I recently designed an assessment task for a postgraduate course in finance, requiring students to reflect on their performances supported by evidence. The type of artefacts the students will be producing would be an ideal collection for a job portfolio. A colleague from the finance field in fact commented that this type of assessment is applicable to, and indeed should be used in, every discipline. Had it not been for my concern about the readiness of the teaching team on implementing alternative forms of assessment, I would have directed the design of the task more explicitly towards portfolio-based assessment.

Nevertheless I couldn’t help but think of possibilities of this assessment approach if applied across a program of study, and I shared my thoughts with the PLE research folk, pointing out that an ePortfolio would be useful for this type of assessment. Nathaniel Fitzgerald-Hood discussed the limitations of ePortfolios in an email to me and asserted that

blog is perfect for this – much better organised and with the likes of WordPress/blogger, very open, standard and interconnected…  

So I decided to get to know WordPress a little more than my current use for it, i.e. posting and sharing my thoughts, experiences and interests in my blogs. I have had a digitised portfolio that I hand-coded a long time ago so I have a pretty good idea of design elements for the interface.

I am happy to note that my experiments in my blog site have worked… WordPress can indeed host my artefacts as well as document my life experiences and evolving thoughts on a variety of interests. It is very easy to create and manage pages, and I’m glad I gave it a try.

My next experiment will extend this site into my PLE… watch this space 🙂

My research collaborator and I presented a paper at the 9th International Business Research Conference “Research for Change” this week, on our accounting education research. The plenary session where our paper was scheduled to be presented started off with fewer number of people but I noticed that every chair was occupied during our presentation, then a few left again immediately after the discussion. There was a healthy discussion during our presentation, the only time I observed exchanges of ideas amongst participants. In contrast, the discussion in other presentations consisted mainly of presenter-questioner interaction.

It appears that accounting education research is of interest to many academics but very few papers are submitted to forums like this. As another presenter commented, discipline-based research remains to be the only type or research being promoted and supported at his university. Yet at the corridor after the plenary session, I was congratulated by two well-known Professors in Accounting, marvelling at the work we had done and commented that there should be more initiatives like ours proliferating the accounting education literature. Interestingly, we cited the work of one of these Professors published in a leading accounting education journal. He appeared surprised that we actually did so given that it was published 16 years ago. I responded that the problems in accounting education he reported all that long ago continue to persist today, e.g. passive learning, rule-based and out-of context teaching of accounting, students not ready for the demands of the profession, among others. An important point for reflection is that many accounting academics appeared oblivious to these problems due to their lack of familiarity with the accounting education literature, or lack of awareness that the traditional instructional approaches they are using are one of the main causes of these problems.

Our presentation was received favourably. As was the reaction at our University when we reported our research findings earlier this year, the audience at the Conference also commented that it takes time and effort to integrate innovations to learning and teaching, time they do not have or can afford.  People like me whom at times feel rebellious immediately thought, but not said aloud, there may not be students to teach at our university for long if we do not change our ways – research and teaching nexus is more critical now than ever before, please think about it! Of course, the issues are more systemic and deeper than this – paradigm shifts need to happen first and should start at both coal face and institutional level.

Another comment raised during our presentation was the issue of copyright. Someone from the audience asked

have you thought about copyright for your work, it’s very good and I think you should protect it. It is certainly more exciting than reading cases in the textbook.

We didn’t get a chance to respond to this comment directly as audience-audience interaction ensued on this topic. The issue of copyright is something that Stephen Downs (2005) feels strongly about, commenting that in our brave new world heavily influenced by Web 2.0 technology, sharing of content is not viewed as unethical but hoarding it is considered antisocial.

Indeed, we have much to learn and do in higher education about perceptions, assumptions and practice!


Downes, S. (2005) E-learning 2.0. eLearn Magazine. Accessed 1 February 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.

This is my attempt to give insights as to how the original case study (see below) evolved from its print format into the machinima version. This evolution is linked directly to the overall course design.

The course goal states:

With an emphasis on professional and ethical practice, students will gain an appreciation of the role and needs of audit professionals in business environments.

Course objectives 1 and 3 are the key targets of the first machinima that we are developing for ACCT19064:

1. given authentic scenarios, evaluate the environment within which the professional auditor operates

3. given case studies, analyse the legal liability and ethical issues, and formulate strategies using common law and ethical decision-making frameworks

Drawing from the principles of cognitive apprenticeship, we believe that enacting the workplace scenarios, and giving insights into the challenges and predicaments of an auditor provides a more powerful tool for the students, i.e. to gain an appreciation of the role and needs of audit professionals. As Bonk and Cunningham point out (1998, p. 27), we need to “anchor learning in real-world or authentic contexts that make learning meaningful and purposeful”. The machinima provides this anchor within which students can analyse ethical and legal issues involving a particular audit client, as they play the role of Audit Assistants operating within an audit team for a fictitious audit firm.

Key changes to the original case storyline

You will note in the original case that the characters are nameless and uses unimaginative names, e.g. “ABC truck”. Because our pedagogical intention is to enable the students to ‘apprentice’ into the profession and to start thinking and acting like auditors, we needed a story that delivers realistic enactments of this profession. In collaboration with Jenny Kofoed (Course Coordinator), I developed a script based on this case for the production of machinima, akin to traditional short film production. We integrated a fictitious audit firm Hird & Co into the story to situate the professional auditing environment for the main character Michelle O’Loughlin. The profiles of other characters were also carefully scripted into the story, to reenact practices of business environments in Australia.

During the writing of the script, I was cognisant of potential challenges that international students might face in the machinima environment, such as language difficulties and cultural differences. For example, the term “secretary manager” might not be as common in other cultures and, for that matter, the organisational sturcture and practices of a “registered club”. The transformation of the case was therefore highly focused on the inclusive nature of the case delivery.

The production of “The Audit Practice” machinima is currently in progress. We have produced the first three scenes, which are mostly background information for the case but also tacitly integrate ethical issues that students need to identify. I am sharing these below along with the original case study.

Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3

The original case study (Gay & Simnett, 2007, pp. 133-134) reads:

You are a senior auditor in a firm of auditors in a country town. The major client of the firm is the town’s largest registered club. You are in charge of the audit and report directly to the partner.With the rural recession and the move of certain industries from the town, your firm is your firm is dependent upon the continuance of the club as an audit client.

The secretary manager of the club has held this position for over 20 years, and is well respected in the town. He has worked hard to build the club from humble beginnings. The secretary manager has a strong personality and exerts influence on the board of directors of the club. The audit partner and the secretary manager are members of the same golf club and play regularly on Saturday mornings.

The club is currently undergoing major renovations with the work being undertaken by ABC Builders.

To get home you have to drive past the secretary manager’s house. One night you notice that the secretary manager is having more renovations done to his home and that there is an ABC truck delivering materials to the house. Next day at lunchtime you drive past the house and again see an ABC truck and this time there are tradespeople working on the house.

You have just commenced the year-end audit work for the club and during your vist to the club’s premises, you obtain copies of the tenders for the renovations and find that ABC was the most expensive tenderer with the director’s minutes revealing that the secretary manager convinced the board to accept ABC’s tender based on their perceived quality.

You are concerned that there may be some impropriety on the part of the secretary manager. You raise your suspicions with the audit partner, who dismisses them out of hand and says that even if there was any substance to them, what could the firm do about them.


Bonk, C. J., & Cunningham, D. J. (1998). Searching for learner-centered, constructivist, and sociocultural components of collaborative educational learning tools. In C. J. Bonk & K. S. Kim (Eds.), Electronic collaborators: learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship, and discourse (pp. 25-50). Erlbaum, New Jersey.

Gay, G. & Simnett, R. (2007). Auditing and assurances services in Australia. 3rd edn. McGraw-Hill, North Ryde.


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