Critical Thinking: Business Simulations and Papers
Learning Experiences for Critical Thinking in Accounting
For access to password-protected files, contact the authors, whose email addresses appear below.

Second generation simulations
Locator 1
Two inventors create a thumb-size product that tracks property around the globe using GPS signals and cell phone technology. The episodes begin by analyzing feasibility and budgeting and continue through managing and evaluating operations.

Locator 2

Digital Butler
Two inventors create a product that allows homeowners to answer their doorbells while they are away using cell phone technology. The episodes move from analyzing feasibility and budgeting to managing and evaluating operations.
First generation simulations
A student winning the lottery has opportunities to choose between a lump sum or an annuity from the lottery and invest the newly acquired capital. The non-sequential episodes cover PV/FV, IRR, mortgages, and long term asset management.
Safe Night Out (SNO)
Student entrepreneurs create a product that tracks the trip of a vehicle. The episodes move from analyzing feasibility and budgeting to managing and evaluating operations.
American Accounting Association Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Section 2007 Outstanding Accounting Education Research Award, funded by the Ernst & Young Foundation
Springer, C. W., and A. F. Borthick. 2007. Improving performance in accounting: Evidence for insisting on cognitive conflicts. Issues in Accounting Education 22(1): 1-19. PDF file
Georgia State University, Instructional Innovation Award
Business simulation for critical thinking in introductory accounting

Springer, C. W., and A. F. Borthick. 2007. Improving performance in accounting: Evidence for insisting on cognitive conflicts. Issues in Accounting Education 22(1): 1-19. PDF file

In spite of continual demands for higher-order thinking skills in accounting graduates, accounting educators have resisted emphasizing them in courses on the assumption that doing so would jeopardize students' grasp of traditional accounting knowledge. We offer experimental results indicating that this fear may be unwarranted. We found that instruction developing higher-order skills was associated with a significant increase-rather than the feared decrease-in traditional knowledge. We obtained this result by comparing the exam scores in a junior financial accounting course of students who previously completed either traditional accounting principles courses or principles courses with higher-order learning objectives. In traditional courses, instructors focus on instilling mastery of concepts and procedures through tasks that have demonstrably correct answers, tasks known as intellective tasks. In contrast, cognitive conflict tasks for developing higher-order skills have no correct answers because of inherent conflicts of viewpoints. Compared to intellective tasks, cognitive conflict tasks entice learners to make more elaborations and inferences to resolve conflicting aspects. They produce richer, longer-lasting situation models in memory. Cognitive conflict tasks were staged with business simulation episodes that prompted students to create rich situation models in order to comprehend and respond to business dilemmas. To support their advice to clients, learners built spreadsheet models, analyzed the effects of assumptions on decisions, and resolved competing viewpoints. In addition to the performance effect on exam scores, we found significantly more higher-achieving students enrolled in the junior financial accounting course when students had the cognitive conflict versions of principles courses.

Springer, C. W., and A. F. Borthick. 2004. Business simulation to stage critical thinking in introductory accounting: Rationale, design and implementation. Issues in Accounting Education 19(3): 277-303. PDF file

This article explains the rationale for, the design of, and the implementation of business simulation episodes for eliciting a developmental shift from knowing to thinking in introductory accounting courses. Using business simulation this way responds to a long-standing need for learning experiences that create opportunities for students to work on developing the higher-order thinking skills required for success in business and the accounting profession. The needed capability can be characterized as critical thinking, the ability to solve problems that cannot be described with a high degree of completeness, cannot be resolved with a high degree of certainty, or prompt disagreement from experts about the best solution. The approach of business simulation, illustrated with an episode from the Safe Night Out (SNO) simulation, immerses students in the life of an evolving business for which they develop a continuing stream of business advice based on the application of accounting principles. Emphasizing communication skills, alternative viewpoints, and the effect of assumptions on decisions, the simulation episodes demonstrate the usefulness and importance of accounting to business decision makers. The intent of shifting from well-structured end-of-the-chapter problems to more authentic work like that in business simulations is to develop higher-order thinking skills while generating interest in the accounting major and increasing the usefulness of accounting in the minds of non-majors.

Springer, C. W. 2004. Critical thinking courses in accounting lead to improvements in general academic achievement a year later.

Working paper: Word file

Although learning to think critically to solve new problems rather than simply memorizing solutions to existing problems is a widely acclaimed goal for students in higher education, teaching for critical thinking has not traditionally been attempted in accounting principles courses. This study examines the long-term performance of students enrolled in an accounting course designed to stimulate critical thinking to investigate how they perform in later settings with new problems.

Students with critical thinking sophomore accounting experiences performed better than those with traditional sophomore accounting courses in junior level courses featuring new course topics. These results were found in a theory and a problem-based junior level course indicating stronger general abilities rather than better memory for accounting concepts or procedures. Moreover, an interaction between GPA and principles of accounting showed that the critical thinking courses yielded stronger effects for lower-achieving students. Reasons for the higher scores and interaction are discussed.

Other work in critical thinking
Community of Practice
AAHE Learning to Change Conference 2003
Session outcome: Pedagogy and Assessment that Support Critical thinking
Carol W. Springer; A. Faye Borthick
Copyright 2004 Carol W. Springer and A. Faye Borthick, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. All rights reserved. August 10, 2008