Accounting in Context through the course

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Accounting numbers shape the way we live our lives today. In order to become competent in the field of accounting and management it is important to also understand how accounting works via, and beyond, a technical understanding of the rules and practices we accept as best practice today. It is important to understand how and why accounting changes; what accounting makes visible and manageable and the consequences of this; and how accounting impacts upon our businesses and our lives. In other words, to understand what we do when we do accounting we need to understand accounting itself. In this module we begin to explore how we understand accounting as information today, how accountants and regulators shape accounting numbers, and how accounting shapes us. So Accounting in Context does what the title suggests: we look at how accounting numbers are shaped by context and how they themselves shape our context.

This module develops what you have already learnt about accounting, and aims to facilitate you in developing connective knowledge and skills which can inform your engagement with accounting well beyond this module. On successful completion of the IB2300 module you should have developed your understanding of:

The historical emergence of contemporary accounting practices and ideas.

The contingent nature of accounting information and regulation, through engaging with the importance of understanding the historical, social, economic and political nature of accounting.

The basic elements of normative, positive and critical theory (in accounting)

The need to contextualize technical accounting information in order to interpret it.

RECOMMENDED READING

You are expected to:

[1] read the essential reading indicated by the lecturer each week (on their handouts and/or my.wbs)- this will often be 1 or 2 chapters of the main (compulsory) textbook but may be a research paper or other article.

[2] read the materials provided for seminars before the seminar

You are also advised to keep up-to-date with the business press for background knowledge (e.g. Financial Times, Factiva - available as e-resources through the library).

Before the module starts: please read the assignment questions (part1 and 2) as this will give you a good idea of how to work each work in order to pull your thoughts from each week together for the December assignment.

Main Textbook

You are expected to have access to a copy of the core text:

[1] Deegan, C. & Unerman J. (2006) Financial Accounting Theory (European edition) McGraw Hill.

Other essential reading:

[2] Puxty, A.G. (1998) The Social and Organizational Context of Management Accounting Thomson

The section pp. 1-20 is compulsory reading and will be provided. (Reading other sections is optional). You are not required to purchase this text.

[3] Hines, R.D (1988) "Financial Accounting: In Communicating Reality, We Construct Reality" Accounting, Organizations and Society, 13 (3) pp.251-261

This will be provided

[4] Other reading as provided for seminars, and any reading indicated as essential by lecturers

Other Useful Texts:

This module is closely related to issues covered in Financial Reporting 1. For any students not taking FR1 the core text for that module may be a helpful supplement:

Elliott, B., and Elliott, J. (2009), Financial Accounting and Reporting, 13th edition, FT Prentice Hall, London. ISBN 978-0273712312

NB: The chapter relating to trend and ratio analysis is essential background for the examination case study.

Other books providing useful information and perspectives (for background supplementary and further reading) are:

Belkaoui, A.(1992) Accounting Theory London: Academic Press

Or other textbooks with 'accounting theory' in the title

Chapman, C.S., Cooper, D. J. & Miller, P. (eds) (2009) Accounting, Organizations and Institutions: Essays in Honour of Anthony Hopwood Oxford: Oxford University Press

Edwards, J. R. & Walker, S. P, (eds) (2009) The Routledge Companion to Accounting History London: Routledge

Hopwood, A. & Miller, P. (eds) (1994) Accounting as Social and Institutional Practice Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

McPhail, K. & Walters, D. (2009) Accounting and Business Ethics London: Routledge

NB Check each week's lecture notes for additional instructions and references to other books and journal articles.

Supplementary Material:

Students are also encouraged to refer to relevant journal articles. Some of the useful journals for this module are:

Abacus

Accountancy

Accounting and Business Research

Accounting and Public Policy

Accounting Horizons

Accounting, Organizations and Society

British Accounting Review

Critical Perspectives on Accounting

European Accounting Review

Journal of Accounting Research

Journal of Business Finance and Accounting

The Accounting Review

Useful Web Links:

In addition to making use of the various relevant resources available on the school web and from the library, you may find some of these links useful for the module:

http://www.iasb.org.uk The International Accounting Standards Boards:

http://www.frc.org.uk The Financial Reporting Council:

http://www.fasb.org/ The Financial Accounting Standards Boards

http://www.icaew.co.uk/ The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

http://www.accaglobal.com/ Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

www.cimaglobal.com Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

http://www.AccountingEducation.com Website for the accounting education community:

http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/index.html Accounting news site

http://visar.csustan.edu/aaba/home.html The Association for Accountancy and Business Affairs (an association with a critical perspective on accounting and accountancy)

SEMINAR ATTENDANCE

The seminars are central to your ability to progress in this module. In these you will have 2 sessions dedicated to practicing your approach for the summer case study, and the remainder are directly linked to content needed for your reflective assignment and the likely themes for essay questions in the exam. Not only is attendance crucial but so too is your preparation for the seminars in advance of the actual session.

