2013 Illinois International Journal of
May 17-20, 2013
Symposium on Tax Research
September 19-20, 2013
Department of Accountancy
University of Illinois
360 Wohlers Hall
1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, Illinois 61820
Project Discovery 1996 Annual Report
July 1, 1996
Prepared by Ira Solomon, Project Discovery, Director and reviewed by Andrew D. Bailey Jr., Head, Department of Accountancy and David A. Ziebart, Project Discovery, Associate Director
Introduction & Program Status
This document is intended to serve as our report on Phase 6 of Project Discovery (PD). On behalf of the faculty of the Department of Accountancy of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), I am most pleased to continue the tradition of beginning our report with two very positive statements. First, PD remains on the schedule outlined in the original contract between the University of Illinois and the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC). Second, during May 1996, the second class of PD students were graduated. As discussed more fully later, all available evidence is that these students, like their predecessors in the first PD graduating class, were extremely well received in the market place.
The contract between the UIUC and the AECC does not prescribe the specific foci of this final report. We have chosen to describe, on a course-by-course basis, the efforts of our faculty since our last annual report. PD courses emphasize learning by and the skills of discovery. In addition, communication skills, active and continuous learning and critical thinking are salient features of PD. These features are the foci of our course-by-course discussion. However, to provide the background for PD developments during the academic year 1995-96, before commencing this discussion, we review recent events germane to the status of the PD curriculum as an official UIUC program of study. Other initiatives primarily related to dissemination and the PD Graduation event are discussed later following the course-by-course discussion. We conclude the report by describing our on-going assessment program, activities related to enhancing communication skills, plans for the future, and reflections as the initial PD development period draws to a close.
A vote of the Department of Accountancy faculty was taken during December 1995 on PD. It is most pleasing to report that this faculty vote was unanimous in favor of PD becoming the curriculum for an undergraduate degree in commerce with a major in accountancy at the UIUC. Subsequently, approval was sought and obtained from the College of Commerce Educational Policy Committee, the Dean of the College of Commerce and Business Administration, all Heads of UIUC departments which require accountancy courses for students majoring in their fields, and the UIUC Graduate College. Because all of the other approvals had to be completed first, the final phase of the review process, approval of the UIUC faculty senate, was not commenced until late in the spring term. Unfortunately, there was not enough time during the academic year to complete the UIUC faculty senate review. PD has, however, been placed on the UIUC faculty senate agenda for early in the fall semester of 1996. Professor Clifton Brown assisted Project Discovery Director, Ira Solomon in preparing the materials for the review and in shepherding them through the review process. At every phase of the review process, there have been very strong positive reactions to the PD curriculum and the innovations therein.
The transition plan from concurrent offerings of traditional accountancy courses and "experimental" PD courses to PD was developed by Andrew D. Bailey Jr., Head, Department of Accountancy and Project Discovery Director, Ira Solomon with the concurrence of the Dean of the College of Commerce. Due deference was paid in developing this plan to staffing demands, university obligations to students, and faculty concerns. Of special note is the need to allow students who entered the university under a particular "catalogue" to have available to them for a reasonable time period the courses specified in that catalogue. An overview of the plan follows.
Effective with the fall of 1996, the traditional accountancy courses have been eliminated. In their place, temporarily (for 1 year) there are two versions of PD courses: (1) ("Full") PD and (2) PD-T (Project Discovery- "Transitional"). The former courses are those that have been developed and taught and are described later in this report. These courses differ from traditional courses in terms of the knowledge, skills and attitudes they target and the pedagogy used to meet such targets. The PD-T courses are intended to be the same as the full PD courses in terms of the skills and attitudes targeted and the pedagogy used to meet those targets. PD-T courses, however, will differ from full PD courses in that the traditional knowledge targets will be maintained. Since university catalogues only address knowledge, in maintaining the traditional knowledge targets while changing other aspects of the courses, we will have effectively continued to offer courses described in the catalogue while simultaneously continuing the change momentum. PD-T versions of courses will be the junior-year core courses only. The senior-year core course, Attestation, will be offered only in full PD format as the extant catalogue description is sufficiently general that we may do so without departing from that description. This also is true for two of the three electives, Taxation (Accy 251) and Auditing Standards (Accy 342). However, Accy 312 for non-PD students will be offered on a PD-T basis.
An Overview of Accounting & Accountancy I & II
These courses introduce students to many of the distinguishing features of PD (e.g., the contracting framework, critical thinking, and an integrated, rather than stove-piped, presentation of traditional accountancy domains like managerial and financial accounting). During the fall semester of 1995, all sections of these courses were PD versions. Thus, approximately 1,250 students took Accounting and Accountancy I during the fall semester of 1995, while approximately 950 students took Accounting and Accountancy II during the spring semester of 1996. As in prior years, a small number of non-PD students took Accounting & Accountancy I & II during the off-semesters of the 1995-96 academic year. Unlike prior years, however, these "off-semester" courses were taught in the PD mode.
