Teaching Financial Accounting Principles Education Essay

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This paper aims to share experience in teaching Financial Accounting Principles course using hybrid PBL method. This course is offered to the first semester accounting and finance and banking students. 1148 students took the course, and out of that 214 students were taught using hybrid PBL and 934 other students used conventional method (lecturing). At the end of the semester, the results of the students were compared and interestingly, the results provide evidence on the superiority of the PBL method. The students with PBL method out-performed those without PBL. About 14% of PBL students scored A and A-, whereas for those students without PBL, only 6% of them scored A and A-. Majority of the PBL students (51%) scored B+, B and B- when percentage of those without PBL is 47%. As for the lower grades, less than 10% of PBL students scored C and C+, while those without PBL is at 18%. For D and D+, percentages of those students with PBL and without PBL are 8% and 18% respectively. For the failure rate, 7% of the PBL students failed the course while those without PBL who failed the course are 18%. In this paper, we also highlight how we developed the PBL project and the experiences in managing PBL class. The findings of our survey present evidences on the benefits of PBL as compared to non-PBL.

Keywords: PBL, PBL in Accounting, teaching Accounting course, learning PBL

Introduction

Problem-based learning (PBL) was implemented world-widely in many schools and universities. PBL places partial and explicit responsibility on the students' shoulders for their own learning. Unlike the conventional stand-and-deliver lecturer-centered approach where students listen passively to lectures, PBL emphasizes active, interactive and collaborative learning making it more student-centered (Azer, 2009; Hansen, 2006; Clouston and Whitcombe, 2005; Siaw, 2000; Vernon and Blake, 1993). Thus in PBL, the teacher acts to facilitate the learning process rather than to provide knowledge.

PBL project is an instructional approach that involves confronting students with problems from practice which provides a stimulus for learning. PBL makes use of problems to focus learning whereby it prepares students to think critically and analytically, and help them develop problem solving skills whilst searching for and gaining the appropriate knowledge.

In a report issued in 1990, the Accounting Education Change Commission in the U.S.A emphasized that "the overriding objective of accounting programs should be to teach students to learn on their own". The Hala Tuju 2 (Reassessment Report) on Accounting Programs at Public Universities of Malaysia 2006, highlights that problem-based learning and student-centered learning should be included as the teaching pedagogy. Flanagan (1997) highlights the importance of using PBL in introductory accounting courses to overcome the criticism from professional accounting bodies on the perceived inadequacies in communication skills, competence with information technology, problem solving skills and ability to work effectively in groups among accounting graduates.

There have been numerous studies showing that (PBL) is a superior approach to a traditional-lecture type approach in improving students' learning skills in problem solving (Newble and Clark, 1986), overall grade (Lai et al., 1999; Breton, 1999) and the students' attitudes and opinions about their program (Vernon and Blake, 1993). Vernon and Blake's findings showed that PBL students not only placed more emphasis on understanding than on producing compared to students from traditional programs, but also demonstrated a greater independence in their learning method than did the traditional-lecture type students. Siaw (2000) highlights that most students felt group interaction not only enhances their learning, enables them to support each other in their own group, and makes sharing easier, but also makes it the most valuable part of learning in the PBL experience. Her study on using PBL in accounting and statistics shows that the implementation of PBL is perceived to be more successful in the Accounting discipline.

However, research has also shown that PBL problems have not always been effective (O'Neill, 2000; van Gessel, Nendaz, Vermeulen, Junod, & Vu, 2003). Farnsworth (1994) criticized that PBL is an ineffective instructional method because learners have to gather information through self-directed learning and it is costly because it requires more faculty and time to conduct the course. Kirschner et al. (2006) also claimed that PBL is less effective than traditional methods because its approach of providing minimum guidance is not compatible with human cognitive architecture.

Comparing students' performance on progress tests under PBL and traditional curriculum, Verhoeven et al. (1998) find that the traditional students obtained better scores on basic science while PBL students performed better on social science. Also, to their surprise, the PBL students did not outperform non-PBL students in clinical science in the first and second years in their programs.

According to Hung (2009), the design of problems is crucial for the effectiveness of problem-based learning (PBL). Hung developed the 3C3R PBL problem design model as a conceptual framework for guiding the design of reliable and effective PBL problems for all levels of learners by addressing the specific characteristics of PBL and its implementation. 3Cs represent content, context and connection while 3Rs comprises of researching, reasoning, and reflecting, which support the cognitive processes of problem solving skills and self-directed learning. For accounting courses, Hansen (2006) suggested how end-of-chapter problem in accounting could be converted into a PBL project to reflect the real world problem so that students can think critically, able to find learning resources, work cooperatively and communicate effectively.

As part of innovative teaching and learning initiative, we, at the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), have embarked on PBL method at the Faculty of Accountancy (currently known as the UUM College of Business or COB), starting from the First Semester 2006/07. We embedded (partially) this PBL project in the Financial Accounting Principles course (KAF 1023). This course is taken by Accounting, Finance and Banking students in their first year of undergraduate study. For that semester, we conducted the PBL and non-PBL classes concurrently. The problems highlighted in the project are specific problems faced by a fast-growing company involves in halal food manufacturing business, particularly the recording of transactions either manually or using computerized system and making sound business decision.

The paper proceeds as follows. The next section highlights the development of the PBL project. Next, we share our experience in managing PBL class and provide evidence on the superiority of the PBL method. Then, we present evidences on the benefits of PBL versus non-PBL from the students' perceptions, quantitatively and qualitatively. The last section concludes the discussion.

Developing the PBL project

In tandem with the objective and learning outcomes of the Financial Accounting Principles course (KAF 1023), the PBL Project is aimed to achieve the following learning outcomes where students are able to:

Identify, classify, record, summarize and report socio-economic events which affect organizations.

Prepare financial statements in accordance with applicable approved accounting standards.

Interpret and evaluate financial and non-financial information for decision-making.

Use and evaluate information technologies and systems for the attainment of organizational objectives.

Think critically in the application of knowledge and suggest possible solutions to accounting issues.

Integrate other business and management applications to their basic accounting core competencies.

Work collaboratively in a management team.

Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, with different stakeholders.

Demonstrate behaviour consistent with professional ethics and social responsibility.

Demonstrate a commitment to life-long learning and professional development.

Demonstrate leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

We constructed a set of problems faced by a fast-growing company involves in halal food manufacturing business, particularly the recording of transactions and using accounting information for business decision making, to engage students' curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. To reflect the real halal food manufacturing business, we interviewed the CEO of a halal food manufacturer and distributor and visited the plant. The problems help to facilitate self-directed learning of six of the ten topics contained in KAF 1023 syllabus. The problems were divided into four entry documents using memos and were integrated into the course content as shown in Table 1.

Table 1:

Course content and class activity

NO

TOPIC/ACTIVITY

NO

TOPIC/ACTIVITY

1.

INTRODUCTION TO ACCOUNTING

What is Accounting

Accounting Profession

Internal and External users of Accounting Information

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Professional Accounting Bodies and Standard Setting in Malaysia

Statutory and Capital market requirements

International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)

Financial Statements

ACTIVITY: LECTURE & DISCUSSION

6.

ACCOUNTING FOR MANUFACTURING OPERATION

6.1 Environment for Manufacturing Operation

6.2 Manufacturing Cost Concept

6.3 Product Cost v. Period Cost

6.4 Financial Statements for

Manufacturing Firms

ACTIVITY: PBL-Memo 1

PROBLEM SOLVING

2.

THE RECORDING PROCESS

Business Transaction & Accounting Equation

Account

Chart of Account

Steps in the Recording Process

Trial Balance

Correction of Errors

ACTIVITY: PBL- Memo 1

7.

SUBSIDIARY LEDGER AND SPECIAL JOURNAL

8.1 Internal Control

8.2 Subsidiary Ledgers

8.3 Special Journals

ACTIVITY: PBL-Memo 3

3.

ADJUSTING ENTRIES

3.1 Basics of Adjusting Entries

3.2 Types of Adjusting Entries

3.3 Journalizing and posting adjusting entries

3.4 The Adjusted Trial Balance

ACTIVITY: PBL-Memo 1 and 2

8.

INCOMPLETE RECORDS

9.1 Single Entry System and Incomplete Records

9.2 Preparing the Income Statement

Comparing Method & Analysis Method

9.3 Preparing the Balance Sheet

Comparing Method & Analysis Method

ACTIVITY: PROBLEM SOLVING

4.

COMPLETING THE ACCOUNTING CYCLE

4.1 Using a Work Sheet with

Excel application

4.2 Closing Entries

Preparing closing Entries

Posting Closing Entries

Preparing a Post-Closing Trial Balance

4.3 Preparation of Financial Statement

4.4 Reversing Entries

ACTIVITY: PBL-Memo 1

9.

FINANCIAL STATEMENT ANALYSIS

10.1 Basics of Financial Statement Analysis

10.2 Horizontal Analysis with Excel application

10.3 Vertical Analysis with Excel application

10.4 Ratio Analysis:

10.5 Analysis using Excel

10.6 Interpretation of Analysis Results

ACTIVITY: PBL-Memo 4

5.

ACCOUNTING FOR MERCHANDISING OPERATIONS

5.1 Merchandising Transactions

Purchase and Sales

Purchase Discounts

Purchase Returns and Allowances

Freight Costs

5.2 Recording the Transaction

Periodic Inventory System

Perpetual Inventory System

5.3 Adjusting Entries

5.4 Financial Statement

5.5 Closing Entries

5.6 Post-Closing Trial Balance

ACTIVITY: PROBLEM SOLVING

10.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

11.1 Objectives of Financial Reporting

11.2 Qualitative Characteristics of Accounting Information

11.3 Elements of Financial Statement

11.4 Measurement and Recognition Principles

11.5 Assumptions

ACTIVITY: LECTURE & DISCUSSION

In organizing PBL class, we followed the same syllabus as was used in non-PBL class. However, to achieve the learning outcomes of the course, we created several problems in the entry documents in memos form. For each of the memos, the coverage of the topics, the number of weeks allocated and the learning outcomes for each of the entry documents are shown in Table 2.

Table 2:

Topics, duration and learning outcomes of the entry documents

Entry documents

Topics

Duration (weeks)

Learning Outcome

Memo 1

+ Additional memo

The recording process

Adjusting entries

Completing the accounting cycle

Accounting for merchandising and manufacturing

2 + 1

Analyze the effects of business transactions on the basic accounting equation.

Explain why accounts are used to record and summarize the effects of transactions on financial statements.

Explain what account is and how it helps in the recording process.

Define debits and credits and explain how they are used to record business transactions.

Identify the basic steps in the recording process.

Use the source documents and its contents in the recording process.

Prepare journal entries, ledgers, trial balance.

Explain the approaches to preparing correcting entries

Preparing financial statements

Differential between merchandising and manufacturing

Memo 2

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

Adjusting entries

1

Explain how the matching concept relates to the accrual basis of accounting.

Explain why adjustments are necessary and list the characteristics of adjusting entries.

Journalize entries for accounts requiring adjustment.

Summarize the adjustment process and prepare an adjusted trial balance.

Memo 3

Presentation

Subsidiary ledger and special journal

Accounting Software

1.5

Use Mr Accounting software.

Use the subsidiary ledger.

Demonstrate how special journals are used in journalizing the transactions.

Test whether the subsidiary ledger agrees with general ledger.

Presentation skill

Memo 4

Presentation

Financial statement analysis

2

Discuss the need for comparative study.

Identify the tools of financial statement analysis.

Explain and apply horizontal analysis.

Describe and apply vertical analysis.

Identify and compute ratios, and describe their purpose and use in analyzing a firm's liquidity, profitability and solvency.

Apply financial statement analysis to assess the profitability of a business.

Recognize the limitations of financial statement analysis.

Presentation skill

Total weeks

7.5

After several brainstorming sessions among the colleagues, we crafted a set of driving questions as a driving force of the project before we designed the project activities. Good driving questions will motivate students in finding more information. The driving questions embedded in the memos to help students identify what they need to learn in order to solve the problems are: 1. How can we, as account executives, record transactions and prepare financial statements so that accounting information gives a true and fair view of the business activities? 2. How can we, as investors, evaluate the financial performance of the business entity so that we can make a sound business decision?

