Team work, not group work.

Teams are not the same as groups.

Team work
Team work – CC Easa Shamih 

A team is not just any group working together, and groups do not become teams because that is what someone calls it.” (Katzenbach and Smith. 1993; p.12)

That is the basis of all the work that Dr Vicki Baard does.

Keeping in line with the intention of the opening up of iLearn units – collaboration and sharing of best practice, Vicki is keen to share the strategic and tactical design of ACCG828.

ACCG828 (Management Control Systems), is a very unique unit in several ways. For one, it is a crash course on team-work, not the first thing you think of when someone says ‘Accounting.’ The second is… well, the entire design of the unit.


The first six weeks students receive case-based instruction. The objective here is to learn about management control systems (including theory) and how they are applied in real world organizations. The next six weeks students receive research-based instruction (i.e. using research papers). The objective here is to learn about management accounting research, specifically management control systems, and what the implications of research findings are for society, organizations and professional practice.

Learning and teaching activities include seminar discussions and debates, using online forums (iLearn), participating in online workshops (iLearn), peer assessment and self-assessment activities, and self-study activities. These diverse activities are assessed as seminar participation. Assessments include a research project undertaken in teams followed by a reflection of the student experience.

ACCG828 iLearn page

However, team work is where Vicki’s passion (and research!) lies. No doubt a huge part of the unit incorporates team work – 50% to be precise. The main assessment of the unit is to develop reflective practice on engaging with teamwork and undertaking research.

She gets them to write a case study (a qualitative research assignment) in teams. Students have creative license to choose their organization to research, and structure their case study based on their knowledge and understanding thereof. In fact, team members enter into a team contract with their team members, which is an important instrument to support their approach to working in teams. Team members must choose a role for which they are accountable, and negotiate the undertaking of tasks related to their research project for which they are responsible. Teams must decide how they are going to make decisions, and how they are going to communicate and coordinate their activities. They need to consider that conflict will arise and consider the strategies that they will use to manage that conflict – everything they would do as a consultation firm.

Thereafter students are required to reflect on their teamwork and research experience.


Vicki designed this unit based on the needs of the employers, students and her own reflection as a practicing management accountant.

Employers continually speak to us about the need for students to demonstrate initiative, interpersonal skills and analytical thinking. Students, especially doing their Masters, are looking for a dynamic learning experience with a point of differentiation – something to make them stand out when they leave university. All of this already makes a very strong case for doing something different in higher education.

Additionally, reflecting on her own hiring decisions Vicki reckons all the graduates she hired could think critically, understand complex problems, synthesize relevant information, listen and communicate with others, and most importantly work with others in a productive and constructive way. Now, as an educator, she wants to get students excited about learning.


And if we look at the feedback she has received for the unit, it is easy to say she has managed to do it!

*“This was a challenging and engaging subject. I thought the case study was an excellent exercise in applying theory and knowledge of the subject to an outside organization”

*“This unit is hard but interesting. It’s not like the other units, we share things, we discuss in class, we put the knowledge into group works, it is a great experience and will absolutely help me in the future.”

* “This is not an easy thing to do, interpersonal chemistry can be wild. It is a sweet thing to do when you know how a team works and how to work in one. Your productivity improves and you learn to management time properly. “ 

* “People think that working in teams makes things get finished quicker – big mistake – it can take longer if you cannot manage your time. Team members need careful coordination.”

And if you are more of a numbers person, here’s something for you…..

* 100% of students agree that team work is integrated successfully into ACCG828.

* 82% of students agree that ACCG828 provides them with an opportunity to enhance their critical thinking skills.

It’s pretty clear that ACCG828 is one of those units that gets our graduates ready for the real world. If you think your own unit does the same, let us know and you could feature here next time!




Dean’s Awards – Alison Barnes

In our final instalment of the Dean’s Awards, we speak with Alison Barnes, co -convenor of BBA102, winner of the First Year Experience Award. You can check the other winners’ posts: Steve Ericsen, Lawrence Ang, Andrea Chareunsy.

The first thing that struck me chatting with Alison was the genuine concern she has for her students. She talks in detail about all the initiatives she and Nikki (Nikola Balnave) run to make life easier for their first year students. Every activity, every slide, every contact with students is carefully though of to ensure equity and respect for students. And 5 minutes into the interview, it hits home – BBA102 did not win this Award because it’s a fun and engaging unit (which it is), it won the Award because Alison cares for the students.

