CHALLENGING “ONE RIGHT ANSWER” SYNDROME Christopher Coles Accounting & Finance
What is it? • Opinions differ – but most widespread interpretation is of student reluctance to answer questions for fear of getting it wrong. • Result - attainment short of capability. • Problem disciplines? • Problem communities? • Ever present problem?
Background • Not a new issue. • Seems to be widespread – many reports in various subjects. • No respecter of culture (Mee 2002), or discipline, or assessment mode. • Examples reported from maths (Giolamis et al 2000, Ralston 2004), biology (King 2007), English, science, and accounting.
Concerns • Consequences can be devastating – short term and long term. • Reasons for existence? Won’t be drawn in to this – a lot of literature draws on works by Ramsden/Entwhistle/Gibbs. • Personal situation – aware of its potential for damage 2010/11 owing to massive expansion in PGT cohort. >300 PGT 2010/11; forecast to rise >500 2011/12.
Accounting - some evidence from the literature • Spencer (2003) – oft-repeated mantra that some students will treat accounting as a set of rules to be applied, and reference to more than one right answer causes “discomfort”. • Williams (1993) – “One right answer” is bad preparation for professional practice. • Heard about it in SSLC meetings.
Impact • Perhaps as a result of long-standing changes (eg Kelly et al 1999), we don’t see so much of it at undergraduate, but it’s still a worldwide problem (Lee & Bisman 2006.) • Reluctance to show workings. • Blank/crossed-out pages, resulting in lost time. What do you do? • Do you encourage guessing? • Do we insist on one right answer for MCQs?
Action • Didn’t assume too much. • Use of notices on Moodle. • Frequent reference; exhortation to avoid it. • Marking exercises. • Peer assessment and self assessment. • Encourage people to take risks – failure without penalty. • Redesign of assessment.
Action • This was done in Semester 1. • Repeated it Semester 2 – why didn’t indigenous students leave blank pages, or cross out their work? • Yet I think it’s as much a problem with indigenous students as with international students. • We continually exhort students to avoid plagiarism, and to read the question.
Results. • No blatant examples of crossing-through – for the first time. • Far more attempts at parts of all the questions. • Workings shown in far more instances. • Have not attempted any quantitative analysis – various reasons; mainly, too much noise, and insufficient observations for meaningful statistical analysis.
Some final thoughts • We expect professional people to have a knowledge base – nothing wrong with that. • Professional exams? • Use of textbooks – no rubbings-out or crossings-out. Place for fuzziness? • Real-life practice – rarely any clear-cut solutions. • Creativity? • Observations/thoughts/questions?
References • Giolamas S, Keller S, Cherif A Hansen A (2000) Using guided enquiry in teaching mathematical concepts Illinois Teacher Fall. • Kelly M, Davey H and Haigh N (1999) 'Contemporary accounting education and society', Accounting Education, 8 (4) pp321-340 • King J (2007) The high stakes in science education Education Week, 7May 2007. • Lee C & Bisman J (2006) Curricula in introductory accounting: The ‘old’ and the ‘new’. In Proceedings Accounting & Finance Association of Australia & New Zealand Annual Conference, Wellington. Accessed from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au (accessed 10/3/11).
References • Mee, CY (2002) English Language Teaching in Singapore, Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 22 (2), pp65-80. • Ralston A (2004) Research Mathematicians and Mathematics Education: A Critique Notices of the American Mathematical Society, April, pp403-407. • Spencer K (2003) Approaches to Learning and Contemporary Accounting Education Conference paper, “Education in a Changing Environment”, available from http://www.ece.salford.ac.uk/proceedings/papers/ks_03.rtf. • Williams, DZ (1993) Reforming accounting education. Journal of Accountancy 176 (2)