NB University formal monitoring procedures are in place and persistent absence will be noted by the module team and the programme team.

A 12 CAT module should translate roughly into 120 hours of study

MODULE ASSESSMENT

For 12 CATS students, the module assessment comprises

I - Assignment (20%). A reflective writing assignment in two parts. Part 1 to be handed in on Monday 18th October 2010 and Part 2 on Friday 17th December 2010.

II - Written examination, one-and-a-half hours, Summer 2011 (80%)

This will consist of a pre-release case study (case distributed at the end of Spring term) and an essay question (choice of one out of three questions in previous years).

For 15 CATS students, the two pieces of assessment (assignment and exam) detailed above are worth 80% of the marks for this module and a written assignment worth 20% (3 CATS) will be available on request. Please email Fiona Anderson-Gough if you require this assessment.

Revision lectures will be delivered early in the summer term to brief you on the case study and support your revision for the examination.

Understanding and Managing Accounting in Context

This module can be a very different experience of learning for many students. It is perhaps for many of you just the beginning of a detailed critical engagement with the field of knowledge you have chosen to specialise in. In Week 1 we discuss a little about the active engagement you need to have as a learner in this module. We understand, however, that this is not necessarily easy, and we would expect this module to provoke some anxiety for some of you*. The following points are offered as practical advice to help you manage and progress in this module:

[1] Managing Expectations: We don't expect expert answers - so you perhaps need to try and change your understanding of what you think our expectations of you are. We will try to help you do this where we can. We have provided a number of seminars based around the first part of the exam - the performance review of a company. The remaining seminars, lectures and reading are likely essay topics and we will indicate broad themes which are assessable as the module progresses.

In the seminars - some of you may be able to answer the questions we ask you as we go along, some of you may feel you cannot - yet. By hearing us ask the questions - we hope you might pick up on some of these issues and learn/decide that some of the questions were useful questions to ask - then you will have learnt more about 'asking good questions'.

[2] Managing the Reading: In terms of examinable content - the Deegan and Unerman reading and any journal articles we give you for the seminar are examinable. When reading the chapters and making your own notes you might want to note down the:

key aspects of interest/concern in each chapter from the perspective of people interested in the theory/topic being discussed (what questions were they asking?);

main ways people have investigated these topics (and compare the different methods of researching topics across chapters) (how did they answer the questions they were interested in?);

key aspects of the historical, social and/or political context that made the questions important at the time and/or make them still important questions today;

main ways in which accounting affects how we behave (e.g. how we allocate resources, how we decide whether we are performing well or badly etc)

key aspects of the context that shape how we calculate, disclose, disseminate accounting (and the way we therefore regulate accounting and people's behaviour).

The questions that you might now ask contemporary accountants (including yourself) based on what you have learnt - e.g. should we value international standards, how would we know whether we should?

What sort of learning does Accounting in Context require?

*Without wishing to exaggerate this too much, we might frame the learning that this sort of module can engender as akin to learning which looks to promote autonomous learning. Such learning experiences can be understood as having the following effects on the learner:

"This cycle of the growth of self-directed learning consists of the following stages:

Disconfirmation. At this point some aspect of the learner's existing expectations and assumptions become challenged by the learner's current experiences and the learner becomes disoriented.

Disorientation. During this period of confusion the learner becomes anxious and withdraws from sources of confusion.

Naming the problem. This is the stage when the learner is able to identify the problem without blaming self and others.

Exploration. This is a more relaxed phase in which the learner can explore the problem area in an open-ended and collaborative way, gaining insights, confidence and satisfaction.

Reflection. At this point the learners engage in a private reflective review of where they are up to.

Reorientation. Through private reflection the learner gains a major insight or synthesis of ideas and develops a new approach to the learning task.

Sharing the discovery. Having developed new ideas, the learner then tests these out with others.

Equilibrium. During this phase the learner elaborates, refines and applies his or her new perspective and approach."