Genuinely cares.

“BBA102 works because we make it fair. We treat the students with equity.” Some of the ways this is done are:

  • Speaking with tutors consistently about respect for students and their views.
  • Assessments are designed to be clear and straightforward. Alison recounts an incident where she met an ex-student and the thing that stuck with them was that the unit was ‘clear.’ And this is by design. There is much care taken to ensure that students coming into first year are not confused.
  • Similar to the above, there are also clear procedures for both tutors and students, in case something goes wrong. Alison believes greatly in transparency and works hard to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • BBA102 lectures also include information about the various support services available to students, including the pastoral care at Campus Well Being.
  • She also makes a sure that there is enough information on the slides during class, but not too much.

These small, but significant and well thought of practices definitely help the students transition better.

Cartoons on slides
Cartoons on slides

However, providing the great first year experience that Alison aims for means going beyond making their experience fair and equitable. It also means making their experience engaging and memorable. She achieves this through turning slides into cartoons, using images to visually represent concepts that are easy to understand and regularly updating the content so there is real world relevance for the students.

Alison also strongly believes in KickStart. “It not only helps students overcome anxiety but is also a great resource for those who are keen. As it is a big cohort, KickStart helps support and guide students in the right direction, and is more than the sum of its parts,” she adds.

Kickstart in BBA102
Kickstart in BBA102

Alison also acknowledged the support service that Janise Farrell provides to the students within the faculty.


Dean’s Awards – Lawrence Ang

Lawrence Ang is the program director of the Bachelors of Marketing and Media and the next recipient of the Dean’s Awards List we feature on our blog post. (You can read Part 1: Steve Erichsen here)

Lawrence has been awarded the ‘Program Leadership’ award for his contribution as the Program Coordinator. We meet in his office to talk about it, and as Lawrence starts talking excitedly at the rate of 100 words/minute, I realise I need to scribble my notes pretty quickly. We dive straight into it. He says that there are four cornerstones to the program.

  • Exposing students to real world clients in their capstone unit – MECO399. This is the unit where students prepare an integrated marketing communications plan for a real client and receive direct feedback from the media agency as well as the client. (Not to mention, the winning team walked away with a Sony PlayStation each, last semester) This is a great experience for the students as they not only work on a real world problem, but also get an opportunity to work directly with the corporate world.
  • The faculty has used Harvard case studies for a while now. However, Lawrence has tweaked the model slightly to make it more program based. The students follow through on the lessons they learnt in the case study by attending lectures by guest speakers on the same topic. Not only does it ensure deeper learning for the students, but also makes the learning more cohesive.
  • Presentation Skills is key for this program. (And arguably, for any Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 3.35.45 pmrole in today’s world) which led Lawrence to commission the Learning and Teaching Center to create specific, online resources to help students do better at presentations. These resources can be accessed here by all students.
  • The program is relatively new and this has helped in ensuring that it had a program approach, leading to program learning outcomes. Based on his experience in research in MECO399, being involved with the AACSB accreditation and being the department’s Learning and Teaching coordinator for 7 years, Lawrence says it was easy for him to see the big picture and that helped him design this M&M program.

Lawrence admits that he has a very hands-on approach  – keeping on top of things and reaching out to the unit convenors asking them to tweak their units as required based on program design. He also likes to keep on top of any innovative practices and has employed KickStart for Programs to let students know what to expect from their degree. “With that said, I have to admit I got lucky and have smaller classes with high ATAR cutoffs,” he adds cheekily.

Deans Awards – Steve Erichsen

Recently FBE announced its Deans awards in areas of Curriculum innovation, Program leadership, Student experience, First year experience, Research supervision, Research excellence and Leadership and External engagement. 2293239853_ddd6bc4ef4_z

We caught up with some of the winners and will bring you their stories, as part of this 4 part series of the Deans Awards.
First up today is Steve Erichsen, convenor of FBE204 (Becoming a Professional) for his contribution to Curriculum innovation to the faculty.
Continue reading Deans Awards – Steve Erichsen

The Holy Grail of Active Learning (Part II)

We interviewed our two brave explorers last week as they shed light on some of the things they do to win their daily Battle Against Boredom in class. However, like all good reporters, I was skeptical. I had heard enough tall tales around campfires. And, like all good explorers, they have more than stories to share.

