Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12B, 20-27
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access
Active Learning Methods—An Analysis of Applications and
Experiences in Brazilian Accounting Teaching*
Adriana Maria Procópio de Araujo, Vilma Geni Slomski
1University of São Paulo, College of Economics, Administration and A ccounting, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
2Álvares Penteado School of Commerce Foundation—FECAP, São Paulo, Brazil
Received November 9th, 2 013 ; revised December 9th, 2013; accepted December 16th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Adriana Maria Procópio de Araujo, Vilma Geni Slomski. This is an open access article dis-
tributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and re-
production in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons
Attribution License all Copyrights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property
Adriana Maria Procópio de Araujo, Vilma Geni Slomski. All Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by
SCIRP as a guardian.
In the cognitive form in which they develop their learning, human beings are submitted to a series of in-
terfering factors for the process to happen. One of these factors is the way they absorb, learn and store
knowledge. Constant questions on the teaching and learning process are discussed not only in pedagogy.
The debate to improve education practices is present in any knowledge area and the issue is no different
in the business area. This research aims to describe active learning methods as alternatives to improve the
teaching and learning process in accounting. The study reveals the importance and use of active learning
methods in accounting teaching and demonstrates what is being done in Brazil in this regard. The study
presents some experiences to apply these methods in Brazilian literature, including problem based learn-
ing (PBL). A descriptive and exploratory research method is used. Based on the study, it is concluded that
a knowledge process on active teaching methods applied to the business area is just beginning and that
these can be used to improve the learning process of today’s and future accounting professionals. Al-
though few studies have been published in Brazil, the use of active learning methods has demonstrated ef-
ficiency and students’ adherence, as it contributes to their learning process. In most cases, these methods
are superior to traditional teaching methods.
Keywords: Active Learning Methods; Teaching Methods; Problem Based Learning
Accounting professionals are responsible for creating struc-
tured analysis, suggestion and decision conditions for problem
solving in the companies they are working in. Hence, account-
ants’ profile should be compatible with market and corporate
changes. This profile is a consensus in different countries and
not exclusive to Brazilian professionals.
Social and professional demands for accountants demonstrate,
besides the need for technical preparation, the development of
specific skills. The education of future professionals requires
skills development, critical-reflexive thinking and problem-
solving abilities.
Neves (2006) argues that students today benefit from the
quantity and speed of information, creating distinctive charac-
teristics when compared to former professionals. One of these
characte ristics is the ea sy adaptation t o moving images, as wel l
as a peculiar form of language, mainly required by the use of
internet resources, which entail a new profile for higher educa-
tion candidates.
According to the author, as a result of this scenario, students
no longer want to know how things work, but how they can
make things work and interact with reality, representing a chal-
lenge for traditional lectures which, despite support from
audiovisual resources, may not be attractive for this new stu-
dent profile. Students may face difficulties to assimilate these
lectures with the support of static images.
Andrade (2002) mentions that faculty members, students and
teaching institutions should research, discuss and try out alter-
natives with a view to improving the efficiency and efficacy of
the teaching-learning process, completing the gaps created by
the continuit y of traditional methods.
The transformations in this generation of students and the
updating itself of Brazilian and global accounting legislation
standards and rules broaden the gaps in teaching-learning even
more. These should be completed in order to improve teaching
quality and efficacy.
One way of working with the diversity in job market needs
and students’ anxieties is the use of distinguished pedagogical
methods. This means moving from the teacher’s active position
to students’ active position.
Constant inquiries about the teaching-learning process go
beyond the pedagogy area itself. This debate gains distinctive
characteristics in the corporate area, to the extent that the asso-
ciation between theory and practice is needed for the sake of
*Paper presentation in PBL2010 International Conference - Problem-Based
Learning a n d Active Learning Methodologies, _en.htm.
efficient professional activity.
