Accounting 210 Spearheads Supplemental Instruction Program


Warren Buffet famously proclaimed that “accounting is the language of business.” For students pursuing business careers, learning this new language and building a solid foundation for their professional careers begins in the introductory accounting class, AC210. The course, required for all business majors, challenges over 2,000 Culverhouse students each year as they discover “accounting and financial reporting concepts and the use of accounting information in financial and managerial decisions.” Culverhouse’s Instructor of Accounting Karen Miller (1996) stated that AC210 pushes students beyond memorization as it requires critical thinking. “There are some things that you can commit to memory that are very helpful, but across the board, you can’t just rely on memorization,” she explained. “You have to take it one step further, use your critical thinking skills to be able to put it into the business context for your client that you’re working with.”

Unsurprisingly, some students need extra assistance from a “translator” as they embark on the journey of learning this new language. That’s where Miller, along with Department Head of the Culverhouse School of Accountancy and Hilton Dean Chair of Accounting Dr. Rich Houston saw an opportunity. When supplemental instruction was chosen as by the University as a Quality Enhancement Project for this year, Miller and Houston thought the course would make an excellent match for the business school. They worked with the supplemental instruction team at the Capstone Center for Student Success to develop an implementation plan.

Partnering with RSM

Then, another opportunity arose: RSM, one of the six largest accounting firms in the country, was looking for new creative projects to support, with the goal of increasing both the quality of accounting instruction and the number of students interested in accounting careers. So, as part of that effort, they agreed to provide a significant grant to help kick off the program.

In November, Miller and some Masters of Tax Accounting (MTA) students were able to visit the RSM office in Birmingham and meet with several RSM leaders, many of them Manderson/Culverhouse graduates. “They were incredibly supportive and instrumental in the foundation’s decision to award us the grant,” Miller said.

“RSM is excited to help with the SI program,” said RSM Partner Shad Wilks. “A career in accounting has so many great opportunities and we see this program as a way to keep more students on this career path. The University does a great job preparing students and our profession has immediate needs for new talent.”

Supporting Students

Accounting 210 averages about 1200 students a semester. Now, there are approximately 15 supplemental instruction leaders who are embedded in the classroom and provide additional study groups and support services, as well as outreach to the students looking for ways to enhance their experience and perhaps explore accounting as a major.

“My favorite aspect of being an SI leader was learning how to adapt to different students’ learning styles,” said Student Instructor Jada Burroughs. “Whether it was through a hands-on approach, hearing the concept explained differently, or by visual learning, I truly enjoyed having students in my sessions and seeing the moment where a concept ‘clicked’ for them.”

“This semester, the instructors made a conscious effort to introduce a variety of improvements in the course,” said Culverhouse Senior Instructor of Accounting Daphne Palmer. “These changes include incorporating real-world examples, focusing on a range of study tips, and enhancing our lab sessions by introducing lab assignments with point values and quizzes. The impact of these changes has been notable, with students benefiting from the increased engagement through improved handouts and the gamification element introduced via Kahoot.”

Student Instructor Tyler Bynam said, “The part of being an SI leader I’ve enjoyed the most is seeing how much impact we have on the students. Students that come to our sessions regularly tell us how much our program has helped them in AC 210. They feel more confident going into their classes and tests, and knowing we have that kind of impact is my favorite part of being an SI Leader.”

“The Supplemental Instruction (SI) sessions have played a role in supporting the course adjustments,” said Instructor of Accounting Jessica Lloyd. “Students have expressed gratitude for the familiar faces they see both in class and during study sessions. Recognizing the need for additional resources, students have found valuable support in the SI sessions, complementing the existing resources available in the course.”

“The ultimate goal is to give more hands-on support to the students when they’re in the class,” Karen Miller said. “They are going to take what they learned through these efforts with AC210 and replicate that in STAT 260, MIS 200, and all other required courses. What we’ve learned from this will enable all of our business school core courses to potentially implement these initiatives and help in terms of retention and improving the experience for our first and second year students.”

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