Archive for October 2008

Grades have been finalised and are about to be released for T2 2008, with pleasing results and important points for reflection that are critical to future implementation of the auditing course. One important point in particular is the frequency of course offering. Attrition rates and performance-related issues are significantly higher in T2 for off-campus students historically. One of the possible links might be high demands in the workplace with end of financial year reporting and planning activities for many working students.

In the second cycle of implementation of our design-based research in the auditing course, preliminary data suggests the need to revisit the timing of course offering for off-campus students. Currently, the course is offered every term, i.e. Term 1 – AICs, Regional, Flex; Term 2 – AICs, Flex; Term 3 – AICs. 

The design of the auditing course is such that it requires a minimum of 12 hours in-depth participation with the course material, with teaching staff and with other students to complete course work. One of the inherent weaknesses in the design is the prescriptive-nature of the activities which suits one cohort of students but problematic for another particularly those who are working full-time.On the one hand, some teaching staff at AICs report that the design is effectively helping students’ active engagement in the course. Some off-campus students also report that the design of the course gives them focus and is helpful to their time management for work, home and study. However, on the other hand, some off-campus students report that they just want to complete assignments on their own, prepare for the exam without the need to interact with others, and that they can manage their time better this way.  The latter was the approach used in previous offerings of the auditing course, where the failure rate was significantly higher and a great number of students were failing the course multiple times.

Should we consider embedding choices for students in the design of learning and assessment? What might be the implications for practice, and the quality of student learning experience? One of the tacit design aims for the auditing course is to develop capacity for students to become better learners, many approaches for which require time investment on the part of the students. But many in the off-campus cohort are time-poor students whose motivation for enrolling in a degree is not always intrinsic.

It is perhaps worthwhile to survey both 2008 T1 and T2 off-campus students to determine future improvements to the auditing course that meet the needs of different cohorts of students.

There have been numerous attempts to formulate pedagogical models that exemplify the thinking of situating learning in activities that resemble the contexts where the knowledge the students are learning can be realistically applied (Bransford et al., 1990; Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989; Herrington & Oliver, 2000; Barab & Duffy, 2000).

I have been exploring a number of pedagogical models that support this line of thinking, which many suggests effectively prepare students for the profession and life in general. The reason why I think this topic is worthy of investigation is based on my philosophical belief that context-dependent teaching strategies foster meaningful learning, compared to traditional instructional approaches that tend to ignore the interdependence of situation and cognition (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989).  The literature suggests that one of the by-products of the traditional methods of instruction is the development of “inert” knowledge (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989; Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1990; Herrington & Oliver, 2000; McLellan, 1994). Inert knowledge is a type of knowledge that people can recall when prompted but cannot recall in problem-solving situations (Herrington & Oliver, 2000). It is common for accounting researchers and practitioners to identify inert knowledge in graduate accountants, although they do not use this term specifically. For example, Sundem (1994) argues that ‘the average graduate accumulates a storehouse of knowledge, but has difficulty applying it to real situations’ (p. 39). Similarly, Catanach et al. (2000) assert that although graduate accountants may be technically proficient, many of them cannot ‘integrate rule based knowledge with real world problems’ (p. 583). This situation, coupled with the push to improve the quality of student learning outcomes, present a genuine educational problem. 

In the last five years, I have engaged in accounting education research in an attempt to address these problems through course redesigns and learning interventions, informed by design-based research methodology (Design-based Research Collective, 2003). A number of related problems emerged from these investigations, highlighting the need to better understand:

  1. how different cohorts of students perceive and experience situated learning; and
  2. how academic teachers from diverse backgrounds and employment status perceive their role and experiences in situated learning environments.

My PhD work hopes to use this understanding to develop a practical framework to build the capacity of students for active learning in authentic contexts that prepare them for the accounting profession in particular, and life in general. And likewise to build academic teachers’ capacity to design, develop implement, support and evaluate curricula facilitated in authentic learning environments.

The idea of ‘capacity building’ has been talked about in recent times in a variety of contexts. I will explore this idea in a separate post.


Barab, S & Duffy, T 2000, From practice fields to communities of practice. In D. Jonassen & S. M. Land. (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments (pp. 25-56).  Lawrence Erlbaum, NJ.

Bransford, JD, Sherwood, RD, Hasselbring, TS, Kinzer, CK & Williams, SM 1990, Anchored Instruction: Why we need it and how technology can help, in Nix, D & Spiro, R (Eds), Cognition, education and multimedia: Exploring ideas in high technology, Lawrence Erlbaum, NJ. 

Brown, JS, Collins, A & Duguid, P 1989, Situated cognition and the culture of learning, Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42. 

Catanach, AH, Croll, DB & Grinaker, RL 2000, Teaching intermediate financial accounting using a business activity model, Issues in Accounting Education, 15(4), 583-603. 

Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt 1990, Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition, Educational Researcher, 19 (6), 2-10. 

Design-Based Research Collective 2003, Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational enquiry, Educational Researcher, (32)1, 5–8. 

Herrington, J, and Oliver, R 2000, An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments, Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), pp.23-48. 

McLellan, H 1994, Situated learning: Continuing conversation, Educational Technology, 33(3), pp.39-45. 

Sundem, GL 1994, Scholarship in four dimensions, CA Magazine, 127(3), 39-44. 

Well I have procrastinated long enough, and my boss David Jones knows this trait of mine only too well. David happens to be one of the most prolific bloggers I know… check him out, and gave me an ultimatum to blog my thinking about my PhD enrolment. I will start by reflecting on the following questions/ideas in separate posts:

What is the aim of your thesis? What’s your question or problem? I think this is something to do with your perception that what you are currently doing is not scalable.

– Why isn’t scalable? What is the source of the problems you are facing?

– What’s your definition of capacity building?

– Why is capacity building important to learning design/universities?

– What have people already written about this?

– What are the problems with what they’ve written?

One of my problems is narrowing down the problem/question, so hopefully this blogging exercise will finally get me focused.

It has been a while since I posted, which can only suggest that I’ve been busy elsewhere. Indeed I have been pre-occupied, implementing and evaluating the first cycle of design-based research involving the machinima initiative. But I should have been formatively sharing the research journey here… no excuses in the second cycle of implementation 🙂

This project is funded by CQUni Learning and Teaching Grants in which the aim is to:

investigate ways in which a particular model of learning, namely cognitive apprenticeship may be embedded in traditional pedagogical approaches such as lectures and tutorials. The key objectives of the study are threefold: identify learning and teaching strategies based on the principles of cognitive apprenticeship; develop teaching and learning resources that support this model of learning within the accounting education context; and evaluate the impact of this pedagogical approach with a group of students in an auditing course. An increased value placed on teaching and quality of student learning outcomes is the core aim of the research.

We have disseminated preliminary findings at a couple of internal forums at CQUni available here: Presentation 1 – Cognitive Apprenticeship in Accounting Education, Presentation 2 – Second Life Machinimas.

A refereed paper will also be published at the proceedings of ascilite Melbourne 2008 Conference, titled Bringing ‘second life’ to a tough undergraduate course: Cognitive apprenticeship through machinimas.

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