Hence, in all activity areas and, in this case particularly in
Accountancy teaching, reflecting on innovative teaching and
learning forms led to a necessary change in the role of educa-
tion and school, allying education and professional qualification
as a fundamental process for competitiveness, which started to
be part of the global job scenario.
Undergraduate business courses in which accounting is
taught and professional training courses demand faculty with
professional experience and a compatible theoretical back-
ground to add relevant information to students. A strong oper-
ating and physical structure is not enough to teach course sub-
jects. Contents and knowledge transmitters need to be con-
structed that are compatible with the target public’s expecta-
tions. The target public of accountancy courses necessarily
comprises future and already graduated profession als.
A literature search reveals that the teaching method serves as
a lever for the learning process. Active learning methods are
methods in which techniques are used in the learning process to
achieve the participant (student)’s active insertion in the proc-
ess. Seeking teaching alternatives with the use of active teach-
ing methods is a constant in this high-tech and high-speed in-
formation context.
The pedagogical method can be understood as the teaching
methods, and a given knowledge area develops in the attempt to
reach goals.
According to Nérici (1977: p. 277), teaching method is “the
set of logically coordinated moments and techniques, with a
view to driving the student’s learning towards certain objec-
Basically, teaching method is the route towards an objective.
According to Libâneo (1994), methods are the adequate means
to accomplish objectives. Each knowledge area develops its
own methods, such as mathematical methods, sociological
methods, pedagogical methods, etc.
Therefore, an inquiry is due to reflect on the teaching meth-
ods that are being used to prepare professionals. What is re-
search in this regard looking at around the world? What corre-
lated research is being done in Brazil?
In view of those inquiries, this research looks at the follow-
ing problem: what do studies point towards active learning
methods in Brazilian accountancy teaching?
Thus, the purpose of this research is to describe theory on ac-
tive learning methods in a general sense, as well as the impor-
tance and use of active learning methods in accounting teaching
and to demonstrate what is being done with regard to this issue
in Brazil. This is a descriptive and exploratory study. Therefore,
no specific topic on methodological procedures will be pre-
sented. Instead, procedures will be described inside each topic.
This paper is structured as follows: initially, relevant ques-
tions are discussed in the debate on methodological approaches,
followed by a presentation of active learning methods and what
is being discussed about the theme in the main international
journals. Then, a summary of the research is included, as well
as the characteristics of Brazilian publications. Finally, the
study conclusions indicate the superiority of active learning
methods in accounting teaching when compared with tradi-
tional teaching methods.
Theoretical Framework
The theoretical framework of this study is based on key con-
cepts, which will be clarified because they guide the analytic
perspectives in the results and discussion section. Thus, con-
cepts, implications and foundations will be addressed for the
use of active learning methods, as well as different studies
found in the literature.
Methodological Approaches
Methodological approaches are seen as a means to study the-
ory-based methodological processes. The way in which a given
approach is put in practice is th e t e a c h i n g meth o d.
The different pedagogical lines or trends in Brazilian teach-
ing, called “methodological approaches”, could offer “guide-
lines for teaching action, even when considering that each
teacher elaborates them in an individual and untransferable
way” (Mizukami, 1986).
Learning theories, in psychology and education, are the
various models that explain individuals’ learning process. Con-
tributions by Ausubel, prioritizing significant learning with a
cognitive structure, by Piaget, in the study of cognitive devel-
opment, and Vygotsky, in the theory in which children’s intel-
lectual development occurs in function of social interactions
and living conditions, were somehow fundamental for the evo-
lution of the teaching and learning process in recent years. This
paper does not intend to study these and other theories on the
subject, nor on the accounting area. What is needed is to make
good use of these theories and then, based on the learning
process, study the methodological approaches appropriate to the
needs of accounting education.
Learning process is considered as the way students acquire
knowledge, develop competences and modify their behavior.
Teaching methods are the routes to reach an end, that is, the
routes needed for the learning process to be done correctly.
