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Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference

Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada

June 19 - June 22, 2013

Thursday, June 20 • 10:30am - 11:00am
The Role of Identifying and Decoding Bottlenecks in the Redesign of Tax Curriculum

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 Julie Timmermans (University of Waterloo), James Barnett (University of Waterloo, School of Accounting and Finance)


Historically, professional accounting programs have been assessed based on coverage of specific topics. However, this “input” measure does not assess students’ ability to understand or apply their knowledge. In this presentation, we share the process and results of a study created to inform the redesign of an undergraduate tax curriculum to help students achieve deeper learning in the field of taxation.

Many students have difficulty with key tax concepts. Within the Decoding the Disciplines (DtD) literature (Pace & Middendorf, 2004a), learning stumbling blocks are referred to as “bottlenecks.” Encountering bottlenecks may lead students to adopt a surface, rather than a deep approach, to learning (Marton & Säljö, 1976, 1997). Our study therefore had two goals:

1. identify bottlenecks to learning tax by gathering information from students who have taken both undergraduate tax courses and faculty who teach those tax topics

2. work with experts in the field (faculty members and tax professionals) to “decode” these topics by “reconstruct[ing] the steps that they themselves do when solving similar problems” (Pace & Middendorf, 2004b, p. 5), so that they may be modelled for students and integrated into teaching.

To our knowledge, engaging students, faculty, and professionals in identifying and decoding bottlenecks represents a novel approach within the DtD methodology. These diverse groups provided valuable input that informed our curriculum re-design (Wolfe, 2007), including topic sequencing, learning outcomes, and both instructional and assessment strategies. Our intent was to leverage contributions from multiple stakeholders to design a curriculum that prepares future professionals for practice.




Thursday June 20, 2013 10:30am - 11:00am
CE-309 Campus Extension Building

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