with a newly developed, empirically evaluated audit simulation which can be applied in the audit classroom as well as assist in answering the current call for change to audit education.
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