ABSTRACT

The accounting profession has long called for learning strategies that actively develop students' critical analysis and problem-solving skills in unstructured settings (Accounting Education Change Commission [AECC] 1990), and where learning outcomes map into American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) (2000) core competencies. This paper proposes the use of a service-learning strategy in the introductory management accounting course. This learning strategy reflects the Institute of Management Accountants' (IMA) new definition of management accounting as a strategic imperative (IMA 2008), and responds to Rama's (1998) monograph revealing limited examples of service-learning in management accounting. In addition, this paper proposes that faculty work with real social enterprises that sell goods and services for profit and in support of a broader social mission. I argue that relative to working on nonprofit/government cases, working in the social enterprise setting may offer students a more tractable transition from the for-profit examples in many textbooks. I also argue that relative to working on for-profit cases, working in the social enterprise setting may provide students access to proprietary data used internally for managerial decision-making. The pedagogy of service-learning in the accounting curriculum and its relevance to that proposed in this paper is discussed. Generalized service-learning planning documents, examples, adaptations of case study questions, and a responsibility checklist are provided. Implementation guidelines that address key stakeholder barriers to success (Kenworthy-U'Ren 2008) are discussed, and examples of social enterprise service-learning implementations are presented. Post-implementation survey responses from students suggest that the social enterprise service-learning experience positively affected their learning of specific management accounting concepts, issues faced by mission-driven organizations, and how they can uniquely contribute by applying what they learn.

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