in the First Accounting Course
Kimberly Gee Turner, Vance P. Lesseig, and John G. Fulmer,
MAY 2006 - In
any undergraduate business curriculum, the first accounting
course has several purposes. Most important, it introduces
potential business and accounting majors to a new body of
knowledge. The first course is also a recruiting tool for
the accounting profession.
the first course is usually taken by both accounting and
nonaccounting majors, one of the challenges is finding the
appropriate balance of material for both groups. Another
challenge is motivation, because not all freshmen and sophomores
recognize the importance of the course, and many lack enthusiasm.
is evidence that both accounting and nonaccounting students
do not perceive much value from the first accounting course
(Clement C. Chen, Keith T. Jones, and D. David McIntyre,
“The First Course: Students’ Perceptions of
Introductory Accounting,” The CPA Journal,
March 2004). Both groups are unconvinced that the course
will help them succeed in their careers. The proper motivation
will help change this perception and make the course more
agree that motivating students is a primary task of educators.
Most also agree that there is no motivational “magic
bullet” (Kenneth Cox, “Motivating Students for
Lifelong Learning,” Web Tools Newsletter,
July 2000). Furthermore, it has been suggested that whatever
level of motivation students bring to the classroom is transformed,
for better or worse, by what happens in the classroom (Barbara
Gross Davis, Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 1993).
authors sought to determine if motivation can be increased
by showing the relevance of the course material to a student’s
main concentration of study, whether it was accounting,
another business area, or a nonbusiness area. This motivational
tool is based on the presumption that the more that students
believe they will apply accounting concepts in their careers,
the greater their interest and enthusiasm for the course.
The results were encouraging and showed that relating accounting
concepts to chosen professions clearly enhances the learning
process, and makes accounting more interesting and relevant
to accounting majors and other business and nonbusiness
Motivational Tool and Process
introductory accounting classes, taught by the same professor,
were compared. One class was taught in a traditional manner
and the second by using career-usage topics. The professor
selected career-usage topics that relate the concepts in
the introductory course to each student’s chosen discipline.
1 lists these topics.
students were organized into groups of four, based on their
majors. In the career-usage class, there were three groups
of management students, two groups of marketing students,
one group each of accounting, finance, and entrepreneurship
students, and two groups of nonbusiness majors.
types of evidence were used to judge the effectiveness of
the motivational tool. First, some statistical analysis
was undertaken, and second, anecdotal evidence was recorded
by the professor. It was particularly important to discover
if this motivational tool affected the following:
Class excitement about accounting and its usefulness
Students’ eagerness to learn
The percentage of students that drop the class
The number of students that change their major to accounting
The percentage of students that submit homework assignments
The percentage of students who take tests on time
Class participation, including questions asked in class
Students’ requests for assistance outside of class.
overall class performance was examined by analyzing the
students’ grades in the two classes. The average grade
point average (GPA) for the traditional class was 2.5; for
the career-usage class it was 2.8. While this finding is
interesting, there are many factors that impact performance
in any class. To control for some of these factors, a statistical
analysis was undertaken of the grades earned in each class.
results showed that even after controlling for various student
characteristics, the career-usage class performed better
than the traditional class. The evidence is positive and
significant. Based on the results, it became clear that
something had an impact on the students in the career-usage
class, and it may have been the motivational tool.
addition to overall class grades, the authors analyzed whether
the proportion of students receiving a grade of C or better
differed between the two classes. In the traditional class,
the proportion that received a C or better was 56.82%, while
the career-usage’s class was 73.33%, a noteworthy
student drop rates for the two courses were also compared.
This is of interest because a lower drop rate could signify
that the class was more interesting or that students thought
they had a greater chance of success in the class. The traditional
class experienced a drop rate of 13.64%, while 2.22% dropped
the career-usage class. The lower drop rate for the career-usage
class may indicate greater interest in the subject, a finding
supported by the anecdotal evidence.
professor kept a weekly diary of student interest and activities.
The results are presented in Exhibit
2. All evidence points to class attendance for regular
classes and tests being higher in the career-usage class.
In addition, more students submitted homework and put in
extra time to get it correct. Moreover, the professor thought
that students in the career-usage class were more eager
to learn, that class participation was of higher quality,
and that out-of-class sessions were more frequent and productive.
Interestingly, two of the 44 students in the career-usage
class changed their major to accounting.
is generally agreed that motivation has an effect on student
performance and learning. Both the quantitative and the
anecdotal results were encouraging. They indicate that tying
accounting concepts to career applications can be used successfully
in an introductory accounting class. The more that students
realize accounting concepts can be applied in their careers,
the greater their interest and motivation will be in the
class, as well as in the accounting profession and business
in general. When a professor works to combine accounting
concepts with usage in a student’s career, the benefits
are positive and rewarding.
Gee Turner, MBA, is an assistant professor of accounting
in the department of accounting and finance at the University
of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Vance P. Lesseig, PhD, is an assistant professor
of finance at Texas State University–San Marcos, San
John G. Fulmer, Jr., PhD, is a First Tennessee
Professor and Associate Dean in the department of accounting
and finance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga,