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Building a Critical Base for Accounting

Professor Angie Abdel Zaher is utilizing engaging strategies to stimulate critical thinking among students in introductory accounting classes.

Mar 1, 2018

Zaher is bringing distinct teaching techniques to her two introductory accounting courses, ACCT 201/2001 - Financial Accounting and ACCT 202/2002 - Managerial Accounting. 

Rather than systematically teaching the elements embedded within the classes to students, she is instead focusing primarily on engraining critical concepts from the get-go to lay the foundations for deeper forays into the field. The idea, in essence, is to move students away from the stereotypical view of accounting by showing them how individuality and critical thinking can be incorporated into it.

In financial accounting, Zaher is linking simple objects to concepts learned to get students to understand how and why certain steps and theories came about in the first place. Such purified approach brings synergy and connects individual concepts to the whole, thereby adding an interesting layer to what could often be viewed as tedious topics for young business enthusiasts. 

The managerial accounting class, in many ways, features a different side of the same coin. In it, Zaher is implementing a concept that she termed “drawing for understanding” to empower students to always approach concepts through logic. One time during the Fall 2017 Semester for instance, she asked students to move in class pretending to be raw materials in the manufacturing process to get them to critically comprehend the process’s inner nuances.  This helped students capture the essence of the cost of goods manufactured schedule “without memorization, but more through imagination,” as she notes. 

Zaher admits that students were taken aback at first by the thinking-based activities that she introduced to the classrooms – particularly since many had expected a more by-the-book approach to proceedings. A couple of weeks into the courses, though, they started to comprehend the merits behind the methods.

Said tactics, in Zaher’s mind, are not just useful for enhancing comprehension, but are equally utile for allowing students to engage and partake in enjoying the learning process together. The feedback received seemed to reaffirm the positive progress that she aspires to instill. 

In outlining the rationale behind her techniques, she states, “Students have been structured to follow directions through their years of schooling. It is time to switch gears and focus more on inner creativity in thinking and learning. Accounting is not just about numbers; the value of the profession is really about critical thinking. Trying to bring out innate creativity within students helps them rediscover what they knew all along, but were asked to put to rest in the past.”