How accounting is taught in Brazil remains a question without
a scientific answer. Common sense contains different percep-
tions on how teaching takes place, but not scientific discussion.
Likewise, there are no ongoing discussions about how gradu-
ates learn or should learn accounting. What is known is that, in
many situations, students do not learn what is essential and
goes through a lot of difficulty to graduate, resulting in profes-
sionals without many perspectives.
The entire accountancy framework in Brazil, as a knowledge
area and specifically in the field of applied social sciences, is
based on behavioral theory, following Skinner’s approach (after
1930). The essence of this theory is the premise that human
behavior is understood in function of operating behavior. Nev-
ertheless, other research in psychology and education have
advanced on this concept and this research does not aim to go
deeper into questions on what theory best applies to accounting
teaching. Instead, knowing them is one of this study’s concerns.
In Brazil, we do not know which methodological lines or ap-
proaches predominate in accounting teaching. Therefore, the
approaches by Mizukami (1986) were chosen, who is a re-
nowned researcher in Brazilian higher education and summa-
rizes the pedagogical theories and doctrines in a study focused
on knowledge about teaching approaches. The proposal is to
find out how teaching takes place, considering the following
approaches: 1) traditional approach; 2) behavioral approach; 3)
humanistic approach; 4) cognitive approach; and 5) sociocul-
tural approach.
In the traditional approach, the transmission of ideas is logi-
cally selected and organized. Mizukami (1986) quotes that
Open Access 21
intelligence is a faculty capable of storing information, ranging
from the most simple to the most comple x.
This approach is recognized in Paulo Freire’s “banking edu-
cation” studies, in which the educator “deposits” knowledge,
information, data etc. in the student.
In the behavioral approach, the teacher controls the learning
process and is responsible for knowledge transmission, while
the students take the learning role. Teachers teach and, at the
same time, should stimulate students to learn.
The proposal of the humanistic approach is for human beings
to develop without any influence, observing a person’s inter-
personal relations and personality growth in the construction
and personal organization of each individual’s reality. In this
case, the teacher is seen as a facilitator of the teaching and
learning process.
The cognitive approach concentrates on the students’ infor-
mation integration and processing capacity. The way students
organize knowledge is emphasized, how they process informa-
tion, directly relate to their way of thinking or cognitive styles.
Piaget and Brumer are responsible for the main studies in this
approach. At the start of the 1990’s, Skinner (1990) recognized
and questioned the learning process using cognitive bases, al-
though he was a complete follower of behavioral theory.
In the sociocultural approach, knowledge development is re-
lated to the awareness process. Roles are inverted and the stu-
dent becomes the educator in the teaching-learning process.
According to Freire (1987), there is no other route than that
of humanizing pedagogical practice through a permanent dia-
logical relation. Hence, problematizing education is “a perma-
nent effort through which men critically perceive how ‘they are
being’ in the world with ‘what’ and ‘in what’ they find them-
selves” (Freire, 1987: p. 41).
According to Mizukami (1986, p. 4), different pedagogical
lines or trends in Brazilian teaching, which the author calls
“approaches”, could provide “guidelines for teaching action,
even when considering that each teacher elaborates them in an
individual and untransferable way”. Picture 1 summarizes
these approaches and relates them with teaching methods.
Methodological approaches—traditional/behavioralist/cognitive/
sociocultural—teaching methods
Choosing one approach only, however, would not be ideal to
reach the goal of preparing students as well as possible. Spe-
cialization in one of these would not be the case either. What is
interesting is interaction between ways of working with the
teaching and learning process, with a view to improving the
accounting teaching process.
Active Learning Methods
Active learning methods are methods in which the teaching
emphasis is centered on the student. The students’ role changes
from passive to active in the process, often assuming the main
role in their own learning.
In traditional teaching methods, the use of teaching methods
is basically teacher-based, and the student merely receives the
content. The teacher is responsible for learning, while the stu-
dent in most cases plays the role of a mere receiver and is a
passive participant in the learning process.