Given the large number of students to be served, both sophomore PD courses were offered in large-lecture format, two days per week. Smaller, break-out, sessions also met once a week. Breakout sessions were restricted to 50 students, per session. A walk-in lab, staffed with teaching assistants was continued from last year.
Anita Feller taught Accounting & Accountancy I during both the fall semester of 1995 and the spring semester of 1996. Ralph Goodwin, a lecturer, taught Accounting & Accountancy II during both the fall semester of 1995 and the spring semester of 1996. Anita is scheduled to teach Accounting & Accountancy I during the fall semester of 1996. Ralph is scheduled to teach Accounting & Accountancy II during the fall semester of 1996. While the large-lecture format (with discussion sessions) will be retained, additional funding was received from the university to allow us to offer smaller sections (300-500 students in each section). Selected additional comments related specifically to Accounting & Accountancy I & II, respectively, are provided below.
Accounting & Accountancy I
Significant changes were not made during the current year in the content of this course. The most significant process change concerned the addition of once-a-week, mandatory, break-out (discussion) sessions. Considerable efforts were expended in developing active learning cases, assignment materials and quizzes for these sessions. Two examples follow:
- Students are divided into two-person teams and instructed to play the game of Monopoly for approximately 30 minutes. During the game, they are only allowed to write down a list of their moves. In particular, they are not allowed to count their money or property at the end of the game. After thirty minutes, players are asked to pass all money, deeds, and promissory notes to the team to their right. The team on the right then completes a brief "audit." The audit working papers are kept confidential and the students prepare financial statements and complete ratio analyses which are submitted for grading. The week following the assignment, the financial results for all teams are disclosed to the class, and the class analyzes team performance and selects a "winning" team. This project has been well received by students. It facilitates their understanding not only of what information is contained in financial statements, but issues such as measurement, going concern, cash flows, performing assets, and evaluation.
- One entire discussion-class session is devoted to a project intended to help students' understand issues that arise in a manufacturing environment. Students in each of the various discussion sections are placed in competition with one another with respect to the task of building Volkswagen Beetles out of colored paper. Each color of paper is assigned a material cost, laborers are paid different rates for each specialization, and a list of overhead items is included. In each discussion section, five-person cutting or fabrication teams, two-person assembly teams, and expediters (warehouse runners who deliver parts) are designated. The class is allowed about 25 minutes to "manufacture" as many vehicles as possible. At the end of the 25-minute period, teams share their costing information. The assignment consists of three parts: (1) determine the unit cost for one vehicle; (2) explain three inefficiencies in the manufacturing process, how to eliminate the inefficiency, and how the change will impact unit costs; and (3) explain one inaccuracy in calculating unit cost and how a change could be made to the costing system to eliminate it. This project was very successful-- students are aided in grasping concepts like product costing, overhead allocation and JIT. Interestingly, unit costs calculated by student teams have ranged from $1,055 per car to $13,479 per car, thus, providing numerous opportunities to discuss costing complexities in a manufacturing environment.
For the next academic year, we anticipate that the course will continue to be offered with two large lectures per week and once-a-week breakout (discussion) sections of no more than 50 students each. We will continue to develop new active learning exercises to be used during the discussion sections. We also will continue to work on the portions of the course dealing with organizations, markets and the contracting framework.
Accounting & Accountancy II
The primary content change in the course during the year was the addition of a module on attestation. In addition, new weekly problems, activities and quizzes for the discussion sessions were developed and used.
For the ensuing academic year, we anticipate that this course will continue to be offered in a fashion consistent with Accounting & Accountancy I-- two large lectures per week and once-a-week discussion sections. Also, as with Accounting & Accountancy I, considerable effort will continue to be expended to develop innovative active learning exercises for use during the discussion sections.
These courses were taught for the third time during the current academic year. Starting enrollments were approximately 125 Project Discovery students. Enrollments for academic year 1996-97 will be about 240 students. Feedback suggests that, generally, these courses are very well received by our students.
Decision Making For Accountancy
Two sections of this core course were taught for the third time during the fall semester of 1995 by Don Kleinmuntz, the primary course developer. In addition, Jon Davis taught two sections of this course (for the first time) during the same semester. Don, Young Kwon (Professor of Accountancy) and Marjorie Shelley (an experienced Assistant Professor) are scheduled to teach the course during the fall semester of 1996.