The set of problems that were created and presented in the entry documents, which comprise of four memos from the Finance Manager to Assistant Accountant, are shown in Table 3. For each memo to be given to the students, we attached together other relevant documents, such as background of the problems and source documents (invoices, bills, receipts and vouchers) of the business transactions for the students to solve the problems.

Table 3:

Entry documents - memos

MEMO 1

MEMO 2

CTKAY FOOD SDN BHD

Memo

From: Dato' Kay (Finance Manager)

To: Ms CT, Assistant Accountant

Date: 23.7.2006

Subject: Bank Requirement for Loan Application

We received an offer to supply halal frozen food to Tesco outlets worldwide. In view of our business expansion, there is an urgent need for the firm to obtain fresh loan from the financial institution. One of the requirements for the loan application is the latest audited financial statements. In relation to this, please get the financial statements ready to be audited in two weeks time. Please ensure that the financial statements for the year ended 30/6/06 are prepared according to the required format.

CTKAY FOOD SDN BHD

From: Dato' Kay (Finance Manager)

To: Ms CT, Assistant Accountant

Date: 6.8.2006

Subject: Miscellaneous Queries

I need your confirmation and advice on the following matters:

i) Our technician, Jufri Ismail, claimed that he has been underpaid by a total of RM540 over the last few months. Please investigate and take corrective action, if necessary.

Our MD's husband has asked me to buy a diamond necklace to be given to Puan Hajjah Wan Tempawan as a present on the occasion of their wedding anniversary. Attached is the invoice for your further action.

Given that we are planning to appoint franchisees in the near future, please advise me on the appropriate method of recognizing "sales" of frozen cakes to the franchisees.

Do we treat packaging materials as part of cost of goods manufactured or as operating expenses? Please justify our chosen method.

I noticed that our latest bill from Tenaga shows the last meter reading was done on 20 June 2006. Do we need to include usage of electricity from 21 June until 30 June 2006 in our income statement for the financial year ended 30 June 2006? Why or why not?

I was informed by G-Mart Sdn Bhd that they received the same invoice 001376 dated 24 June 2006 twice from us. According to them the delivery that we made in June were as follows:

Date of Delivery

Total Invoice

4 June 2006

RM4,500

14 June 2006

RM5,500

24 June 2006

RM5,500

Did we double-bill G-Mart in June 2006?

Please consider the above matters and prepare your written response to all the points raised. I expect you to make the adjustments, if necessary, in the draft financial statements to be submitted on 13 August 2006.

MEMO 3

MEMO 4

CTKAY FOOD SDN BHD

Memo

From: Dato' Kay (Finance Manager)

To: Ms CT, Assistant Accountant

Date: 3.9.2006

Subject: Mr Accounting

I was disappointed to discover that there are so many errors associated with the manual accounting system. MySoft Sdn Bhd, the developer of Mr Accounting has kindly let us use the software on a trial basis. Please re-enter all the last month transactions using Mr Accounting. Please advise me whether we should shift to the computerized accounting system. Presentation should be arranged either on the 12th or 13th of September 2006.

CTKAY FOOD SDN BHD

Memo

From: Dato' Kay (Finance Manager)

To: Ms CT, Assistant Accountant

Date: 3.10.2006

Subject: Exit Strategy - A Potential Buyer

Due to strong demand from Tesco, the company is in need for an urgent expansion. I received an offer from the management of Vision Food Sdn Bhd to buy all the shares in our company. Please consult me on this matter. The next meeting with Vision Food Sdn Bhd is on the 15.10.2006. Please ensure that all your working papers are ready to be presented to me on the 10.10.2006. Herewith, I attached the company's profile and financial information for your further action.

Additional memo was provided to the students after Memo 1 to extend the date of submission after we found that the students were facing difficulties and struggling to complete the task of memo 1. The memo stated "Refer to my memo dated 23.7.2006, I've been informed by our external auditor that they want to postpone their audit job for another week. For that reason, you could submit the audited financial statement for the year ended 30.6.2006 by 13.8.2006."

We documented our PBL project and named it as "CTKAY PBL Documentation" which consists of students' materials and instructor manual. Students' materials include aim and synopsis of the project; instruction to students; entry documents, student logs and assessment rubrics. Instruction to facilitators is provided to help lecturers handle the classes.