The contributions of Ausubel, prioritizing cognitive learning,
and Vygotsky to learning development (Leif and Rustin, 1968)
structure later discussions like Piaget and, more recently,
Picture 1.
Methodological approaches. Source: Mizukami, 1986, adapted by the
The big challenge at the start of this century is the perspec-
tive of individual autonomy developing in close coalition with
the collective. Education should be capable of unleashing a
view of the whole – of interdependence and cross-disciplinarity
-, besides permitting the construction of networks of social
changes, with the consequent expansion of individual and col-
lective awareness. Therefore, one of its merits is exactly the
growing trend to seek innovative methods, which permit ethical,
critical, reflexive and transformative practice, moving beyond
the boundaries of purely technical training to effectively
achieve man’s formation as a historical being, inscribed in the
dialectics of action-reflection-action (Mitre et al., 2008: p. 4).
The main benefits of using active learning methods are: con-
tributing to the study of a topic from different perspectives;
expanding students’ awareness about tolerance to bias and
complexity; stimulating other students’ respect, opinions and
experiences; developing cooperative learning habits; helping
students in the development of synthesis and integration skills;
affirming students as co-producers of knowledge; encouraging
students to acknowledge and investigate their premises; among
There are different traditional teaching methods, which can
be used in a wide range of forms. These include: lectures (most
common form), use of blackboard notes, note boards, presenta-
tions on a given topic, slides to present certain contents. These
methods are not necessarily decaying, nor do they fail to reach
the goal of students’ learning, but either the teacher should be
self-assured and master the contents in order to transmit
knowledge and make students learn, or these methods will be
Graduates today are different from graduates five years ago
and the learning process should obviously accompany man’s
evolution. Independently of the country where the student actu-
ally studies, differences are clear. But different in what aspects?
In the cognitive form in which their learning is developed, hu-
man beings are submitted to a series of interfering factors for
the process to occur. One of these factors is the way in which
man absorbs, learns and stores knowledge. In a generation in
which high technology is a reality and information evolves at
an absurd speed, maintaining the same teaching form as in the
last decade may, in different circumstances, no longer attend to
the needs of the student public. Educators become obliged to
seek alternative active methods. In the accounting area, in
which the teaching situation should be as close as possible to
the actual market situation, these methods only contribute to the
learning process.
The most common active learning methods are: seminars,
case studies, project-based learning and problem based learning
Open Access
Open Access 23
(PBL), among others. Chart 1 shows some active learning
methods and their main characteristics.
Some of the above methods are known and end up being
used in daily teaching, even without their formal name. There is
no formal or theoretical indication on when to use one or an-
other method. The most adequate method should be used to
reach the intended goal, aiming for the student’s optimal learn-
It is a utopia to elect the most important method. All methods
have advantages and applications. Disadvantages are also de-
tected in the lack of knowledge about each method and in cases
of unstructured and unplanned application. In those situations,
the method will not facilitate the learning process for the stu-
dent, but can easily turn into a learning problem.
Research on T e a ching Method Public ations
When observing accounting teaching in Brazil, the general
perception is that the teaching method centers on the compre-
hensive use of traditional methods, where the teacher is ex-
tremely necessary in the teaching-learning process. Students are
passive agents in the process, assuming the role of receiving the
information and experiences their teachers transmit. No re-
search indicating or demonstrating this perception were identi-
fied in Brazilian l iterature.
The survey of research published in international databases
(journals) that constituted the heuristics on the theme was based
on the following parameters: (1) indexed in the Scopus system;
(2) indexed in the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI);
impact ratio in Journal Citation Report (JCR) above 0.5; pub-
lished in the last ten years or available for on-line access. Key-
words were also used to facilitate the search and identify pub-
liccations of interest. Table 1 shows a summary of the survey:
The research also included the Journal of Accounting Educa-
tion, which was not included in the above table because this
specific journal debates accounting education issues, so that all
papers somehow fit into the topic discussed in this research. In
the heuristics, more than 200 papers were identified whose
abstracts contained the selected keywords.