The title of this course has been changed to reflect the overarching theme which has evolved for the course-- the use of information for decision-making purposes inside and outside of organizations (e.g., by investors and creditors). Salient features of the course continue to be threefold. First, students are actively engaged in the learning process by combining class discussion and problem-solving exercises with formal lecture. Further, students obtain considerable hands-on experience with computer software (especially spreadsheets). Students also complete several group projects (evaluated both in terms of content and written exposition). Second, there is a heavy emphasis on problem-solving skills, particularly those skills needed to cope with risky and ambiguous situations. In addition, students learn about potential decision-making pitfalls and the ways of overcoming them. Students also are exposed to the possibilities that formal quantitative approaches to decision making may not be cost effective in all situations and that intuitive and formal methods often can be cost-effectively blended. Third, topics traditionally appearing in managerial and financial accounting are linked within a single course to highlight differences and similarities between internal and external decision-making needs.
Fall 1995 student feedback on the course for both instructors was very positive. Both instructors did a good job of linking the course content with topics relevant to accountants. This course now seems to be one of the best received of all of our core PD courses. Plans for the fall 1996 version of the course call only for some minor expansion of the coverage of budgeting concepts and approaches, particularly related to the analysis of budget variances in production settings.
Accounting Measurement & Disclosure
Paul Beck taught this course for the second time during the fall semester of 1995. Cathy Finger taught the course for the first time during that same semester. Paul and Cathy are scheduled to teach the course again during the fall semester of 1996, along with Assistant Professor Ananda Ganguly who will teach it for the first time.
Accounting Measurement & Disclosure is focused on the production and use of traditional and non-traditional metrics for contracting purposes. Both internal management and external contracting purposes are included. The course begins with an introduction to contracting, strategic planning and Porter's notion of a value chain, followed by coverage of performance evaluation. Some of the non-traditional measures covered under the performance evaluation umbrella were service quality measurements and "balanced scorecards." Cash flow statements and traditional financial accounting measurement topics like income determination and income management also were discussed.
Major content changes in the course were threefold. First, performance evaluation was discussed in general terms before specializing the discussion to financial-based measures. For example, the context of service organizations was used early in the course to illustrate non-financial performance measures. Second, coverage of income measurement under uncertainty and the FASB's Conceptual Framework were added. Third, some topics (benchmarking and budgeting) were moved to another PD core course. In addition, the sequence in which topics were covered was changed and active learning, especially small group projects, played a more prominent role in the course.
Student reception of this course is improving. One of the complications seems to be that this course is the focal point for students coming to grips with the PD way of learning, including the emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving in environments characterized by uncertainty and ambiguity. Nevertheless, both Professors Beck and Finger report that students became significantly more comfortable during the semester with abstract topics and that they generally rose to meet the intellectual content challenges exacerbated by the need to think critically in an active-learning mode. Lastly, both instructors report that students' writing and presentation skills noticeably improved during the semester. Among the targeted improvements are a better course organization, improved transition into the PD learning mode, and improving the instructors' ability to effectively serve as discussion leaders.
Accounting Institutions & Regulation
Dave Ziebart taught two sections of this core course for the third time during the spring semester of 1996. Two sections also were taught by Assistant Professor Tom Linsmeier. Gene Willis assisted by teaching the tax module of the course. Ziebart and Linsmeier are scheduled to teach the course again during the spring of 1997.
For the spring 1996 version of the course, the primary objectives continued to be that students understand regulation in accountancy and accounting as a regulation vehicle. More specifically, the course objectives are that students understand: (1) regulation theory and practice applied to accountancy, (2) regulation of accounting procedures for external reporting, (3) the basics of regulation of accounting procedures for taxation, (4) regulation of accounting procedures for governmental activities, and (5) the regulatory process in which accounting information is used for rate-setting and related purposes by governmental agencies. Another course objective continues to be nurturing students' communication, analytical and problem-solving skills.
Changes made between the Spring 1996 and 1995 course offerings were of two types. First, the instructors divided the course into modules and took individual responsibility across all four sections of the course or, for some modules, worked as a team. To illustrate, Ziebart was responsible for the modules on applied research and utility ratemaking whereas Linsmeier was responsible for the modules on the SEC and the FASB Conceptual framework. Other modules were instructed on a team basis. Second, several of the assigned readings were changed and some new active-learning exercises added.
Professors Ziebart and Linsmeier have reported and the anecdotal evidence confirms that this is a mature course which students rate very highly. Indeed, the primary task before the developer team for this course now seems to be to create a complete set of teaching materials, including student instruction packets, readings, and other materials to make it easier for other persons to instruct this course.
Accounting Control Systems
Two sections of this core course were taught by Clif Brown for the third time during the spring semester of 1996. Two sections also were taught (for the first time) by Associate Professor Dan Stone. Clif Brown and Associate Professor John Chandler are scheduled to teach this course during the spring semester of 1997. The foci of the course continued to be the concepts, methods and uses of information within organizations, including cost accounting. The overriding emphasis in the course continues to be organizational control.