The project then, was carried out by assigning students to work cooperatively in a group of five students. Each PBL and non-PBL session consists of two hours with a group of 30 to 50 students per class. The PBL project contributes 30% of the course total marks. For non-PBL group, the project was replaced with the mid-term examination. The marks allocated for the PBL project are as follows: written report for each of the memos (4 @ 20% each), two presentations for memos 3 and 4 (15%) and student's logs and peer evaluation (5%). The assessments for PBL project were done using assessment rubrics. Another 10% of the course marks comprise of quizzes and assignments. For both PBL and non-PBL groups, the remaining marks for the course come from final examination (60%).

Managing PBL in class

As we were trained by the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) [1] , the way we handled PBL in class was influenced by the approach introduced by the BIE. Learning using PBL for the first time is a challenge to the students since they are so used to traditional-lecture method. To prepare the students mindset and to keep students motivated are part and parcel of PBL process in class. The process of giving motivation to students in class, to a group of students and also to individual student is a continuous task for the lecturers. We tried to expose the students about the current situations and challenges that they will face when they join the market place in the future. The exposure to the expectations on fresh graduates in the real world would help students to be eager in learning accounting using PBL.

Teamwork is very essential as all problem-solving activities in PBL are done by the students in group. We divided the students into small heterogeneous groups where we considered several aspects, i.e. ethnicity, gender, prior exposure in accounting and qualification at entry point. Handling and getting cooperation among the group members were always difficult to students. In the real world, these problems cannot be avoided, so the best thing to say is "Welcome to the real world!!!" The students are encouraged to settle their group conflicts by themselves.

Students were presented with a problem by giving an entry document that we have created earlier. They were required to discuss and find out learning issues. They were also required to explore new information. At this point, the lecturers moved around to monitor their work and guided the students in their time and work allocation. The students were allowed to exit from the problem by presenting their solution in either written report or group presentation. At the end, we handled a debriefing session to explain the process the students have undergone. This session is crucial to correct misconceptions observed during the presentation/ learning process and to highlight the importance of allowing the students to grapple with the issue or concepts to solve the ill-structured problems. Table 4 below shows the example of the process in conducting the activities in reference to memo 1. This process was guided by the facilitators' manual.

Table 4:

Steps in conducting the PBL - sample memo 1

First session

Distribute Instructions to Students.

Distribute Memo 1, Appendices 1 and 2 to students.

Discuss Instructions to Students with the whole class.

Assign students into groups.

Discuss the Memo 1 from Dato' Kay, Appendices 1 and 2 with the students.

Identify problem statement..*

"How can we as ? do ? so that ?" (Refer to driving questions)

List of 'what we know' and 'what we need to know'.*

Possible solutions:

What we know

To prepare financial statement (F/S)

To be ready in two weeks time

For loan application

F/S external users

Manufacturing co.

Frozen food industries

What we need to know

Required format of financial statement (FRS Requirement)

Recording process

Have the groups analyze a few documents/business transactions using accounting equations.

Revise with the whole class on analyze documents/ business transactions using accounting equations.

Have students make log entry.*

Second session

Have the groups discuss and prepare the following process:

Journal entry / worksheet

Posting T-Accounts

Trial balance

Assign the students (homework) to differentiate the financial statement for different type (service, merchandizing and manufacturing companies) and form of business (sole proprietor, partnership and company).

Third session

Discuss the financial statement for different type (service, merchandizing and manufacturing companies) and form of business (sole proprietor, partnership and company).

Have the groups prepare the financial statement to be audited.

Fourth session

Due project for Memo 1

Wrap-up and debriefing session

Explain the process they have undergone.

Check understanding and/or correct misconceptions observed during the learning process.

Highlight the importance of allowing them to wrestle with the issues or theories/concepts to solve the problem.

* These steps can be repeated.

Overall academic performance in KAF 1023

Based on the overall results of 1,148 students taking KAF 1023 Financial Accounting Principles in the First Semester 2006/2007, we compared the academic performance of all students with PBL method and students with conventional methods as shown in Table 5. About 14% of PBL students scored A and A-, whereas for those students without PBL, only 6% of them scored A and A-. 51% of the PBL students scored B+, B and B-, while percentage of those without PBL is 47%. For lower grades, C and C+, less than 10% of PBL students are in that category, while those without PBL is at higher rate of 18%. The same case goes for D and D+ where percentages of those students with PBL and without PBL are 8% and 18% respectively. For the failure rate, about 7% of the PBL students failed the course while those without PBL who failed the course are 18%.