After constructing the heuristics on accounting teaching,
methodology and education, the search looked at references
about the use of active learning methods in accounting. The
topic is identified in some international journals. The study by
Cottell Jr and Millis (1992) discusses the use of study groups to
improve students’ performance in the accounting learning
process. These authors call the method learning cooperatives in
Hand, Sanderson and O’Neil (1996) investigated the use of
active learning methods for the business area, specifically for
accounting teaching, and concluded that these methods need to
be used for a better assessment of the teaching-learning process.
In another research, by Kanet and Barut (2003), the active
learning method is used for business teaching in an MBA
(Master in Business Administration) course. The researchers
adopted the PBL method in a specialization course and pre-
sented statements about the success of and adherence to the
method. Applications of the PBL methods in accounting teach-
ing can also be studied in Johnstone and Biggs (1998), Milne
and McConnell (2001), Hansen (2006), among others.
Method Application Some Advantages
The teacher presents the theme and then makes room
for class dis cussion; small discussion groups can be
organized, with the teacher closing off the topic after
the groups’ p resentations.
* favors reflection on what was learned,
* opportunities for studen ts to present their ideas;
* students’ awareness on the problems presented;
* favors students’ le arning how to think;
* stimulates students’ involvement;
* favors teacher-student relations.
Seminars Students present research themes and topics predefined
by the teacher. Can be individual or in group.
* favors the dissemin ation of ideas;
* develops skills for communication in public;
* favors the construction of ideas;
* ability to synthesize to pi cs;
* stimulate s g roup le arning.
Student groups are constituted with predefined roles,
called tutorial group: leader, secretary and other group
participants; the teacher presents the research problem
situation; the teacher plays the role of tutor and only
guides each group’s tasks.
* facilitates understanding of topics;
* favors learn ing in the inte rdisciplinary context;
* students are free to master their own learning;
* develops interpersonal and gro up work ski ll s.
Similar to PBL, but without a formal s tructure of role
division and script to follow; in this method,
problema tization follows five pre-established steps:
reality, key points, the ori zation, solution hypotheses
and application to reality.
* favors the presentation of different sol ut ions for the same problem;
* develops creativity;
* creates self-assurance to solve problems;
* develops observation and applic ation skills in the real world.
In the project-based method, the teacher passes all
steps to construct a project to the students; the student
is completely active in the process.
* develops planning and organization skills;
* creates students’ habit to use scripts ant timetables;
* facilitate s s tudents’ self-criticism in the asse s sm ent of goal compliance
Case Studies
The teacher develop s or applies a s it uation in which the student
should deve lop activities and present one or more solutions;
the teacher leads the process and stimulates the student’s
ability to learn how to learn; can be individual or in group.
* favors critical analysi s s kills;
* stimulates students to apply knowledge in the real world;
* develops leadership and problem-solving skills.
Simulation The teacher passes different forms of problem situations
to the students, who look f or options to solve the problems.
* develops thinking skills;
* stimulates creativity;
* ability to discover different solutions to the same problem.
Chart 1.
Active learning methods. Source: elaborated by the authors.
Table 1.
Summary of research p ubl ish ed in in ternational j o u rnals in the last five years.
RESEARCH in international journals Key words
Journals education teachingmethods teaching or learning teaching accounting or education
1 Issues in Accounting Education ( AAA) 15 6
2 Accounting, Organization and Society 17
3 Journal of Accounting an d Econom i cs 9 1
4 Journal of Ac counting Rese arch 3
5 European Accounting Review 37
6 Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education 13
Source: elaborated by the authors.