There was a substantial amount of overlap in the course as taught by the two instructors during the spring semester of 1996. However, there also were some differences which are worthy of note. Further, several changes in both content and pedagogy were made between the Spring 1995 and 1996 offerings of this course. From the perspective of accounting knowledge, the course was reorganized to follow the conceptual framework for control presented in the COSO Report. Second, the economics of organizations (contracting) was used to an even greater extent as an integrating concept. Third, there was an increase in the information systems content, including information technology control issues. Anticipated further developments include incorporation of the CoCo Report, with a commensurate reduced emphasis on the COSO framework, and a reduction in the theoretical "front end" of the course from about 50% of available time to about 33%, with a corresponding increase in the applied components of the course.
From the perspective of professional skills and abilities, there were two primary changes. First, there was continued development of the field research project so that the skills of teamwork, interviewing and questioning, report writing, and oral presentation were addressed to a greater extent. Second, problem-based learning methods were introduced to develop a variety of professional skills, including group problem solving, interpersonal relationship management and critical thinking. Anticipated developments in this area include making greater use of computer technology in class, especially technology that will support interactive group problem solving.
As noted earlier, Stone's version of this course as taught during the spring of 1996 had significant overlap with the version taught by Brown. Stone reports, however, that some salient differences include:
- Usage of asynchronous learning software-- Stone used First Class software which he and his students perceive to have had numerous benefits;
- Usage of presentation software-- All of Stone's classroom presentations were made using PowerPoint for Windows. One of his objectives in doing so was to demonstrate to students its value in increasing the professionalism of presentations;
- Integration of Big-6 firm personnel evaluation materials-- Stone provided copies of such materials to students so that they could see first-hand that some of the non-traditional evaluation criteria used in PD courses (e.g., evaluation of content and writing quality) have real-world referents in the professional world of accountancy;
- Development and Use of "Literary Cases"-- Stone wrote a case, using literary techniques from fiction. He reports that students received the case very well, with some stating that it was the most interesting and enjoyable project of the course; and
- Course Grading-- Stone used a different grade distribution (on average, about .4 points on a 5 point scale). He reports that many students perceived such a difference to be an problematic.
The two instructors for the spring of 1996 did a very good job of maintaining the essence of the course while simultaneously bringing a part of their own personality and preferences to it. The grade distribution issue has been addressed (at least tentatively) during a faculty meeting at the end of the spring semester at which a target grade distribution was selected by the faculty for year of the PD program (i.e., sophomore, junior, senior). In conclusion, this course has been developed very well and student feedback reveals that it is indeed one of the strongest of all of the PD courses.
Accounting Workshop I & II
Anita Feller taught this 1-hour core course for the third time during the fall of 1995 and spring of 1996. She again worked with instructors of the junior-year and senior-year core courses and used her first-hand knowledge of the sophomore core courses to identify the skills and knowledge which were most appropriately incorporated into this workshop. She was assisted by Visiting Assistant Professor Sridhar Ramamorrti. He is scheduled to teach this course during academic year 1996-97.
During academic year 1995-96, the fall-semester workshop primarily consisted of material relating to the accounting cycle, communication skills (writing and oral presentation), working in teams, critical thinking and ethics. Active-learning exercises were developed for each of these topics. As contemplated in our report last year, material related to accounting terminology and financial statements was eliminated from this course as it was moved into the sophomore courses.
The spring-semester workshop for academic year 1995-96 consisted of the following topics: observation skills, presentation skills for quantitative data, and database skills. These topics were selected because they relate to skills essential to the spring semester PD core courses. The projects related to these topics were newly developed or revised versions of previously-used projects.
These courses have been substantially improved. Nevertheless, some students continue to see the workload in them as too heavy, given the 1-hour credit they earn for the courses each time they take them. The new instructor, Professor Ramamoorti has been speaking with the junior-year and senior-year course instructors to obtain direction for the next incarnation of this course. He will re-energize these courses, but because they both were substantially re-worked during the past academic year (see our prior report), he is likely to make only relatively minor content changes (e.g., addition of student training for evaluating the work of other team members).
The senior core course (Attestation) was taught for the second time during academic year 1995-96. Further, a 1-hour continuation of the workshop course (Accounting Workshop III) was offered for the second time as were three PD electives. As noted in our previous annual reports, these electives, which were not part of the original PD proposal, are intended to immerse students in contemporary professional standards and to reinforce the professional research skills they acquired in earlier courses. Enrollments in the senior courses were approximately 80 students.