Table 5:

Result of all students taking KAF 1023

We run the robustness test to ensure that the total results reflect the students' performance, and is not influenced by the coursework marks. The result shows that for both final exam and coursework, students from PBL class scored higher marks than non-PBL class.

Survey on students toward PBL versus non-PBL

A total of 267 students, which represent 23% of the total students taking KAF 1023, who had attended the PBL and the traditional non-PBL methods, were surveyed. This questionnaire is adapted from Newman (2002). The survey asked students about how activities in the KAF 1023 class had benefitted them. Opinion questions were on a 5-point Likert scale, 5 representing "strongly agree" and 1 for "strongly disagree".

Quantitative results

Table 6 shows the sample's descriptive statistics. Based on the table, the composition of the PBL groups and non-PBL groups are comparable in terms of gender, degree program, prior education and prior accounting exposure.

Table 6:

Descriptive data - Background of the respondents

(N= 267, unless stated)

Frequency (%) of students

PBL class

Non PBL class

Total

No. of students

166 (0.62)

101 (0.38)

267

No. of classes

7 (0.7)

3 (0.3)

10

No. of lecturers

5 (0.71)

2 (0.29)

7

Gender:

Female

Male

135 (0.81)

31 (0.19)

82 (0.81)

19 (0.19)

217

50

Degree Program (N= 265):

Accounting

Non-Accounting

119 (0.72)

46 (0.28)

71 (0.70)

29 (0.30)

190

75

Prior Education [2] (N= 264):

STPM

Matriculation

48 (0.29)

116 (0.71)

32 (0.32)

68 (0.68)

80

184

Prior Accounting Exposure

(N= 261):

Yes

No

139 (0.84)

24 (0.16)

88 (0.87)

10 (0.13)

227

34

Table 7 compares the performance of the PBL students versus non-PBL students partitioned by grade A achievers and non-A graders. Consistent with Table 5, Table 7 panel A shows that PBL students moderately out-performed non-PBL students as indicated by the Pearson chi-squared (p=0.07). Panel B expands the result in Panel A by splitting non-A graders into grades B, C, D and F. Similarly, consistent with Table 5, the proportion of students with A or B grades is higher for PBL classes (84%) than non-PBL classes (79%).

Table 7:

Results of students surveyed

(N= 261)

Panel A: Grade A and Non-A

Frequency (%) of students

PBL class

Non PBL class

Total

Grade A

26 (0.16)

8 (0.08)

34

Grade Non-A

138 (0.84)

92 (0.92)

230

Total

164

100

Chi-square test ( 2 ) = 3.42 at p value= 0.065

Panel B: Individual mean result and grades

Grades

Mean

Overall Marks

PBL (non-PBL)

Frequency (%) of students

PBL class

Non PBL class

Total

A

83.12 (81.75)

26 (0.16)

8 (0.08)

34 (0.13)

B

69.42 (70.07)

113 (0.68)

72 (0.71)

185 (0.69)

C

54.42 (53.40)

12 (0.07)

10 (0.10)

22 (0.08)

D

44.09 (43.67)

11 (0.07)

6 (0.06)

17 (0.06)

F

37.00 (31.00)

2 (0.01)

4 (0.04)

6 (0.02)

Total

166

101

267

Table 8 shows the average marks obtained by PBL class versus non-PBL class partitioned by degree programs. Students in accounting programs scored higher than non-accounting programs. For both accounting and non-accounting programs, the scores obtained by students are higher for the PBL groups than the non-PBL groups. However, only for accounting programs, the average scores in the PBL groups is moderately significant (p=0.092).

