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Governmental Accounting Essay

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J. of Acc. Ed. 31 (2013) 350–362

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Teaching and educational notes

The budgetary interview: Intentional learning
for students in governmental and non-profit
Larita Killian ⇑
Division of Business, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC), 4601 Central Avenue, Columbus, IN 47203, USA

a r t i c l e

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Article history:
Available online 30 April 2013
Intentional learning
Self-directed learning
Governmental and non-profit accounting

a b s t r a c t
Learning-to-learn skills are critical to the future success of accounting students. This paper reports on a budgetary interview exercise that helps students develop as intentional learners. Students select a government or non-profit agency to investigate, arrange an interview with an agency official to discuss the budgetary process, write a technical paper on what was learned, and record their reflections on the experience. The budgetary interview exercise was implemented with undergraduate students in governmental and nonprofit accounting courses over four academic years (one course per year). Effectiveness of the exercise was assessed via content analysis of student papers and reflections. Results indicate the exercise was highly effective in helping students develop intentional learning skills. Furthermore, students successfully connected classroom material to ‘‘real-world’’ practice, and most students reflected on potential careers in governmental or non-profit sectors. Appendices provide materials that instructors may use to implement this exercise.

Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Most educators recognize that learning-to-learn is a critical goal. This is especially true in accounting: as regulations and practice evolve, our graduates must be able to update their knowledge and skills to remain effective. As with all worthy goals, however, the hard part is making the transition to action. This paper describes how a budgetary interview exercise was used to promote intentional learning in a governmental and non-profit (GNP) accounting course and provides assessment of ⇑ Tel.: +1 812 348 7219 (O).

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0748-5751/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

L. Killian / J. of Acc. Ed. 31 (2013) 350–362


results. The exercise incorporates the intentional learning model developed by Francis, Mulder, and Stark (1995).
Several authors (Albrecht & Sack, 2000; Law, Shaffer, & Stout, 2009; Pathways Commission., 2012) have suggested that accounting educators link education programs to the world of practice and help students learn the non-technical aspects of the profession. This can be accomplished, in part, through learning activities that allow students to interact with practitioners in ‘‘real-world’’ settings. In the budgetary interview exercise, students select a government or non-profit agency to investigate, arrange and conduct an interview with an official who is involved in the budgetary process, and reflect on what was learned.

The budgetary interview adds ‘‘relevance’’ to the course because students have an opportunity to compare and contrast textbook descriptions of the budgetary process to actual practice. Furthermore, the interview helps students expand their professional network and explore professional roles that correspond to their talents, interests, and values. About 22% of paid employees in the US work for GNP organizations (Granof & Khumawala, 2011); by completing the exercise, students benefit from an opportunity to explore careers in these sectors.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: Section 2 summarizes the literature that motivates and guides implementation of the exercise. Section 3 is a detailed discussion of how the exercise was implemented in a GNP course. Section 4 is a description of the assessment methodology, and Section 5 summarizes assessment results. Section 6 contains conclusions and recommendations. The Appendices contain materials that can be used by faculty in adapting and implementing this exercise. 2. Background and exercise development

2.1. Review of literature
The Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC, 1990) stressed that undergraduate education should help students prepare for life-long learning, enabling them to renew their skills throughout their careers. According to the AECC, accounting courses should focus on how basic concepts are applied in real-world settings. Activities should draw from multiple information sources, and students should be required to search for desired information and be active participants in learning. Students must develop the ability to receive and transmit concepts and information; to locate, obtain and organize information; and to communicate in unstructured and unfamiliar settings. Further, students need an understanding of work environments and the internal workings of organizations. The AECC called on educators to help students develop a professional orientation, including an appreciation for the values of the profession and the ability to address issues with concern for the public interest. Like the AECC, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) stresses the acquisition of skills rather than memorization of content. The AICPA’s core competency framework (AICPA, 2003) includes functional competencies that correspond to measurement, reporting, and research skills. It includes personal competencies, such as having a professional demeanor consistent with the character of the discipline; the ability to interact with individuals in diverse roles who have varying stakes in the outcome of the encounter; and the ability to exchange information in a meaningful context. The broad business perspective, the third leg of the framework, includes identifying the accounting practices, risks and opportunities of a given economic sector, and analyzing the impact of legal and regulatory constraints upon that sector. Fink (2003) stresses the need for educational activities that help students ‘‘learn to become.’’ Among the six learning dimensions in Fink’s (2003) significant learning taxonomy are the ‘‘human dimension’’ and ‘‘caring.’’1 In this model, significant learning occurs when students investigate how course topics impact the lives of real people and empathize with those impacts. Fink (2003) encourages 1

The six learning dimensions in Fink’s (2003) significant learning taxonomy are foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension, caring, and learning how to learn. The budgetary interview exercise supports several of these dimensions. For instance, integration is about making connections. In the classroom, students learn that the executive branch of government develops a proposed budget and the legislative branch approves and controls spending. During the interview, students connect this standard description to the interviewee’s description of what occurs in a particular agency.


L. Killian / J. of Acc. Ed. 31 (2013) 350–362

instructors to arrange ‘‘authentic’’ learning activities in real-world contexts, and to focus on self-directed learning as the key to learning-to-become.
Applied learning, a form of active learning, helps students ‘‘learn to become.’’ Applied learning requires active engagement and collaboration; students leave the classroom and apply their new skills in unfamiliar contexts, connecting classroom theory to practice (Ash & Clayton, 2009). The most common forms of applied learning are internships and service-learning projects, but experiences of shorter duration that allow students to use new concepts in the ‘‘real world’’ can also reinforce and advance learning. Several scholars have found that students construct their own knowledge through active engagement. Knowledge cannot be ‘‘transferred’’ by the professor; students must construct their own knowledge by seeking new information and connecting it to what is already known (Saudagaran, 1996). Light, Cox, and Calkins (2009) found that students construct their own knowledge and give it meaning within a system of shared narratives and ‘‘socio-cultural meanings.’’ Similarly, Brown and Adler (2008) emphasize the social nature of learning: students construct knowledge through conversations in contexts that have personal significance to them. The need for ‘‘personal significance’’ is an argument for student involvement in designing learning activities. Since learning is open, flexible, and highly social in nature, instructors should facilitate interactions both inside and outside the classroom (Brown & Adler, 2008). Reflection is essential for success in applied learning (Ash & Clayton, 2009; Dewey, 1933; Stevens & Cooper, 2009). Exposing students to new experiences is an important step, but without reflection, students might have the experience but ‘‘miss the meaning.’’ Critical reflection is not spontaneous; without appropriate reflective prompts, students may simply vent their emotions or provide factual descriptions of the experience. To ensure meaningful reflection, instructors must design reflective prompts that guide students toward achieving the learning goals (Ash & Clayton, 2009; Bringle & Hatcher, 1999). Critical reflection also aids in assessing learning outcomes (Ash & Clayton, 2009; Fink, 2003). A dominant theme throughout much of this literature is learning-to-learn. To become life-long, self-directed learners, students must take responsibility for their own learning in unstructured, uncertain situations (AECC, 1990). Some would maintain, therefore, that skills needed for independent learning should be introduced early and reinforc...

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