Developing a teaching intervention to expose accounting students to pervasive skills
Viviers, Herman Albertus
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The need is widely advocated for accounting graduates to demonstrate competency upon entering the profession. Competency reflects the ability to execute tasks in the real world in an effective, meaningful and contributing manner. Graduates need to be well-rounded, possessing both core technical and pervasive skills and qualities. In order to demonstrate true competency, accounting students must be able to apply knowledge, and for this, specific pervasive skills and qualities are required. In order to attain true competency, accounting students should be exposed to pervasive skills at the higher education level by means of learning experiences which provide them the opportunity to apply knowledge by demonstration pervasive skills. These pervasive skills in accounting students included ethical awareness, professionalism, leadership, influencing others, teamwork, time management, critical thinking, strategic thinking, problem-solving and communication (verbal), communication (listening) and communication (writing). A teaching intervention was designed, implemented and evaluated to expose accounting students to pervasive skills. Gamification was applied as a vehicle to promote active learning. The intervention was outcome-based and employed a student-centred approach. This approach was inquiry-based and combined various active and experiential learning methods to encourage students to be actively (physically, mentally and emotionally) engaged throughout the learning process. The teaching intervention created a problembased, interactive reality-learning environment where the practical application of knowledge was motivated by the demonstration of pervasive skills. The teaching intervention was structured in the form of a race against time within a relaxed and safe learning environment in which students were allowed to freely express their opinions and to make mistakes. Furthermore, no formal assessment was performed. The intervention relied on the successful completion of each activity by means of resolving specific problems as the measure to indicate that learning objectives have been achieved. A wide variety of activities, the element of surprise and time constraints enriched the innovative, adventurous, entertaining, fun and creative nature of the environment, all of which addressed the needs and suited the characteristics of the Generation Y student profile. Various active learning methods were incorporated into this single intervention and accommodated several leaning styles and preferences. This, in turn created multiple opportunities for various pervasive skills to be applied and demonstrated – thus covering the full spectrum of the required pervasive skills set. The study employed action research, following a phenomenological approach, to holistically evaluate the newly developed teaching intervention from the perspective of various roleplayers in the accounting education arena. These included: accounting students, accounting educators, accounting professional bodies and accounting-related employer companies. A parallel-convergent mixed method research design was used to evaluate and conclude upon research results and findings reported in four research articles. The teaching intervention was developed (designed, implemented and evaluated) in two different formats. The first format was hosted to third-year accounting students at a single SAICA-accredited university and second was hosted on a national level in two regions (north and south) to tax students from seven universities across South Africa. The outcomes of this research are presented in four articles. The first article took stock of and evaluated, from three different perspectives (students, educators and employers), the current state of pervasive skills development of accounting students at a South African SAICA-accredited university, namely the North-West University (NWU) (Potchefstroom campus). From this investigation it was clear that numerous challenges are prevailing and that there is still a need for improving the overall awareness and responsiveness towards pervasive skills development in the South African accounting education environment. The second article evaluated the usefulness of the newly developed teaching intervention presented, in its format of The Amazing Tax Race, to accounting students of a single SAICAaccredited university, namely the NWU (Potchefstroom campus). Perceptions were gathered from three groups (student participants, student committee members and staff of employer companies) who indicated that the teaching intervention overall positively contributed towards pervasive skills development. Students indicated that they would recommend the teaching intervention to other students to obtain exposure to pervasive skills. The third article determined the usefulness of the teaching intervention presented in the format of The Tax Amazing Race on a national level to tax students from various South African universities. Students overall indicated a positive experience regarding the teaching intervention and perceived the intervention to be useful in developing their pervasive skills. Finally, the fourth article evaluated the design variables of the developed teaching intervention and determined how each variable either contributed to or strained pervasive skills development. Overall, the teaching intervention was found to be successful in enhancing pervasive skills in accounting students in order to equip them with the skills required to effectively apply knowledge in the formal workplace in a meaningful manner and to motivate them to become life-long learners and contributing members of society. In conclusion, the study contributes to the body of knowledge on the development of teaching interventions that successfully expose accounting students to pervasive skills at the higher accounting education level. The study established a new theoretical framework that accounting educators and trainers could apply to develop teaching interventions aimed at incorporating pervasive skills into higher accounting education curricula. In addition, the study also established a new framework of design variables to be considered in the design and implementation of new teaching interventions to expose accounting students to pervasive skills. The newly developed teaching intervention serves as a one-of-its-kind teaching tool which contributes to enhancing accounting education pedagogy with regard to pervasive skills development.
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