If you listen long enough, patients will tell you exactly what is wrong with them

Many of you know that I’m working on a Masters degree in education, currently I’m through about 1/3 of the thesis.  I struggled for over a year to find a topic that was the right combination of doable, personally interesting, addressing a current challenge, and potentially influential.  I don’t know how my thesis will stack up on those four dimensions at the end but the topic I chose was exploring how professionalism is taught to accounting students and what it takes to do that well.

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  • I’ll give my supervisor major credit for paring the project down to make it doable, thanks Harry!
  • Helping students develop into professionals has been a stated, formal goal of mine for almost five years.  I struggle to see why we think that simply filling heads with technical accounting knowledge will result in developing successful accountants.  Hence, the personal interest in the topic.
  • My sense of accounting faculty hiring over the past 10 years is that there has been a significant change in the composition.  Yes, we’re hiring more research-trained and research-capable faculty than before but we’re hiring less faculty with professional designations, professional training, and ties to the profession.
  • My hope with the thesis is that I can find some “low-hanging fruit” around teaching professionalism where accounting academics can make some serious progress in the near term.

One of the highlights of the thesis so far has been the background research that I’ve done on this topic.  I’ve found an absolute plethora of material about teaching professionalism in medical schools.  Doctors are probably 15 years ahead of accounting education.

The other day I found this wonderful story in the NY Times. Generous benefactors have provided $42M to the University of Chicago.  The funds are meant to help develop programs and curriculum specifically around teaching bedside manner, managing the doctor-patient relationship, and “kindness” to med students.  I think that accounting educators can and will learn a lot from this new endeavour at Chicago.  Accountants spend too long learning the technical material and not enough time learning how to be professionals.  Strong technical knowledge is necessary but not sufficient for professionals; accountants and doctors both.

Well kudos to the Bucksbaums for ponying up the cash.  Let’s keep our ears to the ground to see what we can learn from this and then apply it in accounting education.  Even better, lets start making some progress on our own, we don’t need to let the doctors lead us through the desert, we’re pretty smart on our own.  After all, if we listen carefully enough the answer is likely to find us.

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