(From Higgs, J (1988) Planning Learning Experiences to Promote Autonomous Learning in Boud, D. (1988) Developing Student Autonomy in Learning London: Kogan Page pp.45-46)

As well as keeping up with the reading, preparing for seminars and engaging in discussion other sources of support in learning how to succeed in this module can be found at the Centre for Student Development and Enterprise (such as guidance on note taking, essay writing, critical thinking etc).

Lectures: The lectures are designed so that lecturers share some knowledge with students, but the lectures are also designed to frame issues and questions. The lectures in this module are not designed to be neatly packaged chunks of information which can be simply passed from one person to the next. For this module we use the lectures to also raise and frame questions and issues that we expect you to engage with through the seminars, through reading and through the writing in the assessment and examinations: it's up to you to construct your full notes for this module through your engagement with the lectures, seminars and reading.

Seminars: remember the term derives from the Latin term for seed-bed, so the seminar should be a place for your ideas and intellectual development: but you need to come ready to discuss the materials and what you think about them. This will be good practice at articulating ideas which you may need to write about later.

KEY:

Seminars are identified by a letter

Faculty initials: FA/G: Fiona Anderson-Gough, ACF: Ann-Christine Frandsen, KH: Keith Hoskin

Seminars

Week 3: Seminar A: Introduction and Ruth Hines (Creating Reality) Piece

Week 4: Seminar B: Regulation theories and Legitimacy Theory (incl. the role of the annual report)

Week 5: Seminar C: The Accounting Profession

Week 6: Seminar D: Professional Ethics

Week 7: Seminar E: Positive Accounting Theory

Week 8: Seminar F: Critical Theory and Management Accounting

Week 9: Seminar G: Case Study

Week 10: Seminar H: Case Study

IB2300 Accounting in Context

Term 1, 2010 - Assignment

Part 1: hand-in date: Monday 18th October (start Week 3)

Reflective Learning Assignment (20% of assessment)

Key information (ensure you read this before attempting the question)

Structure

This assignment comes in two parts. The first part must be handed-in by Monday 18 October 2010, and the second part by Friday 17th December 2010.

Word Count: Part 1 minimum 200 words, maximum 350

The total assignment [Parts 1 and 2] must total approx 1100 words (+/- 10%)

So word count for Part 2 depends on how much you wrote in Part 1 but will be between 750 and 900 words

*Please submit this electronically as per other assignments and make sure it is anonymous with only your student number and word count noted (no names please).

Aims and objectives of the assignment

The aim of this assignment is to help you get the most from the module by requiring you to reflect on what you have learnt over the term as a result of your work for the module (e.g. summarising main points of lectures, seminar work, and importantly the reading and learning which you must do each week as the module progresses).

This piece of work is therefore a reflective learning assignment rather than a straightforward essay. This means that in marking your work our main focus will be on how you discuss your knowledge and ideas: crucially it will be on how you write about how and why your knowledge and ideas have been developed and changed (or not) and perhaps even challenged during the module. In order to facilitate this reflection we will ask you the same question about accounting in Part 1 and Part 2. In Part 2 we will expect you to review what you wrote for Part 1. So it is very important that:

you keep a copy of your assignment in order to do this,

and that you do both parts of the assignment as no mark will be awarded if only one part is submitted.

Responsibility for ability to complete this assignment

In Part 2 (December) we will expect you to say how and why what you wrote for Part 1 has been developed or challenged. NB This is not a forum for you to give feedback on lectures and seminars (you can do that online via my.wbs). Even if you find the lectures and seminars unhelpful (which we hope will not be the case of course) you will be expected to have done the core reading which would assist your independent learning sufficiently to answer this question well. So, it is your responsibility to have read, learnt and reflected sufficiently throughout the 9 weeks of the module to be ready to attempt Part 2 in December. We hope you find having this task to do useful in structuring, motivating and timing your learning.

Feedback

This is really one piece of work as part one is set in order to give you something to use as a marker of your starting point which you will then reflect on. Therefore you will not receive any feedback on Part 1 separately. Our feedback to you will come in Term 2 based on our marking the two parts together as one piece of work.

So in December if you end up unhappy with what you wrote in October you can address this in December. What is important now is to answer the question based on what you know and think now.

Question

"The accounting profit figure is simply a measure of the true profit of an organisation." Discuss.

Required:

Part 1 is asking you to write what you know about accounting profit.

If there are issues you would like to discuss that the above statement raises for you then please do discuss them.

If you think there might be something this statement might be 'getting at' but you do not know what that might be that's fine. Just write what you know about the profit figure and calculation (how to do it for example and anything else that you think is useful - perhaps imagine you are telling someone who knows nothing about accounting what accounting profit is).