In this knowledge process found in international studies,
some deserve to be highlighted, although they were not neces-
sarily included in the present research base. Dennis Gordon, an
accounting faculty from Akron University, Ohio, discussed
accounting teaching methods in the computerization process in
an article published in the Accounting Review in 1962.
In that same year, Wiley Mitchell, a professor at Kansas
University, presented a paper at the American Accounting As-
sociation (AAA) convention in Michigan, where he discussed
the importance and use of accounting teaching methods for law
Returning to the indexed research base, in 1999, Sarah Bon-
ner, a professor at the University of Southern California, pub-
lished a study in Issues in Accounting Education in which she
discussed that teaching methods should be in accordance with
the learning form and the proposed teaching objective, and that
anything to the contrary would jeopardize success.
Another study, published in Issues in Accounting Education
in 2000 by Michael Maher, a professor at Washington Univer-
sity, discusses how teachers can improve management control
teaching by using adequate methods.
With regard to the use of the PBL method, in 2003, John
Kanet, a professor at Dayton University and Mehmet Barut, a
professor at Barton School of Business and Wichita State Uni-
versity, presented a paper in Decision Sciences Journal of In-
novative Education, discussing the application of active learn-
ing methods through the use of PBL to teach production ad-
ministration in MBA courses since 1998. They present an effi-
cacy test model to analyze the acceptance of PBL in compare-
son with other traditional teaching methods.
In 2007, Julia Shaftel, an educational psychology professor
and Timothy Shaftel, a business professor, both at Kansas Uni-
versity, published another interesting study in Issues in Ac-
counting Education. The paper presents a discussion on how the
methods used in the teaching system (before entering business
school) interfere in business learning and how they can be ad-
justed, if necessary, with a view to improving learning in the
In summary, various papers call attention to the study of
teaching methods in the business area and specifically in ac-
counting in this research.
Using the same data collection technique, the survey also
looked at Brazilian journals, using the ranking of the Coordina-
tion for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel
(CAPES), affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Education.
CAPES periodically disseminates a ranking of the best journals
classified in each knowledge area. Table 2 shows the results of
that survey:
With regard to Brazilian research, two health journals appear
in the list. There are at least two justifications for this choice: 1)
being included in the CAPES ranking for the business area with
classifications A1 and A2 and, 2) publishing articles that dis-
cuss teaching methods for the health area which can also be
used in business.
Another observation related to the Revista de Administração
Contemporânea (RAC), classified as B1. Eighty-four articles
were identified with the keywords education and teaching. All
papers are related to administration teaching in different active-
ity areas, but none was identified in accounting. The same is the
case for journal B1- Revista de Administração de Empresas
As this paper mainly looks at Brazilian research, next, papers
published on active learning methods in the last five years will
be discussed.
Active Learning Methods in Brazil
Pedagogy research has appointed active learning methods as
a ‘modernization’ of the integration process between teaching
and student staff, thus following the evolution of teaching. Dif-
ferent factors are related to the theme: (1) high level and quan-
tity of information to be absorbed; (2) student-directed learning
process; (3) cultural aspects related to the target public of
learning, among others.
In health sciences, including medicine, dentistry, pharmacy,
psychology, biological sciences, collective health, among oth-
ers, there is constant discussion on appropriate teaching meth-
ods to improve the teaching-learning process.
With regard to the use of active learning methods in business,
in Brazil, some studies were identified, which will be critically
identified in further detail.
Chart 2 shows all papers identified in recent publications
about the theme, used in the above described database and in
the databases of four Brazilian and international congress an-
nals held in Brazil and one accounting journal: (1) Congress of
the National Association of Graduate Programs in Accountancy
(ANPCONT), (2) University of São Paulo (USP) Accounting
and Controllership Congress, (3) Encounter of the National
Administration Graduate Program and Research Association
Open Access
Table 2.
Summary of researc h published in Brazilian journals in the last five years.