Table 8:

Comparison results between PBL and Non-PBL classes for both Non-Accounting and Accounting Program (Using T-test)

Program

Overall Marks

N

Mean

t-value

Sig (2-tailed)

Accounting Program

PBL class

None PBL class

118

71

72.08

69.92

1.655

1.693

.100

.092

Non-Accounting Program

PBL class

45

59.38

1.655

.386

None PBL class

28

56.61

0.906

.368

Table 9 shows the perceptions of the students on how they have benefited from activities in class. Based on the table, PBL class provides significant benefit in the following aspects: presentation skills, ability to work as a member of the team, leadership ability and ability to use IT. Contrary to expectation, PBL groups score lower in terms of stimulating students to carry-on learning although it is not statistically significant. We feel this could be due to students' perception that they were over-burdened as compared to non-PBL groups.

Table 9:

Students of PBL and Non PBL classes' views on how activities in class benefited them.

Type of class

N

Mean

T-Test for equality of means

t-value

Sig. (2-tailed)

Changed my way of thinking about accounting.

PBL class

165

3.82

Equal variances assumed

.064

.949

None PBL class

101

3.81

Equal variances not assumed

.066

.947

Changed my way of thinking about getting information.

PBL class

165

3.92

Equal variances assumed

.064

.868

None PBL class

101

3.93

Equal variances not assumed

-.179

.858

Changed my way of thinking about learning.

PBL class

165

4.08

Equal variances assumed

.426

.670

None PBL class

101

4.04

Equal variances not assumed

.434

.664

Changed my personal attitudes and beliefs.

PBL class

163

3.82

Equal variances assumed

.720

.472

None PBL class

101

3.75

Equal variances not assumed

.724

.470

Improved my presentation skills.

PBL class

165

3.92

Equal variances assumed

3.622

.000

None PBL class

100

3.54

Equal variances not assumed

3.751

.000

Improved my ability to deal with conflicts.

PBL class

165

3.96

Equal variances assumed

1.024

.307

None PBL class

101

3.85

Equal variances not assumed

1.056

.292

Improved my ability to work as a member of a team.

PBL class

164

4.15

Equal variances assumed

2.084

.038

None PBL class

101

3.95

Equal variances not assumed

2.117

.035

Improved my leadership ability.

PBL class

163

3.90

Equal variances assumed

4.168

.000

None PBL class

98

3.49

Equal variances not assumed

4.281

.000

Improved my ability to do accounting process.

PBL class

164

4.00

Equal variances assumed

-1.307

.192

None PBL class

100

4.13

Equal variances not assumed

-1.345

.180

Improved my ability to manage my own learning and personal development.

PBL class

165

3.91

Equal variances assumed

-.543

.587

None PBL class

101

3.96

Equal variances not assumed

-.576

.565

Improved my ability to manage information.

PBL class

165

3.90

Equal variances assumed

.185

.853

None PBL class

101

3.88

Equal variances not assumed

.195

.846

Improved my ability to use information technology.

PBL class

164

4.07

Equal variances assumed

2.110

.036

None PBL class

101

3.87

Equal variances not assumed

2.124

.035

Stimulated me to carry on learning.

PBL class

164

3.82

Equal variances assumed

-1.662

.098

None PBL class

100

3.96

Equal variances not assumed

-1.689

.093

Increased my confidence to question accounting policy and practice.

PBL class

165

3.84

Equal variances assumed

.008

.993

None PBL class

101

3.84

Equal variances not assumed

.008

.993

Qualitative results

The survey instrument also provides avenue for students to comment in detail about their learning experience. Based on what students say about PBL learning experience can provide us some insights into how we should handle PBL class in future. We categorized their feedbacks into four themes: PBL is an acceptable way of learning accounting; PBL is challenging way of learning but offer a great benefit; PBL helps student to improve team work, communication and other soft skills; and PBL is only suitable for students with some basic accounting.

PBL is an acceptable way of learning accounting

I agree with learning KAF 1023 in this semester. It is because I can learn this subject in various ways not only depend on textbooks.

PBL is a two-way communication and learning method. We may encounter problems when we are doing PBL. However, that's the learning process that we should go through. We should learn to solve problems but not to keep away from them. PBL is a good try for me. Hope to learn more with PBL learning method.

I got more benefits from PBL. PBL teaches me to be more independent. Before this, I'm very afraid to take accounting course because I have no basic. But with PBL, I gain new knowledge and perceptions. I enjoy to be with lecturer and members.

Very enjoyable, fun and challenging. A new approach in learning. Should be continued in future.