Professor Ira Solomon taught two sections of this course for the second time during the fall semester of 1995. This PD core course (see the attached syllabus) continues to differ in fundamental ways from a traditional auditing course. Perhaps most important are that the course is not tied to financial-statement assertions and audits thereof and the course content tends toward the conceptual side rather than being driven by authoritative pronouncements.
As taught during the fall of 1995, the course consisted of three modules (versus four during the fall of 1994). During Module 1, students were introduced to economic perspectives on attestation. During Module 2, students explored the central attest concepts of risk, control and evidence. Applications of techniques for verification were the focus of Module 3.
Consistent with the past year, numerous active-learning projects were used and most, but not all, written assignments were graded both for content and the quality of the written communication. Students whose writing skills were appraised as being sub-par, were identified and provided incentives to work with our team of writing specialists to improve their skills. Oral presentation skills were "exercised" to a greater extent via a new project toward the end of Module 1.
Student feedback on the fall 1995 course was somewhat more positive than on the fall 1994 course, but still largely ranged from mixed to positive. Students again were extremely satisfied with some components of the course (e.g., the asset pricing markets), while for other components, students exhibited mild satisfaction. Students continue to feel that the work load in the course was excessive and some students desired a greater focus on practice (i.e., how things are done) and, in particular, on financial-statement auditing.
Ira Solomon is scheduled to teach two sections of the course again during the fall semester of 1996 and one section will be taught by Visiting Assistant Professor Sridhar Ramamoorti. Changes being contemplated for the course include a further reduction and shift in the student workload, generalization of the material in Module 1 to allow incorporation of the demand for assurance in addition to attestation, refinement of the experimental markets project used in Module 1 and the database projects used in Module 3, and re-development of the philosophical foundation of the material on concepts of evidence in Module 2. Lastly, consistent with the PD transition plan, during the fall semester of 1996, Associate Professor Richard Ziegler will teach several sections of this course in the PD format, but to students who have taken non-PD courses through their junior year.
Accounting Workshop III
This 1-hour core course was developed by Art Wyatt and was taught by him during the fall of 1995. This course again primarily consisted of a speaker series. Approximately ten speakers from public accountancy, private industry, regulatory agencies and standard-setting bodies made presentations (about 1 every 1.5 weeks) to the students. Anecdotal evidence is that the students find this course to be of value and especially like the opportunity to interact informally with the campus visitors. This course will be offered during the fall semester of 1996, again with the same format and under the supervision of Art Wyatt.
Elective #1-- Taxation Rules and Regulations
This elective course was taught by Professor Gene Willis during the fall of 1995. Almost all Project Discovery senior students enrolled, even though the course was an elective. Professors Gene Willis, Associate Professor Jon Davis, and Assistant Professor Andy Cuccia will teach this course during the fall semester of 1996. From this point forward, all sections of this course will be taught in the PD mode.
As operationalized during the fall of 1995, the primary focus of the course changed from taxation of individuals to taxation of business entities, with an emphasis on tax research and planning (consistent with recommendations made in the AICPA model tax curriculum). Traditionally, at UIUC, the one-semester introductory tax course employed individual taxation and tax compliance as organizing principles. Tax planning and the taxation of business entities were addressed in advanced tax courses. By leveraging the skills PD students acquired via earlier courses (in particular, their research and decision analysis skills), the focus of this course shifted to allow students to solve realistic business problems and, consequently, the material covered was more advanced than in the typical introductory one-semester undergraduate taxation course. Students rated this course very highly.
In 1996, the course will continue to focus on business entities and tax planning. In addition, more discovery learning activities (e.g., case problems, research activities, etc.) will be introduced and the reliance on various asynchronous learning tools will be increased. Textual materials also will be refined to better articulate with the pedagogical changes that have been made to date.
Art Wyatt developed this course and taught it for the second time during the fall semester of 1995. This course again was focused on extending students' awareness and understanding of extant authoritative financial-reporting standards and applications of them to practice. Students also were asked to critically assess the existing literature from a conceptual viewpoint. Standards which were found to deviate from recognized concepts were discussed in terms of the political forces which may have led to standard setters' decisions. Students again were expected to use the technological facility they acquired in earlier courses to access professional standards in electronic form and apply them to address issues relating to various topics, including research and development costs, pension and post-retirement benefit costs, leasing, financing instruments and transactions, foreign exchange, losses on loans, contingencies, real estate transactions, and unusual and extraordinary items.
Even though the course was an elective, almost all PD senior students enrolled. Student feedback on this course continues to be strongly positive, even though the course continues to be fairly demanding. Art Wyatt is scheduled to teach it again during the fall semester of 1996. He contemplates no significant changes.
