Prior research indicates that students expect participation in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) to improve both their technical competence and their soft skills. To date, the extant research primarily assesses student perceptions about these outcomes. We extend the research by empirically measuring technical competence and a broad range of soft skills at the beginning and end of VITA participation for seventy-one accounting majors (32 females and 39 males) who participated in the VITA program over two years at one major Midwestern university. Class credit with pass/not pass grading is earned for participating in the VITA program at this university if the volunteers pass the qualifying exams and earn participation points by completing at least a minimum number of returns. We test for actual changes in these skills. Our results indicate first-time participants in VITA do improve in technical competence, but students do not become better calibrated with respect to "knowing what they know" as a result of VITA participation. Importantly however, participants in the program improve in their soft skills. Further, both first-time and repeat participants improve their communication skills, although we do not find improvement in interpersonal relations or personal abilities for repeat participants. In sum, our empirical results indicate that the VITA program does deliver the hoped-for outcomes across a wide range of skills.
Is There Learning in Service Learning? Measuring the Extent to Which VITA Participation Improves Student Technical Competence and Soft Skills
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Michael Bootsma, Cynthia Jeffrey, Jon D. Perkins; Is There Learning in Service Learning? Measuring the Extent to Which VITA Participation Improves Student Technical Competence and Soft Skills. Issues in Accounting Education 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.2308/ISSUES-19-113
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