PBL is something new to me. When I first get it, I feel confuse and don't even know how to start it. Luckily, my lecturer makes a very good arrangement and I get in a very nice PBL group with helpful members. Although there was argument and improve in our communication skill. I get to learn many things that I can't gain from text books. At beginning, I was afraid. I lost myself in PBL, but my lecturer discusses the book's exercise with us too. This is what I appreciate the most. Thanks a lot…. you are a good lecturer.

PBL is challenging way of learning but offer a great benefit

I am still blurred but I enjoy much.

It is a burden for the students taking the program. We were nothing when we entered the class; still it is seem the same after the whole semester class. Perhaps, we had a stronger ability to face with challenge if compared to the non-PBL project student. Yet, I still appreciate the working that makes me tough.

I think the PBL is very challenging. I also feel tension about it. However, I gain more knowledge in the PBL.

Very practical, but is very hard to do it if group members don't want to communicate. Overall PBL is a good learning process.

For me it is challenging. From PBL, I feel like I have already involved in the real accounting world. It teaches me how to react to certain situations. I gained a lot of knowledge that cannot get through textbooks. I love PBL. Thanks.

At first I was so boring with PBL because lot of works to do. But I know PBL can improve my knowledge about financial accounting. I learnt more about account from PBL. I also have confident with my English to communicate. Thank you to my lovely lecturer.

Well I think PBL does help me in a lot of ways such as learning new things that we cannot learn from books. It is also burden me but luckily I can still manage it well. I hope in another PBL, I can do better.

PBL helps student to improve team work, communication and other soft skills

I feel so tired to do PBL. I always become stress and angry when I do this work. I think, for this semester when I spent more time with PBL, my work in PBL is complete and become a good work. Although I was so tired with PBL, it is good for me. PBL gives me experience how to solve problem with group members and communicate well with them. Besides that, PBL gives me knowledge how to work in company. At last, I enjoyed with PBL.

Working in a group is pretty challenging for me. Different people have different attitude. Tolerance is seriously needed. Some members just maintain their stationary position, while some overload themselves. Ineffective communication and lack of trust are the issues here. Just glad everything ended in a good way. Thanks so much to my lecturer for her guidance. I really learned a lot.

Team members can help students without basic to understand the topics, especially to complete assignment.

PBL is only suitable for students with some basic accounting

This way of learning is not suitable for the students who don't have any basic. They easily give up and hard for us to do any assignment. Most of them, just use "I don't have basic, I don't know how to do. You do it" as a reason.

I think that doing PBL is not the best way for us without basic of accounting to learn. Although it's good, but that's still got some part make me confuse. Also, it's really a waste of time. I didn't have enough time to read my book.

As a student who doesn't have any basic in accounting, it is so difficult for me to understand.

Conclusion

PBL is an innovative teaching method where it uses problems in stimulating students to learn. To answer the call of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA), professional bodies and employers in the market, it is timely for us to use PBL in our teaching as to prepare our students to face the real world where not only technical expertise, but also the soft-skills are demanded from the graduates. The challenges to the educators are to carefully develop the problems in order to achieve the learning outcomes of the course. As for the students, their acceptance to the PBL is still low since they are used to conventional way of learning.

For the UUM, PBL was a very new approach when we embarked on PBL for KAF 1023 Financial Accounting Principles in the First Semester 2006/2007. Although a new method, PBL seems promising when we analyzed the results of the students at the end of the semester as well as their feedback towards the benefits of the activities in the class. In general, the results show that students in PBL class out-performed the students in non-PBL class. From the survey on the perceptions of the students, they agree that PBL enhances their presentation, team work, leadership and IT skills. Consistently, based on the comments of the students in the open-ended question, the students also agree that PBL helps them to improve their soft skills. Most of the students however, feel that although PBL offers great benefit, it is a challenging way of learning since this new method requires greater efforts, contributions and high participations from them.

Going forward, it is instructive to follow up on the progress of the students who have participated in PBL as they advance into their degree program by conducting semi structured in depth interview. Areas of interest that may provide useful information to further access the sustainability of PBL are the impact of PBL experience on their learning process, which are self-directed behavior, group learning ability and problem solving skills. Feedback from students could also help us in designing feasible PBL problem for their learning process.

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