Elective #3-- Auditing Standards
Dick Ziegler taught this course for the second time during the spring semester of 1996. The primary purpose of this course was to supplement students' understanding of the body of professional standards promulgated by the AICPA, especially those related to generally accepted auditing standards. There again were two major foci: (1) the development of standards and (2) study of the body of professional knowledge represented by these standards. With respect to (1), the intent was to further elucidate the process by which auditing standards are created. This task was accomplished by using recently-passed pronouncements to illustrate the process and the participants therein. With respect to (2), students again worked with the professional standards and related literature to solve practical problems. Extensive use continued to be made of active learning vehicles like cases, which students analyzed in small groups (but see the related comment in the next paragraph).
As with the other two PD electives, almost all PD senior students enrolled in this course. Student feedback has been positive and Professor Ziegler is scheduled to teach this course again during the spring semester of 1997. Significant changes being contemplated for that offering of the course fall in two categories. First, to reduce what students had perceived to be an excessive workload, during the spring semester of 1996, students were permitted to work in teams and turn in a single written analysis for each project. Unfortunately, it was discovered that half or more of the teams divided up the assignments among their team members and individually worked on them. In some situations, other team members seemed to have no knowledge of the assignment and these persons seemed to suffer on the exams. To overcome this problem, each team member will be required to turn in a paper during the next incarnation of this course. The second type of change being contemplated is to have written assignments not only evaluated for expositional quality but on other dimensions as well e.g., effectiveness of the arguments or persuasiveness or defensibility.
Assessment & Communication Skills
In our prior annual reports, we appended the report of a task force led by Dan Stone, presented the PD Assessment plan and disclosed available evidence (based largely on the first class of PD students). We provide here a brief overview of current assessment activities and additional assessment evidence (based on both classes of PD seniors students). When considering these results, please keep in mind that our assessment program is on-going and that the "control" group is UIUC traditional program students. Further, please note that some of the results may be due to ex ante differences (e.g., in ACT scores) between PD and traditional-program students.
|Increase the frequency of field projects and cases, group work, and presentations in accountancy classes.||Yes! Interviews with course instructors and analysis of syllabi indicate support|
|Knowledge and Skills|
|Increase tolerance for ambiguity||Yes! Data reveal that PD students have significantly greater tolerance for ambiguity|
|Increase cognitive complexity||Yes! Analysis of essay responses reveals that PD students have significantly greater cognitive complexity|
|Increase ability to identify accounting-related ethical issues||No! While in the anticipated direction, analysis of essay responses reveals that PD students have similar ability as traditional students to identify ethical issues|
|Increase ability to identify accounting-related information sources.||Yes! Analysis of essay responses reveals that PD students have superior ability to identify authoritative sources for solving professional problems|
|Increase ability to structure problem solutions||Yes! Analysis of essay responses reveals that PD students have superior ability to structure solutions to professional problems|
|Improve written communication skills||Yes! Analysis of essay responses reveals that PD students have superior written communication skills|
|No decrease in technical accounting knowledge||Yes! In fact, there is some evidence of superior knowledge among PD students (based on CPA exam results).|
|Improve attitudes toward accountancy instruction||Yes! PD students self-reports reveal that they perceive that their communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills are superior. They also believe that they have superior business knowledge and are more creative. Lastly, they agreed more with the notion that their accountancy instructors were excellent and that they were pleased with the accountancy education that they received.|
We plan to continue to assess the knowledge, skills and attitudes of PD students post graduation. During the year, we developed a plan for doing so and have obtained indications of participation from the Chicago offices of several of the Big-6 firms. The details of our post-graduation assessment program were described in a proposal which was appended to our May 1995 report to the AECC.
Improving oral and written communication skills, as just noted in our assessment discussion, are important foci of PD. Ms. Rama Ramamurthy, a communication-skills expert has served the department of accountancy during the entire five-year development period by assisting faculty members in their efforts to enhance such skills. Significant resources have been invested and a wide variety of vehicles have been used to develop PD students' written and oral communication skills. At the present time, much of the efforts of our "communication skills team" are being focused on gearing up for the impending full-scale implementation of PD. Ms. Ramamurthy has been an excellent ambassador for and facilitator of enhancing students' communication skills. Both our assessment evidence and anecdotal reports reveal that PD students are perceived to have unusually strong written and oral communication skills.
Other Activities During the Year
In this section, we describe the reception and dinner held during April, 1996 to recognize the graduating Project Discovery students and our efforts to date with respect to PD Dissemination.
Graduation Reception & Dinner
On April 30, 1996, a reception and dinner was held on the campus of the University of Illinois to recognize the second class of graduating PD students. Approximately 180 persons attended the reception and dinner, including almost all of the approximately 80 senior PD students, a substantial portion of junior PD students, a large portion of the accountancy faculty, and representatives of each of the Big-6 public accounting firms, regional CPA firms, large Chicago banks, and major manufacturers. Also present were officials from the College of Commerce (i.e., the Dean and an Associate Dean and an Assistant Dean) and the Keynote Speaker-- Mr. Robert K. Elliott, Assistant to the Chairman, KPMG Peat Marwick LLP and Chair of the AICPA's "Elliott Committee."