This statement should reflect where you stand, your starting point at the beginning of the module, on what you know and think about accounting profit. Therefore all your answers are likely to vary at least a bit, and maybe a lot. We want to know what you personally know right now, do not get tied up in trying to guess what you think we might want to hear. What you know right now (before starting the module) is what we want to read about.

Don't stress about this, it is only 200-350 words. We ask that you write this before you start the module reading. So write it as soon as you can, do not spend ages on it, just tell us what you know already - just see this as writing down your current working knowledge without reading up and doing research. Then you can get on with the reading and learning needed to get you ready for Part 2.

In sum: write 200-350 words on what you know about accounting profit and do it straight away.

IB2300 Accounting in Context

Term 1, 2009 - Assignment

Part 2: hand-in date: Friday 17th December 2010 (one week after end of term)

Reflective Learning Assignment (20% of assessment)

Key information (ensure you read this before attempting the question)

NB This is a different document to that for Part 1 - please read all of this document

Please submit this electronically as usual. Make sure that this upload has been successful. If there are problems with uploading you must contact the undergraduate office and resolve the problem immediately please.

Structure

This assignment comes in two parts. You handed the first part in at the beginning of Week 3. This second part must be handed-in by Friday 17th December 2010.

Word Count: The total assignment [Parts 1 and 2] must total approx. 1100 words - so part 2 depends on how much you wrote in Part 1 but will be between 750 and 900 words. Please state the total number of words with your student number at the top of the assignment as follows:

Word Count Part 1 =

Word Count Part 2 =

Total Word Count =

Aims and objectives of the assignment

The aim of this assignment is to help you get the most from the module by requiring you to reflect on what you have learnt over the term as a result of your work for the module (e.g. summarising main points of lectures, seminar work, and importantly the reading and learning which you must do each week as the module progresses).

This piece of work is therefore a reflective learning assignment rather than a straightforward essay. This means that in marking your work our main focus will be on how you discuss your knowledge and ideas: crucially it will be on how you write about how and why your knowledge and ideas have been developed and changed (or not) and perhaps even how they have been challenged during the module. In order to facilitate this reflection we are asking you the same question about accounting in Part 2 as we did in Part 1. In Part 2 we expect you to review what you wrote for Part 1. So it is very important that:

You remind yourself of what you wrote in Part 1 and refer to that either generally or with the aid of a few quotations in Part 2.

NB: Quotation of own previous answer. Please remember this assignment will be put through the Turnitin software. Therefore if you reproduce what you wrote in Part 1 please make sure you put quotation marks around it and reference it (i.e. as your Part 1 answer).

Remember you must do both parts of the assignment as no mark will be awarded if only one part is submitted.

Responsibility for ability to complete this assignment

In Part 2 (December) we will expect you to say how and why what you wrote for Part 1 has been developed or challenged. NB This is not a forum for you to give feedback on lectures and seminars (you can do that online via my.wbs). Even if you find the lectures and seminars unhelpful (which we hope won't be the case of course) you will be expected to have done the core reading which would assist your independent learning sufficiently to answer this question well. So, it is your responsibility to have read, learnt and reflected sufficiently throughout the 9 weeks of the module to be ready to attempt Part 2 in December. We hope you find having this task to do useful in structuring, motivating and timing your learning.

Feedback

This is really one piece of work as part one is set in order to give you something to use as a marker of your starting point which you will now use to help you reflect on your learning over the past few weeks. Therefore you have not received any feedback on Part 1 separately. Our feedback to you will come early in Term 2 based on our marking the two parts together as one piece of work.

Question

"The accounting profit figure is simply a measure of the true profit of an organisation."

Required

Discuss this statement, ensuring in doing this you explicitly reflect on how you have begun to think critically about different aspects of this statement during the learning you have done for this module.

Required (further elaboration):

In Part 1 you wrote what you know about accounting profit in October 2010.

As a result of the learning you have done for this module it is expected that you should now be in a position to critically explore, or analyse, this statement further than you did in October. We anticipate that at the very least you will be able to see that the italicised words in the statement:

"The accounting profit figure is simply a measure of the true profit of an organisation."

have been questioned and further unpacked in different ways across the module. Indeed we hope you have been noting and tracking this as the module progressed.

Key aspects of this task:

Demonstration of critical thinking

Explaining how the questioning facilitated by the module, and explaining how encountering the new information you have engaged with through lectures, seminars, and reading, has enabled you to think further about the key terms and claims in this statement is at the heart of the task you are being set here. Do not simply state that you have been enabled to think further and leave that claim unsupported. You must demonstrate that you can think further about this by taking an example or a few examples of what you have learnt/explored to support this point.