RESEAR CH in Brazilian journals Key words
Journals Education and
teaching Teaching and
learning m ethods Accounting teaching
or education
1 Cadernos de S aúde Pública (FIOCRUZ) - ranking A1 1
2 BAR Brazilian Administration Review - ranking A2 12
3 Ciência & Saúde Coletiva - r anking A2 9
4 Gestão de Produção (UFSCar) - ranking A2 2
5 Revista de Contabilidad e & Finanças - ranking B1 9 1
6 RAC Eletrônica (online) - ranking B1
7 RAC Revista de Administração Contemporânea - ranking B1 84
8 RAE Elet rôni ca - ranki ng B1 5 9
9 RAE Revista de Administração de Empresas - ranking B1 34 4
Source: elaborated by the authors
No Authors Title Year and P l a ce of Public ation
01 Araujo and Rodrigue s O ensino da contabilidade: Aplicação do m étodo PBL na s di sciplinas
de contabili dade de uma Instituição de Ensino Superior Particular” 2006 Congre sso USP de
Controladoria e Contabilida de
02 Soares and Araujo Aplicação do método de ensino Prob l em Based Learning (PBL)
no curso de Ciências Contábeis: um estudo empírico 2008 ANPCONT
03 Soares, Araujo and Leal Evidências Empíricas da Aplicação do Mé todo Problem-based
Learning (PBL) na Disciplina de Contabilidade Intermediária
do Curso de Ci ências Contábeis 2008 EnANPAD
04 Borges Le al and Casa Nova Métodos dramáticos aplicados a intervenções socioeducativas
de Autogestão e Contabilidade 2009 REPeC
05 Araujo et al. Aplicação do Método Problem-based Learning (PBL) no de curso
de especialização em controladoria e finanças 20 10 P BL International Congress
06 Souza and Casa Nova Focus Group aplicado ao ensino da contabilidade para avaliar a
percepção dos discentes sobre a participação de um jogo de papéis (role play) 2010 PBL International Congress
Chart 2.
Application of active learning methods in accounting teaching. So u rce: elaborated by the authors.
(EnANPAD), (4) Problem Based Learning 2010 International
Congress held in São Paulo and (4) Revista de Educação e
Pesquisa em Contabilidade (REPeC).
In paper number one “Accounting teaching: Application of
the PBL method in accounting subjects at a Private Higher
Education Institution”, presented at the 6th University of São
Paulo Accounting and Controllership Congress in 2006, the
authors report on the application of the PBL teaching method at
a private higher education institution (HEI) in São Paulo State
and specifically in accounting teaching to administration stu-
dents. The method was simultaneously applied in two subjects:
general accounting and management accounting. The study
identifies students’ dissatisfaction with learning accounting in
the business administration program. Based on this dissatisfac-
tion, the teacher responsible for the subject decided to try out a
different teaching method to stimulate students’ learning proc-
ess and chose the teaching method based on the concepts of
problem based learning (PBL). The study is limited by the
punctual application of the method to certain groups at one HEI
in a specific learning situation. The study presents no theoretic-
cal background on active learning methods, despite a generic
and timely discussion of the PBL teaching method.
The second paper analyzed was published in 2008, “Applica-
tion of the Problem Based Learning teaching method in the
Accountancy course: an empirical study”. The authors applied
PBL in introductory accounting teaching to accountancy stu-
dents from an HEI in São Paulo State, during one semester, as
part of the normal course curriculum. The result of this research
was published in the annals of the ANPCONT 2008 congress.
Limitations refer to the quantity of observations, that is, like in
article number one, the application is limited to one single stu-
dent group and, hence, to the particularities and situations of
one moment in the teaching-learning process. With regard to
criticism, in the positive sense, the paper presents a theoretical
base for the use of the PBL method, as well as a model to ana-
lyze the method’s efficacy, already tested by other authors that
use PBL. In the negative sense, the paper does not go deeper
into the theoretical aspect of learning. The result underlines the
superiority of the method in comparison with traditional meth-
With regard to the third article, also published in 2008, enti-
tled “Empirical Evidence of the Application of the PBL Method
Open Access 25
in Intermediary Accounting as part of an Accountancy Course”,
the PBL method was applied in intermediary accounting teach-
ing to accountancy students at an HEI in Minas Gerais. The
study maintains the same applications as the previous studies,
except that the subject is intermediary accounting now. As a
result, greater adherence to the method is also detected in com-
parison with traditional teaching methods.
In 2009, an article published in REPeC (“Drama methods
applied to socio-educative interventions in Self-management
and Accounting”) demonstrates the contributions of using
drama techniques in socio-educative Self-management inter-
ventions (democratic management) and accounting in the con-
text of non-formal education; two drama methods were used
that are common in educative practices: Role-Playing (RP) and
the Theatre of the Oppressed (TO). The authors use active
learning methods as an alternative to improve the teaching-
learning process. Like in the previous studies, the study is lim-
ited by the fact that it was applied in only one situation. The
results demonstrate high level of acceptance by students and a
positive alternative method for accounting teaching.
Articles five and six were presented at the international con-
gress on active learning methods held in São Paulo in February
2010. In the first, “Application of the PBL method in the spe-
cialization course in controllership and finance”, the study pre-
sented the application of the PBL teaching method in an ac-
counting subject taught in a lato sensu graduate program at an
HEI in São Paulo State. The paper discusses approaches to the
learning process and the application of PBL to controllership
teaching in the course. In the second article, “Focus group ap-
plied to accounting teaching to assess students’ perception on
participation in role play”, the application of the focus group
method is discussed as an active learning method applied to
accounting teaching in order to assess role play. Both papers
present discussions on learning theories and approaches to the
learning process. Limitations include the presentation of iso-
lated research. The results indicate students’ positive accep-
tance in both studies.
Research has demonstrated that active learning methods are
used with positive results when compared with traditional
teaching methods. Other knowledge areas, such as the health
area, study the theme very thoroughly. In applied social science
however, insufficient importance has been granted to quality
improvement in the teaching-learning process and professional
preparation courses.
These issues need to be discussed and, what is more, any
educator and opinion maker needs to go deeper into learning
theories. Besides preparing professionals in accounting and
related areas, graduates are also citizens who, in a way, will
make the future better than the present and will construct
knowledge or continue the construction process.
Final Considerations
As an extremely technical area, accounting has shown indif-
ference towards the use of active teaching methods. In Brazil,
little research in this respect is found.
It is known that the professional competency demands ac-
counting professionals are confronted and often exceed what
accounting programs are preparing. More than 1200 higher
education institutions offer accountancy courses in Brazil, few
of which are discussing teaching methods in their political-
pedagogical projects. All of these institutions, however, have
their respective projects and all of them are committed to pre-
paring professionals with abilities that include, besides tech-
nical skills, critical analysis and interdisciplinary knowledge.
Using traditional teaching methods to prepare professionals
who are able to solve problems in the real world, interprets
situations and critically analyzes the cases they are confronted
with will be quite a hard task.
Despite the few studies published, facilitating this learning
process by using active methods has demonstrated students’
efficiency and adherence to improve their learning process in
comparison with traditional teaching methods. Similar propos-
als are successfully put in practice abroad.
This research is mainly limited by the fact that educational
theories are not discussed as thoroughly as they should be. This
limitation is justified by the fact that further di scussion is needed
in psychology and education as a knowledge area, which goes
beyond the goal of this study. The research on learning theories
mentioned here is just the tip of the iceberg. The survey of Bra-
zilian authors’ research using active learning methods, and in
greater depth by international authors, starts a discussion proc-
ess on the subject in which there is no way back. And that is
exactly the goal of this research—to attract accounting re-
searchers’ attention to the importance of going deeper into this
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