The ability to provide sensible measures for learning outcomes in accounting education is under increased scrutiny. In this paper we use a learner perspective in auditing education which reflects that some students taking accounting classes also are provided with on-the-job training in accounting firms. Hence knowledge about learning outcomes for different groups of students is essential information for educators as well as the accounting profession. Sensible measures are needed by educators in order to (1) chose teaching methods matching prerequisite skills among a heterogenous student body, (2) assess the need for de-learning existing knowledge (i.e., cleaning the slate), and (3) be able to set up challenging yet fair exams for the total student body. Assessing learning outcomes for the purpose of knowledge management plays a major role in accounting firms too. Knowledge transfer among auditors is part of every day life within most accounting firms. Developing a sound on-the-job training environment is pivotal in the recruitment and design of supervision, and in the end for the expected "successrate" in retaining (valuable) employees. Prior research suggests that scripts or schemas provide a useful way of organizing "data in memory" for accounting contexts. I.e., when faced with the knowledge provided in a graduate course the student learns from his prior experiences and stores the important aspects of each experience in memory in accordance with such schemas. The schemas available for students taking a graduate auditing course reflect prior accounting work experience for some students and undergraduate accounting coursework experience for all students. This paper extends prior research on the role of declarative and procedural knowledge in performing auditing tasks. Measuring learning outcomes is a complex matter requiring sensible measures for both declarative knowledge (the ability to verbalize pertinent facts or processes) and procedural knowledge (intellectual skills). The study uses a multitude of measures based on a hierarchical separation of intellectual skills originally suggested by Robert M. Gagné. An instrument was developed to measure differences regarding learning outcomes in the context of an auditing course by posing a broad set of questions testing declarative knowledge and the full range of intellectual skills from discrimination to the use of higher-order-rules. This paper presents data collected in September 1999 including 34 graduate students representing both types of schema. The study provides evidence, which confirms an interrelationship between declarative and procedural knowledge in auditing. The findings suggest that the student-mass, to some extent, is able to manage procedural questions, as long as their declarative knowledge base is extensive and to some degree accurate. Further, the findings suggest that there is no difference between students with or without auditing working experience regarding learning outcomes on declarative knowledge, while students with auditing experience perform better than students with a purely theoretical knowledge base when learning outcomes are measured as the extent of procedural knowledge.
Auditing; Education; Accounting; Behavior; Learning; Knowledge; Declarative; Procedural; Measuring; Training
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AAA Accounting, Behavior & Organizations Research Conference, Chicago, October, 2000