Aalto University: Pedagogical research benefiting university education

Professor Jari Huikku and Assistant Professor Emma-Riikka Myllymäki from the Department of Accounting at the Aalto University School of Business and Professor Hannu Ojala from the University of Eastern Finland have recently published an article entitled ‘Gender differences in the first course in accounting: An achievement goal approach’. The article discusses the achievement goals adopted by students in an introductory accounting course and their impact on academic performance from a gendered perspective.

‘Interpreting the results, we understood that gender has a significant impact on students’ achievement goals, so we made it the focus of our examination’, says Jari Huikku.

Emma-Riikka Myllymäki says that the research group found that male students in particular take a performance-goal oriented approach to the studies and seem to be motivated by competitiveness. Male students want to outperform their peers in their accounting studies.

‘Male students also seem to have a more positive view of accounting studies than female students. This also seems to have an impact on why men often adopt a performance-goal oriented approach to studying. Men who opted for a performance-goal oriented approach also received higher grades for exams than women, but we found no differences between male and female students when it came to the results of group assignments.’

Aiming for an equal opportunity to succeed
The findings and conclusions of the study can be useful in a concrete way when planning courses.

Hannu Ojala says that the study looked at a compulsory introductory accounting course, resulting in a diverse range of participants. ‘Not everyone is necessarily interested in accounting, but our study still reveals the need to ensure equal opportunities for students to succeed in the course. This is a fundamental aspect that requires conscious attention when designing and implementing courses. It should be reflected in the design of the learning environment, content, assessment methods and teaching methods of a course. More generally, accounting teachers and the rest of the profession should strive to reduce gender-related stereotypes in accounting.’

The research group also encourages all their colleagues to conduct pedagogical research. ‘You learn a lot about teaching, and the results can really have practical relevance for yourself and other teachers as well as people who plan teaching and education’, says Jari Huikku.

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