In addition to Bob Elliott, Ira Solomon (Project Discovery Director), Howard Thomas (Dean, College of Commerce) and Andrew D. Bailey Jr. (Head, Department of Accountancy) addressed the assemblage. While each graduating PD student was individually recognized as were the efforts of the accountancy faculty, the highlight of the program was Bob Elliott's keynote speech. In that speech, Bob discussed how the world had changed over the past twenty years largely as a consequence of technological innovation. He then most skillfully used that background as a way of explaining why accountancy education had to change. In addition, he was able to highlight some features of PD and make the point quite effectively that these features will help prepare students for the next twenty-year period when the rate of change is likely to be at least as great. Feedback on the evening as been most positive and we plan to continue this event in the future.
Plans are well underway for this cornerstone in our efforts to disseminate the PD innovations to other campuses-- the PD Dissemination Conference. This AECC-sponsored conference will be run jointly by the UIUC and the University of Notre Dame. The Steering Committee is Ira Solomon (Chair) and Dave Ziebart of the UIUC, Thomas J. Frecka and Fred Mittelstaedt of the University of Notre Dame and Mel O'Connor of the AECC. Ms. Amy Delany, a PD student and President of the PD Student Association at the UIUC, also serves on the Steering Committee. The conference program was planned by the Steering Committee at a recent meeting (see below). At present, we are finalizing administrative details and are in the process of communicating with Heads/Chairs of accounting departments to ask them to nominate a member of their faculty for attendance at the conference.
Further specifics are that the conference will be held on the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois during October 16-18, 1996. Representatives of 45 universities will be invited to attend. In addition, a small number of recent graduates and present students in the PD programs at Illinois and Notre Dame will be invited to attend as will members of the Sponsoring Firms Task Force. Over a 1.5-day period, the attendees will be provided an overview of the PD curriculum, as well as a detailed introduction to each of the key PD courses. Conference participants will have the opportunity to attend an actual PD class. Via that opportunity, as well as conference sessions led by PD instructors, key features of PD including active learning, critical thinking, an emphasis on communication skills, and creative usage of technology will be experienced first-hand by the conference participants.
During the past year, we continued to receive a huge number of requests for information about PD. These requests came from Deans of Colleges of Business, Accountancy Department Heads, individual faculty members, and current and potential future employers of our students. In addition, we had inquiries about PD from as far away as Australia and South Africa. To make information regarding PD even more generally available, we have created a PD home page on the internet. The URL is: http://www.cba.uiuc.edu/accountancy/discovry.htm.
Also, during the past year, a representative from the Illinois CPA Society visited our campus as part of the effort to gather information for a series of articles on innovation in undergraduate education within the state. This representative interviewed faculty, students and employers and subsequently, wrote two articles in which PD was featured. The first article appeared in the December/January 1996 issue of Insight-- The Magazine of the Illinois CPA Society (pp. 20-24). The second article appeared in the February/March 1996 issue of Insight (pp. 24-26).
Further, PD received other forms of very positive publicity during the year--perhaps the best example of such publicity is another article published in Insight February/March 1996, (p. 3). The title of that article is sufficient to convey its essence--"Illinois Team's Victory in National Collegiate Tax Contest Validates Changes in Accounting Education."
As the five-year initial development of PD draws to an end, it is appropriate to reflect on what has been and what remains to be accomplished. It also is appropriate to acknowledge the many contributors to the PD effort. The faculty of the UIUC Department of Accountancy has learned a tremendous amount during this period. We have learned, for example, that meaningful educational innovation is most difficult. We also have learned, however, that such innovation can be extremely rewarding and that failure to innovate is a sure road to mediocrity. In addition, we have learned the importance of working as a team, but we also have learned that working in that format, within the academy, is not without difficulties. Again, however, having experienced first-hand the rewards of team-based curriculum innovation, we realize that there is no turning back the clock to even the recent past-- when innovation, if it occurred at all, was focused on individual courses and resulted from the heroic efforts of isolated individuals.
We look back and are amazed at what has been accomplished. But we look forward and see continuing challenges. Fortunately, we have a motivated faculty and strong leadership and commitment to PD at both the Department and College levels. Further, one of the most rewarding developments during the year has been the very positive reception afforded PD by the central campus and faculty leaders from other units within the University of Illinois. We have found that it is one thing to "market" PD to accountancy faculty members at other universities, employers of our students, and faculty members elsewhere in the College of Commerce. But, it is quite another to discuss the PD innovations with leading scholars, for example, in the fields of cellular biology and physics and have them come away extremely impressed. Consistently, the Department of Accountancy is now cited frequently by vice-chancellors and other high-level UIUC officials as an example of a unit in which faculty and outside stakeholders joined together to build a platform for continued excellence. On a campus which is dominated by engineering and the "hard" sciences, this is no small accomplishment.
