Tanya Kirsch

Tanya Kirsch COURSE: MBM320 – Financial Reporting
DEPARTMENT: UTM – Management
FACULTY: Commerce

“One of the strengths of the CDI that I really enjoyed was that I came up with a specific, relevant road-map to design a course that will be a great learning experience for my students. There are so many elements of the CDI that I refer to again and again.”

SYNOPSIS OF COURSE: MGM320 is a required third year course in the BBA Management Specialist Program. The course is described in the Academic calendar as follows:

This course will provide an understanding of financial reports, and their use for investment and management decisions. Cases will be used to enhance problem-solving skills and will integrate ideas from finance, management and financial accounting and other areas of study. The course focuses on the interpretation and use of financial statement data for the purpose of assessing the financial performance of a business operation, not on the technical details of accounting rules.

My overall course goal is for students to be able to ‘read’ and interpret a full set of financial statements.

The outcomes for the course were drafted through consideration of D. Fink’s Taxonomy of significant learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes (By the end of this course, students will…):

  • Learn how to learn: Develop a plan for looking up accounting concepts that they don’t know
  • Understand and apply a Financial Analysis Process, i.e. an analysis of a full set of financial statements – the purpose and context of the analysis, collecting the data, analyzing and interpreting the data, and developing conclusions
  • Have a more detailed knowledge of a selection of more complex accounting issues (such as Earnings Quality, Goodwill, the MD&A, Not-for-Profit accounting)
  • Integrate knowledge from Financial Accounting, Finance, Management accounting and other areas of study
  • Develop teamwork skills: Through the undertaking of a group project that runs throughout the course, with various deliverables during the course, students will gain experience in team dynamics, and will also appoint a team leader who will gain leadership skills
  • Become excited about accounting knowledge, and recognize that this knowledge is accessible, and useful in all disciplines

This year is the first year that I am teaching this course (which was taught previously by sessional instructors). One of the first challenges that I encountered in my preparations was around the issue of the textbook. When I reviewed the textbook that had previously been used, I discovered that it was quite expensive, and it focused on US accounting rules, rather than Canadian. Since Canadian accounting standards had changed over the previous 1 – 2 years to be aligned with international standards, I felt it was important for the course to switch to a Canadian or international text. In addition to wanting to find a Canadian-relevant text to explain the accounting concepts, I also wanted to use more relevant case studies. After spending several weeks searching I was unable to find a textbook that combined my multiple objectives of Canadian accounting theory, Canadian cases, and a cost effective price point for students.

A further challenge in this course relates to the level of accounting knowledge of students – the students will have completed one introductory half course in accounting, and would then be taking this course, with a potential gap of 18 months between the courses. In addition, their degree does not require them to do any further accounting courses after this one.

I also wanted to keep the lectures interesting through combining theory and practical examples, and sticking to the CTSI “rule” of 20-minute lecturettes. Previously I have had a tendency to overload students with one-directional teaching of concepts, and too few in-class exercises for the students to do themselves. I really wanted to find a way to bring collaborative learning, and formative feedback into the classroom.

One of my objectives in the course is to make accounting relevant to the students, and to get them to realize that this knowledge would be something they will use in any job in the future, including a role they may have in a volunteer not-for-profit environment.

These challenges also presented me with many opportunities – in particular, the position of this course in the students’ overall curriculum means that I have scope to be flexible and creative in how I design the course and cover the concepts. In addition, I truly believe that this course is both interesting and useful, and is a course that would be applicable to a wider range of students beyond the management students. The prospect of taking the language of accounting to a broader audience is exciting!

YOUR DESIGN SOLUTIONS: I came up with a few design solutions to address the challenges and opportunities. In terms of the textbook, I decided that instead of using one go-to textbook, I would select chapters, readings and cases from several textbooks. As I pull together the readings and cases, I am mindful of the cost implications to students, and will make changes where I can to reduce the costs.

I also selected financial statements for two companies which I will use throughout the course to explain concepts – I chose Dollarama, since it is easy to understand, and is a company familiar to almost everyone, and IAMGold, given the prominence of mining in the Canadian economy. Where I feel there were additional issues that weren’t illustrated in these financial statements, I will develop some new cases.

I had a concern that students will have forgotten some of their introductory accounting knowledge, or may forget some terms when they write their exams, so I have decided to make the exam open book. I also introduced the concept of students developing a binder throughout the course where they would keep information to help explain accounting concepts. The idea behind this was firstly to help address the possibility of a knowledge gap, and secondly to teach the students skills relating to how to teach themselves and how to learn and look-up concepts that they don’t understand.

To make the course practical and relevant, students will undertake a group financial analysis project where they will select a listed company in the first lecture, and then will analyze this company throughout the semester. The analysis will take the form of scaffolded assignments, where the groups would be required to submit 2 – 3 assignments during the semester which would involve a portion of their company analysis. This information would then be pulled together in a final assignment.

There were so many take-aways from the CDI, but the ones that I keep coming back to are the importance of sticking to 20 minute lecturettes, alternating with in-class activities, and the importance of working backwards from the assessments and final exam.

When I am working on my course material, I sit with my CDI material next to me all the time and make sure I am being true to the great ideas that we came up with during the workshop. Sometimes I realize that I am straying from what I had originally planned to do, and the worksheets and exercises done during the CDI sessions are a great reminder to keep me on track. I find that the incubator-like structure of the CDI creates a very focused environment where participants come up with amazing ideas for the classroom. I picked up so many great ideas from the CDI material, lectures and in-class activities, and from my fellow-participants.

In addition to referring to the CDI materials on a regular basis, I have also used the library extensively in my search for a textbook solution. The librarians at the CDI were very helpful in informing as to different approaches to support materials for students. In addition, Ian Whyte from the UTM library has come up with many many useful ideas and suggestions to pull together readings and cases for the course.