Teams are not the same as groups.
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.
DESIGN OF ACCG828
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.
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!