It is up to you whether you provide a number of examples of the ways these issues have opened up the possibility of critical thinking for you, or whether you concentrate on a particular topic. One of the first things you must be clear on of course is the different ways the lectures, seminars and required reading have actually challenged you to think about these issues. So going back over your lecture notes and seminar notes and focusing on this is the first stage of this task.

The lectures, seminars and readings have pointed you to consider issues relating to the compiling and measuring of profit (and accounting information generally), and to the disclosure of information as well as to the effects of the profit figure (and related measures) on our lives. It is up to you whether you comment on issues of the context in relation to measurement and regulation, and disclosure as preconditions of reporting profit, or whether you comment on issues about the effects of (disclosing and managing by) profit and related numbers, or whether you comment on both. That is - in thinking about what is simple/easy/purely technical and universal (or not) about 'profit' - it is up to you which part of those reflections you focus on.

Demonstration of Reflective Learning

This piece needs evidence of reflection: what does that mean?

For the seminars we have asked you to reflect on lecture content and bring your understanding of what was being said, and why it was being said, to the seminar for discussion. Likewise, we asked you to do the same with your core textbook reading. So at the heart of this reflective process is the assumption that you are responsible for developing what you know and understand about a subject. You need to work at making connections, understanding the relevance of topics and deciding how far you need to or want to take a question or topic (see e.g. autonomous learning stages in handbook or Kolb's learning cycle in the appendix to this document). As we said in the first week of the module (and discussed in the module handbook) learning requires an active engagement with the subject. This will have involved you asking yourself questions such as:

What were the key points for me that emerged from this seminar (and related lecture/reading)?

What are my observations/reflections on this seminar, and reading (this topic)?

What have I gained from this exercise (if nothing, why not) - what did other people seem to know, gain from it?

What could I do differently/more of next time?

So in evidencing your reflective learning you may wish to:

Discuss how particular topics, and/or reading, and/or tasks challenged you to think further about an issue you knew little about, or about which you assumed you did not need to think further about.

Raise questions about your assumptions, perspectives, emotional reactions to the subject, arguments that you did hold/do hold.

Reflect on why you originally held beliefs or views that may have changed now.

Briefly describe how this particular question helps you understand the importance of learning about accounting in its context - i.e. use this piece to reflect on a process of synthesis, of pulling together thoughts about the nature of accounting generally.

References

Please refer to the lecture material, seminar material, textbook reading and any additional reading you have done to help demonstrate your critical thinking and reflective learning. Make sure you use quotation marks if you are taking examples from them, and provide the details of the source properly.

NB: Referring to core textbook

Standard assessments in other modules will often advise you that referencing mainly (or at all) from the core textbook is not acceptable as it is not evidence that you have further researched the question. Those modules assignments require additional reading as part of demonstrating a satisfactorily in-depth review of the issue.

However, in this module because it is also a reflective learning piece we want to read about how you have used the content of the textbook as part of your reflective learning and so it is fine (and desirable) that there is some mention of Deegan and Unerman in your answer.

In relation to the critical thinking aspect of this task we of course also encourage you to refer to other reading you have done too (be this seminar reading or other pieces you may have tracked down yourself).

Approaches which could help you achieve good marks

Clear declaration of which aspects of the statement you wish to discuss critically (and why).

Clear presentation of how what you know/understand/believe/feel about the issues you wish to discuss is different to Part 1 answer (and/or the same).

Use of explanation and examples to make a point (rather than reliance on general assertions).

Discussion of how particular (referenced) topics, and/or reading, and/or tasks challenged you to think further about an issue you knew little about, or about which you assumed you did not need to think further about. Including detail about what precisely it made you think about.

Reflect on why you held beliefs or views that may have changed now.

Raise questions about your assumptions, perspectives, emotional reactions to the subject, arguments that you did hold/do hold.

Discuss difficult moments which you resolved for yourself in respect of understanding some of the issues relating to this statement.

Sufficient reflective comment - link content to how you have engaged with accounting during the module (more about style than number of words doing this)

Coherent writing style (spell checked, sound flow of argument)

Bibliography

No plagiarism!

In sum, to avoid low marks you need to be clear about what the task requires - think about the nature of critical thinking and reflective learning, take time to construct your answer, use it as an aid to pull the module together in your notes before the new term begins.

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