Education Innovations


Influenced by the Bedford report—the 1986 study of the gap between what accounting students learned in school and what accountants actually did on the job—Kansas State University (KSU) set out in 1990 to transform its accounting curriculum from the traditional “preparer” perspective to one focused on broader learning objectives that included

Ensuring that students who graduate had the technical and professional knowledge to succeed as accounting professionals.

Seeing that students who graduate had the professional skills necessary to implement their knowledge, including oral and written communication, interpersonal skills and the ability to think critically.

Attracting and retaining high-quality students to the curriculum.

In place today, the curriculum is a five-year program in which students graduate with a bachelor’s degree at the end of four years but are expected to stay and complete a master’s-in-accountancy degree. The five-year approach was chosen because the faculty realized a fifth year was necessary to achieve its objectives and not to comply with the advent of the 150-hour requirement.

The curriculum revision was based on two criteria: that students should understand simple topics before more complex topics and content would be based on how students learn, using Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills. (Bloom’s hierarchy begins with knowledge and comprehension, followed by application and analysis, synthesis and evaluation.) In contrast a traditional curriculum schedules courses based on the order topics appear on the balance sheet; the result is that the first course is intermediate accounting, which many consider the most difficult in terms of content. In the revised curriculum, therefore, topics were sequenced so students did not have to apply a higher skill level than their learning background supported. In addition integrated into every course were activities that promoted the skills the profession demands:

Group projects, which promote interpersonal skills.

Written assignments and presentations, which promote communication skills.

Research projects, which promote critical-thinking skills and learning how to think independently.

The curriculum also uses five levels:

Introductory-level courses have a “user” vs. a “preparer” perspective (because most students are not accounting majors), and also, these courses lend themselves to the recruitment effort described later. They focus on how the accounting system captures events and how accounting information is used for planning and evaluating.

Foundation-level courses provide the basis for all subsequent courses. They detail how the accounting system works and the theory and history of accounting standards.

Content-level courses introduce students to how various users employ data from the accounting system to meet their information needs.

Research-level courses are case-based, team-taught courses that cover tax, financial accounting and auditing and teach students how to use research tools to resolve ambiguous problems.

Graduate-level courses provide students with the opportunity to design a course of study with either a tax, financial, managerial or systems emphasis. An in-depth look at the curriculum is available at

Rather than use the “build it and they will come” approach, KSU said an objective of the new curriculum was to attract and retain the best possible students. As a result, the department developed an extensive program.

Two faculty members and the Accounting Advocates, a group of 10 to 12 graduate and undergraduate students, administer it. The Accounting Advocates are an essential component; they act as ambassadors for the department by making presentations to high schools, talking to visiting high school students and meeting with visiting dignitaries. Accounting students apply to be advocates in their junior year and serve throughout their graduate program.

The recruiting program targets high school teachers, counselors and students and undecided college freshmen and sophomores. Every school district in the state receives a recruiting video created by the accounting department. The recruiting program reaches

High school teachers and counselors. The schools-to-careers conference educates high school teachers about the opportunities an accounting career offers. It is a collaborative effort of the College of Business and the business education department of the College of Education.

High school students. The high school careers conference brings together high school students who are nominated by their teachers to attend. Students visit with young accounting professionals and go through team-building exercises and go to a tailgate party and football game. Students see positive accounting role models, learn about the career flexibility an accounting career has to offer and have fun.

College students. The professional accounting careers exploration dinner offers an opportunity to the best students in the introductory courses to meet with young professionals from public accounting and industry and an advocate to learn about careers.

Compared to 1989, there are now 35% more accounting majors and the quality of students (as measured by ACT, SAT and GPA) has increased. Enrollment in the master’s program increased 500% over the same time period. This increase occurred in spite of the fact that the GPA required for admission to the accounting major was significantly increased.

—Dan Deines, CPA, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas



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