Integration and Reflection – Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice

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The Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice not only provides students with the opportunity to assess their own learning, and identify strengths and areas needing improvement, but it presents an important, timely, and necessary chance for students to reflect on the process of learning. Students examine their academic, professional, personal lives, and then connect and reflect on these experiences.

The practice calls for “a meaning-making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationship with and connection to other experiences and ideas,” and “personal and intellectual growth of oneself and of others” (Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective ThinkingRodgers (2002)).

Accounting faculty in the Department of Business & Technology at LaGuardia Community College use this practice or a variation of it in their Intermediate Accounting II course.

Author
Rajendra Bhika, CPA, MS, Associate Professor of Accounting, LaGuardia Community College

Description

intergrating_and_reflection_1_622x415Since its inception, LaGuardia’s ePortfolio project has been guided by key scholarship on reflection, including those of Carol Rodgers. Distilled from Dewey’s work, Rodgers’ four criteria that she feels characterize reflection and its purposes are particularly influential to LaGuardia’s work with ePortfolio. With Web 2.0 technology, “being present” extends beyond the traditional classroom and now it includes having a “virtual footprint.” Visibility is part of this conversation, and prompts inquiry, experimentation, integration, and interpretation – all significant to meaningful Reflection.

Accounting faculty in the Department of Business & Technology at LaGuardia have embraced ePortfolio as a pedagogical tool to facilitate inquiry, reflection, and integration in the Intermediate Accounting II course. Intermediate Accounting II, the capstone course for the Accounting Program, “completes” students’ studies at the College in the following ways:

  • It allows students to review basic accounting skills gained from work completed in previous accounting courses, and it expands their current knowledge with more sophisticated analyses and discussions of financial statements.
  • It enables students to look back on work done in other courses they have taken at the College (not only accounting), and reflect on the common knowledge and skills gained from those courses.
  • It guides students to look ahead and create an action plan to confront the challenges and opportunities (i.e., transfer, job/career search, etc.) that will surface upon graduation.

To a degree, Rodgers’ four criteria have influenced faculty practices in the Intermediate Accounting II course. The syllabi and the practices used in this course evokes “a meaning-making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationship with and connection to other experiences and ideas,” and “personal and intellectual growth of oneself and of others.” Faculty who teach the Intermediate Accounting II course use the practice presented below or a variation of it as part of their capstone pedagogy. This semester-long practice, developed by Professor Rajendra Bhika, represents a conscious effort made by faculty to use a process of inquiry to prompt integration and reflection, and assists students in making connections between various assignments, courses, and experiences as they prepare for their next assignment, next course, and next steps in life.

Professors Edward Goodman and Angela Wu in the Department of Business & Technology, who also teach the Intermediate Accounting II course, and Professor Michael Napolitano, Chairperson of the Department of Business & Technology, provided guidance to Professor Bhika as he developed this practice.

Part I: Step-By-Step

Drawing on the concepts of inquiry, reflection, and integration, the Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice simulates a situation in which students are preparing their capstone ePortfolio for an interview in order to obtain a position as a Staff Accountant at an accounting and consulting firm. Students are required to develop, polish, and present their ePortfolio to peers, similar to what could be done for the hiring committee at a company.

The practice promotes behaviors associated with High Impact Practices by having students “discovering relevance of learning through real-world applications” (High-Impact Practices; Retrospective and Prospective, Kuh (2009)). Guided by a process of inquiry, over the course of a semester, students work with a peer mentor, classmates, and the faculty to develop a capstone ePortfolio that provides them with the opportunity to reflect on various experiences (i.e., academic, professional, and personal) and integrate artifacts that situates them in the best position for employment with VB Accounting Services.

The Practice

“In a competition for the position as a Staff Accountant with VB Accounting Services, an accounting and consulting firm, which has been in operation since 1971, you and two other candidates have equal qualifications. Mr. Johnson, Owner of VB Accounting Services has invited each of you for a second interview at the Company’s New York City location to make a brief presentation to the hiring committee as to why you should be hired as the next Staff Accountant with the Company. Mr. Johnson wants to invest in a candidate who possesses the knowledge, skills, and potential for long-term grow with the Company.” Click Here to see the full practice.

Students are required to work on this practice primarily in a “studio hour.”  The studio hour, a non-credit hour attached to the Intermediate Accounting II course, meets every week over the semester. The studio hour is facilitated by an ePortfolio Consultant — advanced peer mentor — who works very closely with the capstone accounting course faculty to support the process of students completing their capstone ePortfolio work.

Part II: The Role of Reflection in Advancing Student Learning

Why should accounting majors be able to think critically about an issue, perform research, and communicate decisions made effectively via oral and written means? Why is it so important for students in the Intermediate Accounting II course to make connections, put the pieces together, and see the whole picture?  Well, success and longevity in the accounting profession depends on it.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the national professional association of Certified Public Accountants, has developed the AICPA Core Competency Framework, which defines “a set of skills-based competencies needed by all students entering the accounting profession.”  The AICPA Core Competency Framework “supports the concept of learning as a continuum that begins in an academic setting and continues with life-long professional education and experience. Further, by basing curriculum guidance on professional expectations, the Framework aims to ease transition from student to professional.”

Through its integrative and reflective nature, the Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice prompts a process of inquiry where students connect and reflect on their academic, professional, and personal lives to develop a heightened level of professional skepticism — being able to identify, critically analyze, question, and interpret connections between ideas and facts.  At the capstone level, this is especially important as students are preparing for the transition from LaGuardia to senior colleges and prospective employers.

Part III: Evidence of Impact on the Student Learning Experience

Evidence

The following evidence associated with this and other similar practices has been collected:

  • # of students
  • Course completion
  • Pass rates
  • Retention rates
  • Student engagement through surveys/interviews

It is more difficult to measure the effectiveness of singular interventions within a class than of a targeted course as a whole.

LaGuardia’s Center for Teaching and Learning, in conjunction with the College’s Office of Institutional Research, routinely collects enrollment, completion, pass and retention rates for targeted courses.  It also administers surveys to measure student engagement in those courses. Because these accounting courses exist at the capstone level, and thereby have very limited offerings (sometimes as few as 1-2 sections per semester), they pose an inherent problem of data collection. When only one section runs, there is no available control group against which to compare the data.  Thus, a sample course from spring 2011 that had a 100% completion rate and a 90% pass rate, for example, stands as if in a vacuum. Moreover, because capstone students are theoretically at the end of the sequence in their major, the retention rate (the percentage of students who reenrolled the following semester) of these classes is even harder to contextualize. However, when course data is considered alongside positive student survey data, one can reasonably assume an overall degree of success. For example, students in targeted capstone classes averaged 3.09 on a 4-point Likert scale when asked, “During the current school year, how much has your coursework at this college emphasized synthesizing and organizing ideas, information, or experiences in new ways,” compared with a national average of 2.80 (from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement).

Practice Identifiers

Location, Scale, and High Impact Practices

Where is the practice used?

  • Course (all sections)
  • Program
    • Professional Majors
    • Capstone Experiences

Accounting faculty who teach the Intermediate Accounting II course have completed an intensive, year-long professional development seminar titled Rethinking the Capstone ExperienceFaculty participants in this cross-disciplinary program, offered by LaGuardia’s Center for Teaching and Learning, studied national models of capstone education and also assessed capstone education at the College. An important part of the work done by faculty in the seminar included examining and revising, if necessary, the capstone course syllabus and classroom practices, and identifying areas within the course to incorporate ePortfolio and reflection to add value to what was already being done. As you proceed through this module, in addition to artifacts presented by Professor Bhika to highlight his Intermediate Accounting II course practice, you will also note various artifacts from Professor Goodman’s accounting capstone course practice. These pieces of work points to the dialogue happening between faculty as they work together to enrich the teaching and learning experience, in this case, for students taking the College’s capstone accounting course.

Shown below is a video of Professor Napolitano, Chairperson of the Department of Business & Technology, discussing the importance of providing a capstone experience for accounting students that uses ePortfolio to prompt inquiry, reflection, and integration. Accounting faculty are currently engaged in conversation to think about ways ePortfolio can be used to facilitate this process throughout the Accounting Program.

Recognizing that students in the Accounting Program are required to take Introduction to Business, this course is currently seen as an early opportunity for students and faculty to explore the value that ePortfolio can add to the teaching and learning process, for students to develop objectives and goals and achieve work, and for students to begin the process of reflecting on their engagement and learning. Other courses (i.e., Business Law IPrinciples of Accounting II, etc.) are being examined for areas where practices of inquiry, reflective, and integration can be incorporated in order to facilitate students becoming better prepared to meet the demands of the Intermediate Accounting II course.

Shown below is a web presentation titled Capstone as a Catalyst for Departmental Change, which was made by Professor Bhika.  In this presentation, Professor Bhika explains the steps his department, the Department of Business & Technology, has taken or plans on taking to help students better prepare for the expectations of the capstone experience for the various majors offered by the department. ePortfolio plays a key role in this project and serves as a pedagogical tool to facilitate inquiry, reflection, and integration.

Shown below is a video in which accounting and business students and faculty share their thoughts and appreciation for the value that ePortfolio has added to the teaching and learning process:

Helping Students Advance Their Learning

Reflection as Integrative

Students’ ePortfolio reflections are designed to help them…

  • Make connections across courses and semesters
  • Make connections across disciplines
  • Make connections among academic experiences, co-curricular & lived experiences

Guided by qualities (i.e., “reflecting and integrative learning” and “discovering relevance of learning through real-world applications”) of High Impact Practices (High-Impact Practices: Retrospective and Prospective, Kuh (2009)), phases # 3 and 4 of Professor Bhika’s practice requires students to design, complete, and reflect on a Learning Matrix.  See Reflection as Systematic & Disciplined below for a description of the Learning Matrix.

Reflection as systematic & disciplined

Students’ ePortfolio reflection processes embody…

  • A structured & scaffold process
  • Connecting their learning to Gen Ed or programmatic competencies

Professor Bhika’s Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice is designed and scaffolded in a very systemic manner. Although it does not adhere to the Reflective Cycle of Presence in Experience, Description of Experience, Analysis of Experience, and Experimentation (Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking, Rodgers (2002)), to a degree, each can be identified in the practice — see Phases # 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 of the practice. In LaGuardia’s capstone accounting course, students should be able to demonstrate a strong level of proficiency of the College’s General Education Core Competencies (i.e., critical literacy, quantitative reasoning, oral communication, research and information literacy, and technological literacy), which are very similar to those identified by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.  Phases # 3 and 4 of the practice presented above requires students to design, complete, and reflect on a Learning Matrix. The Learning Matrix is a multi-dimensional grid that prompts the students to look at their academic, professional, personal lives, and then select, connect, and reflect on artifacts from those experiences. This activity not only provides students with the opportunity to assess their own learning, and identify strengths and areas needing improvement, but it presents an important, timely, and necessary chance for students to reflect on the process of learning. The practice calls for “a meaning-making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationship with and connection to other experiences and ideas,” and “personal and intellectual growth of oneself and of others.”

Reflection as Social Pedagogy

Students use ePortfolio to share/peer review/ discuss/collaborate, connecting around course work, reflections, plans, goals, stories, etc.

  • Sharing their ePortfolios w/ & getting comments from faculty
  • Sharing & engaging in interactive ePortfolio commentary w/ other students

Drawing on “interacting with faculty and peers about substantive matters” (High-Impact Practices: Retrospective and ProspectiveKuh (2009)), phase # 8 of the practice presented above requires students to showcase their capstone ePortfolio to peers with the intention of sharing their knowledge, skills, potential, etc. A presenter has to consider and present, amongst other things, the following: The sections of the capstone ePortfolio that best demonstrates who they are, their development over time, achievements, knowledge, skills, potential, etc. Peers share verbal comments with the presenter, as well as written comments using the comment function within ePortfolio. Moreover, during regular class meetings, the instructor provides feedback on the students’ capstone ePortfolios during the development process. As noted in Phase # 1 of the practice, students are given the opportunity to explore other students’ ePortfolio that are made publicly available, but are not required to make hyperlinks to those ePortfolios.

Reflection as a process of guiding personal change

Students use ePortfolio for educational and career development, identity formation, by …

  • Articulating their educational and career goals
  • Planning/preparing for transfer or advanced education
  • Preparing ePortfolio to showcase to potential employers

Phase # 2 of the Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice requires students to draft or revisit and revise educational and career objectives and goals. Part of the consideration to have students examine and reflect on these within their capstone ePortfolio is because Professor Bhika believes that if students make their objectives and goals visible, they will be motivated and more likely to hold themselves accountable for their own success. The practice simulates a situation in which students are preparing their capstone ePortfolio for an interview in order to obtain a position as Staff Accountant at an accounting and consulting firm.  Students are required to polish and present their ePortfolio to peers, similar to what could be  done for the hiring committee at a company — see Phases # 5 and # 8 of the practice. In today’s ever-changing economic climate where there is an abundance of human resources but limited employment opportunities, students need to understand that they must have an “X” factor to stand at the front of the line. As it relates to using the capstone ePortfolio to help students explore and plan for transfer and advanced education opportunities, see Phases # 5 and # 6 of the practice. Additionally, in our technologically-driven society, an ePortfolio can be that visible and intangible asset when it comes to students obtaining employment or gaining acceptance into advance educational opportunities.

Are Peer Mentors involved with this practice?

  • Yes

Accounting faculty in the Intermediate Accounting II course receives, in addition to professional development, support in the form of ePortfolio Consultants — advanced peer mentors — who teach a supplemental, non-credit hour that is dedicated to development of the capstone ePortfolio and attached to each capstone accounting course. This pilot program was created at the request of faculty and funded through a Title V grant.  Resembling the existing models of the lab or tutorial hours, these “studio hours” promote behaviors (i.e., “investing time and effort”,”reflecting and integrating learning”, etc.) associated with High Impact Practices (High-Impact Practices: Retrospect and Prospective, Kuh (2009)), so that students can have additional time to develop their capstone ePortfolio — time not only to build and refine the structure of their ePortfolio, but also to reflect on their prior learning.

Connections to Other Sectors of the Catalyst

Professional Development

The Center for Teaching and Learning develops and guides professional development related to this practice:

  • Yes

Faculty and staff using this practice engage in the following ePortfolio-related professional development:

  • Sustained seminars (semester long, year-long)

Accounting faculty who employed the Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice or a variation of it in their Intermediate Accounting II course, all completed an intensive, year-long professional development seminar titled Rethinking the Capstone Experience. LaGuardia’s Center for Teaching and Learning, through grant funding, was able to offer faculty the released-time equivalent of one course for developing and piloting their capstone course. The seminar also facilitated intensive orientation and mid-year institutes, plus monthly seminar meetings, to guide the faculty’s work, and performed technological and pedagogical interventions as needed throughout the duration of the implementation courses. Faculty participants in this cross-disciplinary program studied national models of capstone education, reflected on extant capstone pedagogies and practice at the College, and piloted redesigned course syllabi to emphasize themes of integration, reflection, transition, and closure, as well as to highlight ePortfolio as a mechanism for showcasing student knowledge. Following pilot implementation of their revised capstone course syllabi, the faculty continued their work as Capstone Fellows, receiving additional support to further refine and propel their courses. This professional development allowed individual accounting faculty to develop their own course plans and reflective prompts, while stabilized by common background readings, preparatory exercises, and administrative support.

Outcomes Assessment

As part of LaGuardia’s assessment plan to collect, evaluate, and document students’ development in the Intermediate Accounting II course, students are required to deposit artifacts relating to two General Education Core Competencies (i.e., Critical Literacy, and Research and Information Literacy) in the assessment area of the College’s ePortfolio system. Click Here for more information on LaGuardia’s assessment plan.

Technology

The ePortfolio platform being used by LaGuardia is Digication. This platform facilitates accounting students and faculty synthesizing various types of media (i.e., text, image, hyperlink, audio, and video).  As it relates to the practice presented above for the Intermediate Accounting II course, having an ePortfolio platform that supports these types of media allows students and faculty efforts to become more visible and compelling. These functions add a richness to the work exhibited and can help to capture and retain the attention of interested stakeholders (i.e., prospective employers, senior colleges, etc.).

Significant to the versatility of an ePortfolio platform is that each student access, collect, process, retain, and communicate information differently. The College’s ePortfolio platform facilitates an equitable teaching and learning experience for a diverse group of users. The flexibility of the platform allows capstone accounting students the opportunity to showcase their authentic voice in a manner that is as unique to them.

Scaling Up

Accounting faculty who employed the practice or a variation of it have helped with the scaling up of LaGuardia’s ePortfolio work through their scholarly publications and presentations, faculty peer mentoring activities, and participation in professional development seminars.

Part of the Department of Business & Technology’s work with ePortfolio focuses on the use of this teaching and learning tool for building connections – between students and their classmates, between students and faculty/staff, and between students and audiences outside of the classroom – made visible through ePortfolio. One critical piece of the department’s work is focusing on the development of a new first year seminar for business students. In line with an ongoing effort to re-examine and revise the first year experience for all students at the College, faculty and staff in the Department of Business & Technology have begun to take steps to help the students they serve to become more mindful of (a) the department and the functional areas within the business discipline, (b) the College, and (c) the level of integrative support (i.e., ePortfolio, peer mentors, co-curriculars, etc.) that is available to help the students develop plans for academic, professional, and personal progress and success. The department is in the process of designing the First Year Seminar for Business, which will be required for all business students entering LaGuardia during the Spring I 2014 semester. This seminar has the following characteristics:

  • It’s discipline-specific.
  • Mandatory and credit-bearing.
  • Taught by discipline faculty and supported by Student Affairs professionals.
  • Integrates curricular and co-curricular learning and advisement.
  • Leverages peer mentoring.
  • Incorporates technology.

Note: These characteristics are highlighted in The First-Year Seminar – Designing, Implementing, and Assessing Courses to Support Student Learning and Success by Jennifer R. Keup and Joni Webb Petschauer (2011)).

The conversations happening between Professors Bhika, Goodman, Wu, other faculty in the Department of Business & Technology, and Professor Napolitano, Chairperson of the Department of Business & Technology, has prompted this group to explore approaches to integrate and use ePortfolio more intentionally and systematically throughout all programs offered by the department in order to help students develop and make connections between the knowledge and skills required to assist them in transitioning from the first year experience to the capstone experience at LaGuardia. The Department of Business & Technology believes that the First Year Seminar for Business will complement the work students will be exposed to during the capstone experience.

For more information on steps, the Department of Business & Technology and LaGuardia are taking to scale up its ePortfolio efforts through pedagogy, professional development, assessment, etc. Click Here for the College’s ePortfolio Scaling Up Story.

Attachments and Supporting Documents

As noted above, Professor Bhika’s practice evolved as a result of the following:

  • Support provided by the College’s Center for Teaching.
  • Involvement in the Rethinking the Capstone Experience professional development seminar.
  • Guidance provided by Professors Napolitano, Goodman, and Wu.
  • Efforts of the ePortfolio Consultants – advanced peer mentors.

To get a fuller picture of the practices used by faculty who teach the Intermediate Accounting II course, presented below are supplementary information/documents that highlight the link between the Intermediate Accounting II course and attached “studio hour,” and the measures taken by faculty to foster a capstone experience built on the concepts of inquiry, reflection, and integration.

Part I: Assignments, Rubrics, Etc.

R. Bhika – Intermediate Accounting II Course Syllabus – Click Here.

R. Bhika – Intermediate Accounting II Course and Syllabus Reflection – Click Here.

E. Goodman – Intermediate Accounting II Course Syllabus – Click Here.

E. Goodman – Intermediate Accounting II  Studio Hour Syllabus – Click Here.

E. Goodman – Intermediate Accounting II Course Reflection – Click Here.

E. Goodman – Summaries of Reflection Assignments – Click Here.

Part II: Student Work and/or ePortfolio Examples

The following artifacts demonstrate the results of accounting faculty who promote inquiry, reflection, and integration as part of their capstone teaching and learning practices. These pieces of student work, from Professor Bhika’s Intermediate Accounting II course, provide an important opening into students’ academic, professional, personal lives, aspirations, and learning.

Sample Student ReflectionAbout Me – Click Here.

Sample Student Reflection: Professional Goals (ePortfolio Screen Image)

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My Career and Transfer Research Paper — Click Here.

Sample Student Reflection: Community Service (ePortfolio Screen Image)

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Sample Student Reflection: On The Course – Click Here.

Part III: Connections to Other Polished Practices

Other polished practices that the Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice relates to as a result of faculty engagement in the the Rethinking the Capstone Experience professional development seminar are as follows:

  • Reflective Pedagogy Practice – Helping Students Realize the Dream: Polishing ePortfolios in the Capstone Course – Click Here.
  • Reflective Pedagogy Practice – Engaging and Integrating Learning with the Capstone ePortfolio – Click Here.

Conclusion

As a result of implementing the Capstone Accounting ePortfolio Practice in Professor Bhika’s Intermediate Accounting II course, he noticed a strong level of student engagement and connection – with the course content (i.e., both in the studio hour and the capstone accounting course) and with colleagues. From conversing with students and reviewing their ePortfolio, Professor Bhika noted that they were very informed and thoughtful about decisions that would affect their academic, professional, personal lives (i.e., senior college choices, major and degree selections, knowledge and skills required by prospective employers in the accounting profession, etc.).

Integrating this practice or a variation of it in Intermediate Accounting II, the capstone course for the Accounting Program, “completes” students’ studies at LaGuardia, and uses inquiry, reflection, and integration to provide a structure to guide students efforts as they (a) review and expand on basic accounting skills gained from work completed in previous accounting courses with more sophisticated analyses and discussions, (b) look back at work done in other courses at the College (not only accounting) and reflect on the common knowledge and skills gained from those courses, and (c) look ahead and create an action plan to confront the challenges and opportunities (i.e., transfer, job/career search, etc.) that will surface upon graduation.

Introduced in the newly created First Year Seminar for Business, integrated throughout the various programs offered by the Department of Business & Technology, and polished and presented during the capstone experience, ePortfolio is a teaching and learning tool that can foster connections and transition between a student’s various experiences (i.e., academic, professional, and personal).

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