Try These Activities in Your Classroom Today

These fun alternatives to lecturing will get your students excited about accounting.

March 14, 2017

Lecturing has its uses, but it’s not always the best way to teach certain accounting concepts. Often, students learn better through hands-on activities. Here, four faculty members share some creative assignments and in-class activities they use to engage students. Try them in your own classroom—or simply use them as inspiration for your own lesson plans:

Monopoly: Alesha Graves, CPA, an assistant professor of accounting at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., uses the board game Monopoly to introduce accounting concepts as well as journal entries and posting to the general ledger. While playing the game and recording the transactions they make, students work through the entire accounting cycle, ending up with a complete set of financial statements.

Students working in teams of two play a round of the game. They use actual Monopoly boards and follow most of the rules of the board game, collecting “rent” when classmates land on their property, calculating depreciation on houses and hotels, and accruing interest on bank loans.

Students then reference those transactions during the next two or three class periods as the class discusses such topics as the elements of financial statements (assets, liabilities, and revenue) and how transactions affect the accounting equation. Graves brings the game back at the end of the semester as a comprehensive project.

Graves gives extra credit to the teams with the highest cash, revenue, and profit.

“Students were very excited when I walked into the room with the game,” she said. They “love to compete.”

Shark Tank: Carol Sullivan, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, brought the popular pitch-your-business ABC reality show Shark Tank into the classroom. Her version, which she uses in junior-level cost accounting and MBA-level control systems courses, requires students to propose a budget for a fictional or prospective business to an audience of their classmates.

Students must complete a pro forma income statement, a balance sheet, and a statement of cash flows, which they are then graded on. Sullivan and her students select two winners—one based on presentation and another based on votes from the audience—who receive bonus points on the final exam.

The exercise teaches students a much more thorough process in terms of the “accounting numbers” than the activities that take place on the show, Sullivan said. Students learn teamwork and how to turn an idea into a reasonable business plan. They also learn from the roadblocks they encounter along the way, she said: They “sometimes find that their ‘great idea’ is not viable at the price that they expect customers to be willing to pay or that the costs of production are too high.”

Friday Forums: Kelly McKenna, CPA, a visiting assistant professor of accounting at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., uses a teaching technique she calls “Friday Forum.” Each Friday, McKenna, who previously worked at PwC, gives a brief presentation on a news topic that relates to accounting.

“I highlight relevant quotes and media footage before opening it up to the class for reactions and thoughts,” she said, adding she serves as the nonpartisan moderator. “By examining the business aspect of current events, students recognize the applicability of business knowledge in their everyday life.” 

Recent topics students have discussed include President Donald Trump’s finances and Mylan’s EpiPen price hike.

Other skills students learn include knowing how to respectfully disagree and debate for a better outcome, McKenna said, adding: “They are gaining skills that will assist them in their collegiate and professional careers.”

Think, pair, share: Abraham Iqbal, CPA, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, uses a technique called “think, pair, share”—or lecture bursts—to get through to a generation accustomed to 140-character tweets and constant smartphone notifications.

“We as educators have to adapt to them, keep them engaged,” said Iqbal, who previously worked for EY. “Attention spans are so much shorter.”

Iqbal will introduce a topic with an eight-minute lecture and then ask a question. Students get into groups of two or three, discuss the question, and then share the answers with the class. Sometimes they’re asked to solve a mathematical calculation, or sometimes they’re asked to discuss an open-ended question with no right or wrong answer.

Each class can include several “bursts.” Students have “really caught on to it,” Iqbal said.

For more classroom ideas, visit the AICPA’s Accounting Professors’ Curriculum Resource, a compendium of exercises, cases, and activities.

Have you come up with a great idea for an assignment or classroom activity? Tell us about it at academicnews@aicpa.org or the AICPA Academics LinkedIn group.

Dawn Wotapka is a Georgia-based freelance writer. To comment on this story, email lead editor Courtney Vien.

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