Numerous individuals and organizations have via direct or indirect efforts contributed to the PD effort. The UIUC is blessed with outstanding present and former students. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the PD students. Such students effectively volunteered to be experimental subjects. Unlike most experimental subjects, however, these experimental subjects had a lot at stake-- their university education. Fortunately, as a group, they had sufficient maturity, insight and dedication to see the value of the PD innovations, even at a time when much of the program was still little more than a "twinkle in course developers' eyes." Not only did these students volunteer for the program, but once in PD, they became partners in the development effort. Among their many efforts in this partnership capacity are that they provided invaluable feedback to course developers, participated in numerous assessment ventures, and helped promote PD to prospective students and to various external-to-the-university organizations.
Alumni of the University of Illinois provide generous financial and moral support as well as the benefits of their experiences to the Department of Accountancy. Without these resources, we would not have been able to attempt such a massive program of innovation as is represented by PD. While, at times, a small percentage of these alumni expressed concern about the riskiness of dropping our highly-rated traditional undergraduate program, as the initial development phase draws to a close, we can report that there is extremely strong support for PD among the entire UIUC family.
Also key to the PD development effort has been the unwavering support of key UIUC administrators. Two individuals served as Head, Department of Accountancy during the initial PD development period. Lawrence A. Tomassini had the vision to see that comprehensive undergraduate educational innovation was needed at Illinois and the creativity and drive to set in motion the forces that would mold PD into the venture it is today. Andrew D. Bailey Jr. was committed to PD from his very first day as Head. Moreover, he has been masterful in working to change the environment within the College and Department so that they fully support the PD initiatives. Andy also has been an untiring and articulate spokesperson for PD to audiences both within and outside the academy. There also were two Deans of the College of Commerce and Business Administration during the initial PD Development period. John D. Hogan was an enthusiastic supporter of PD from the onset and it was on his "watch" that the PD proposal was crafted and the initial framework established. Howard Thomas was a little more skeptical at the start, but after carefully scrutinizing the PD innovations, he has become an extremely strong supporter of PD and a most articulate PD spokesperson. In fact, Dean Thomas frequently refers to PD as the model for undergraduate education innovation for the entire UIUC College of Commerce and Business Administration.
At the end, whatever accolades accrue to PD, belong to the faculty of the Department of Accountancy. The faculty has worked endless hours, sometimes under substantially less than ideal conditions, to make PD was it is today. Individual faculty members have exhibited great creativity, tremendous intelligence, unprecedented generosity with their efforts, and unparalleled dedication to deliver on the promise that was reflected in our original PD proposal. To the extent that PD proves to be a significant step forward in accountancy education, the Department of Accountancy, College of Commerce, indeed the entire UIUC community and the accountancy profession owe these faculty a debt of gratitude.
Much of this report has dealt with UIUC accomplishments. We would be seriously remiss if we were not to comment on the crucial role played by certain members of the academic community and professional communities and our partners in PD, the faculty of the University of Notre Dame. Members of the AECC, especially Dolye Williams, Rich Flaherty, Mel O'Conner and Committee of Sponsoring Organizations member Larry Scott are especially worthy of note for their enduring assistance with PD. Thomas J. Frecka and the Notre Dame faculty joined us early in the game and made direct and indirect contributions to PD which are beyond measurement. Moreover, their experiences with PD in an educational environment quite different from the UIUC environment should pay huge dividends as PD is disseminated to other campuses.
How PD will evolve in the rapidly-changing world is difficult to predict. Further, where we in the Department of Accountancy go from here with PD also is uncertain. We do know that we would like to continue our dissemination efforts. One possibility, under serious consideration, is to internationalize such efforts. In addition to dissemination, we are well aware that continuous improvement mechanisms must be cemented in place. Continuing our assessment efforts are essential in that regard as the resulting feedback is essential for fueling improvement efforts. Sustaining the energy level for all of these efforts, admittedly, will be a challenge. The Department of Accountancy is up to that challenge.
- Accounting and Accountancy I
- Accounting and Accountancy II
- Decision Making For Accounting
- Accountancy Institutions & Regulation
- Accounting Measurement & Disclosure
- Accounting Control Systems
- Accountancy Workshop I and II
- Accountancy Workshop III
- Taxation Rules and Regulations
- Financial Reporting Standards
- Auditing Standards