Other than the quantitative measures like LETs improving by ~15% across all segments, Mauricio and Murray also conducted focus groups with students to get a better understanding of how they actually felt about their active classes.

Repeated words


The snapshot here of a word cloud gives you a representation of what came up in the focus groups most often. It is good to see that most of the words are positive, and active words like ‘activities,’ ‘discuss,’ and ‘engaging,’ ‘participate,’ feature prominently. Though it does seem like there were quite a few chuckles too (and we can only hope that they weren’t in the same context as ‘awkward.’)

In an attempt to keep the focus groups unbiased, these focus groups were conducted by a research assistant. As I pored over the pages of transcripts, evidence emerged pretty quickly that my skepticism was uncalled for. There seemed to be a lot of evidence of the good work being done by the duo. There were some improvement ideas, but we’ll cover them later.

Engagement and Participation seemed to be very popular themes in the discussion, as is evident from the word cloud above. Some of the comments that came up were “…(with) the sticky notes – I have to say like 70% of the class is participating, answering questions.”  However, another student sums it up nicely “Because it’s so engaging on different platforms like different music, videos, the activities, the socrative. It kind of keeps you on your toes. It’s not just watching the lecture, listening to him, and getting through the two hours. You are engaged through the two hours…”

However, there’s more to active learning than keeping the students happy and engaged. The bigger question for me was “Do these activities help with the conceptual understanding?”

And this student answered it for me – “…You go back home and you need to go through it again. But this one, because he uses a lot of worldly examples, and they really stick in your mind. …”

For instance, this example is a great demonstration of the simple things that go a long way – “Last week, he asked us to write the steps to make tea. You write five steps. He would ask, “Did anyone add milk in the tea as well?” So that shows a difference, and then we know that different people will have different process to do one thing. So different organisation will have process—“

Some of the other ideas that were touched on were self-reflection and a sense of belonging. And as we encourage our students to become critical thinkers, its activities like these that go a long way. “…when I  start off, I think, this is definitely the answer. It seems quite clear. But when I talk to the person sitting next to me and they have a different point of view, it makes you think, “Oh well, actually, that might be right as well.” So it gives you that different perspective.

comments chartWhile most of the comments were positive, there were some interesting thoughts that came up in the discussion groups that I, as the unbiased investigative journalist would like to point out.

Engagement, for instance, does not seem to be the same for everyone, and its motivation – of a different kind. “It’s motivating in a sense, a bit of fear, I guess. But you don’t want to be called out and not know the answer…” Similarly, some students seem to fail to see the connections between these activities and the course content. “I don’t think it’s very relevant in learning but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the music. But I don’t think it’s helpful.” Contradictorily, another students quips,” I try to think about what topic it is and I think about the song and I’m like, “How does it link?”

In a similar vein, the students some times don’t understand the value of conceptual understanding and are focused instead on the actual assessment. “Not really. It helps us with understanding, but not with the actual assessment.”

These are simple fixes though. Often explicitly drawing out the connections between activities and the topic of the day might help in students thinking laterally about these activities, while making their purpose clear.

With that said, as you can see, the comments were overwhelmingly positive, and it’s clear that the students are receiving active learning very enthusiastically. Due to the restrictions of space, I am unable to quote many other extremely valuable and eye opening comments by the students. However, Mauricio and Murray are working on a journal article which will include more details. Or you can reach out directly to them.


Employer Engagement Opportunity

Macquarie University’s inaugural Banking, Trading and Consulting Fair hosted jointly by The Career and Employment Service and the Macquarie Graduate School of Management will be held next week. 

WHEN: Wednesday 4th March, 5.30pm – 7.30pm

WHERE: MGSM Campus, Macquarie University

All FBE staff are welcome and encouraged to come meet the IMG_1581employers who will include:

  • Westpac
  • Commonwealth Bank
  • Macquarie Group
  • Barclays
  • Zurich
  • PwC
  • EY
  • 180degrees Consulting
  • Optiver
  • Aliom Trading

The Banking,Trading and Consulting Fair is a professional and invite-only event for students; only those with high GPAs and Merit Scholars will be attending.