Novel approach to Teaching
Murder mysteries and crime thrillers aren't part of your typical accounting syllabus. But according to some educators - including Larry Crumbley, a KPMG-endowed accounting professor at Louisiana State University and author of a dozen educational novels - they should be.
Crumbley, whose offbeat whodunits include The Ultimate Rip-Off: A Taxing Tale and his latest, The Big R: An Internal Auditing Action Adventure, believes fiction can be used as a case study, and uses his novels to teach students about ethics and other issues they will likely encounter as practising accountants.
"The plot teaches the subject matter," he says. "And you can learn it faster, and keep it in your mind longer."
Dubbed the scenario principle, the approach was initially met with scepticism, but is now gaining recognition in academic circles. According to Crumbley, more than 100 universities have used his books, in which protagonists such as a forensic accountant and an IRS agent are used to present various aspects of the profession.
Similar works have since come on the scene, including The Auditor: An Instructional Novella by James Loebbecke, professor emeritus at the University of Utah.
As for Canadian Content, there's Grant Robinson's novel Great Expectations: A Survival Manual for the Canadian Entrepreneur at the Dawn of the New Millennium, which delves into themes such as succession planning, business valuation and organizational development (see Book value, CAmagazine, June 2001, p.20)
"In writing the book, I brought in my experiences working with a number of different family businesses," says Robinson, FCA and partner of Robinson & Company in Guelph, Ontario. "I am hopeful that people will use the book as a case study."
Dan Stone, University of Kentucky's Gatton-endowed chair in accountancy, uses educational novels in a course he teaches on leadership and team building, and says they serve as a platform to get students talking about ethical issues that can't be introduced into the classroom any other way.
"How can you bring in an accountant with a cocaine habit, or one who's had an affair with a staff member? You can only explore these kinds of topics through a medium that can safely bring up the issues," says Stone.
While the trend toward pedagogical novels hasn't quite caught on in Canadian accounting classrooms, the idea may be worthwhile, says John Friedlan, associate professor at York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto.
"Anything that engages students and helps them learn is a good thing," says Friedlan. Still, a novel would also have to heavily emphasize the accounting environment to be truly useful, he adds.
By Tamar Satov for CA Magazine November 2001.
Great Expectations will strike a chord of familiarity with each and every harried entrepreneur. Grant was inspired to write the story of Thom and Sophie Penmaen, typical small-town Canadian business people, to illustrate the pressures and complexities family-owned companies are faced with when the principals are no longer able to manage their businesses. Click herefor more information on what the book is all about.
You can pick up a copy of Great Expectationsat the Bookshelf in Guelph, at our Guelph Head Office, or online from the following site: