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Demographic factors and student preferences on the syllabus in the principles of accounting course.

ABSTRACT

At one time, the course syllabus was a one-page document. Today's typical college syllabus is a multiple-page document that addresses a number of issues and contingencies. This paper presents the results of a survey of 1,726 students from 31 universities in 19 states regarding the course syllabus. The survey instrument was administered during the spring 2002 term and contained 28 items that previous research indicates are likely to appear on a course syllabus. The primary purpose of this study is to assess the relative importance students in the Principles of Accounting course place on different items that frequently appear on a course syllabus. The results are analyzed by the following demographic characteristics: gender, age, years of college experience, and grade point average. The findings of the study indicate that students do not attach the same amount of importance to all syllabus components and that the level of perceived importance varies by the demographic factors. Faculty members may use the findings of this study to adjust their syllabi to improve communication to different types of students.

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, groups as diverse as the American Association for Higher Education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, state legislatures, business leaders, students, and parents have called for improvements in higher education (Seldin 1990). Specific calls to improve accounting education at colleges and universities have been made by the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC), the American Accounting Association (AAA), the major accounting firms, and many others (AAA, 1996; AECC, 1993; Albrecht & Sack, 2000; Kerr & Smith, 2003). The AECC identified five dimensions it considered critical for effective teaching, and the Committee on Promoting and Evaluating Effective Teaching reaffirmed the importance of the five critical areas (AAA, 1996). The five dimensions are designing/developing curriculums and courses, selecting and using appropriate material strong presentation skills, using suitable pedagogical methods and assessment devices, and providing guidance and advisement to students. Although most accounting syllabi do not specifically address presentation skills, they often reflect the design of the course, the selection of appropriate material, the pedagogical methods and assessment devices that will be used, and some guidance to the students on how to successfully complete the course.

Furthermore, the instructor prepares the course syllabus for several stakeholders: students, colleagues, administrators, and accrediting agencies. Jervis and Hartley (2005) suggest that faculty may use syllabi from other schools to aid in developing a course, and several AAA sections support syllabi exchange websites. Faculty and administrators often view the syllabus as a formal contract between the instructor and students. Unfortunately, when a procedural difficulty occurs in a course, the lack of information in the syllabus is often the source of the problem. Consequently, the syllabus may be a major consideration in student appeal proceedings (Parkes and Harris, 2002). In addition, the syllabus is used in decisions regarding accreditation of educational institutions and programs. Perhaps the mixture of several purposes and stakeholders has created a variance in the length of course syllabi. Where the syllabus was once a one-page document, it has evolved into a detailed course guide of several pages that addresses a number of issues and contingencies (Garavalia et al., 1999).

A review of the literature also indicates some dissension on the purposes/components that make up an "ideal" syllabus. According to Matejka and Kurke (1994), an ideal course syllabus should include the instructor's plan of action for the course, the standard provisions for a contract between student and instructor, a statement of the course's general purpose, the instructor's orientation to the content and, finally, the information that should be given to the customer (i.e., the student). While Parkes and Harris (2002) agree that a syllabus should serve as a contract, they believe the other purposes of a syllabus are to provide permanent documentation for assessment and to provide information useful for student learning. While controversial, the idea that the syllabus shall form the basis of a contract is not surprising for instructors who believe that students are indeed customers (Shelley,, 2005; Halbesleben et al., 2003). Those teachers would be interested in research that determines what their customers want and need in a syllabus.

However, individuals involved in higher education who do not accept the viewpoint of students as customers may still find student opinions are important for several pragmatic reasons (Zell, 2001). First, students may use the syllabus to decide if they should continue their enrollment in the class. For example, a student may decide his/her schedule is overloaded if the syllabus communicates that several time-consuming projects are required for the class. The student can withdraw from the class and take the course in a later semester, presumably when the student has more time available. Additionally, professors who have enrollment-sensitive classes may need to know the most important syllabus factors in the prospective student's decision. Second, an instructor may find it prudent to know the critical components of a course syllabus from a student's perspective, given the relative weight of student evaluations in tenure, promotion, and pay raise decisions. Course evaluation forms often ask the student to respond to questions about the syllabus (e.g., "The instructor provided a syllabus that clearly stated the course requirements"). Thus, an instructor's evaluation scores could be negatively affected if the material considered most important to the student is not included in their syllabus. Finally, as the course syllabus grows in length, the students may struggle with information overload. In other words, the increasing length of course syllabi may impede the student from discerning the information he/she really needs to process, particularly if the size of the syllabus discourages the student from reading the entire document.

In any case, Altman (1999) suggests that syllabus goals can only be achieved if the syllabus provides sufficient information. Yet, sufficient information may not be the only problem facing the instructor's syllabus. One would expect students to read and remember only information they deem important. Even though an instructor may believe that all of the information in the syllabus is of great importance, it does not necessarily follow that the students will attach the same weight to that information. Furthermore, students with similar characteristics may have similar preferences on course design, teaching and assessment methods, and administrative issues, all of which are usually reflected in the course syllabus.

Therefore, this study assesses the relative importance that students in the Principles of Accounting course place on items that previous research indicates frequently appear on a course syllabus. Data for the study were gathered with a one-page questionnaire. A national "convenience sample" was conducted during the Spring 2002 term. The paper is organized in the following manner. The first section provides a review of the available literature. The second section discusses the design and the administration of the survey questionnaire. The third section presents the study's results and the final section discusses the overall conclusions from the study.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Although numerous articles from various disciplines discuss general syllabus content, empirical studies of syllabus components are a generally unexplored area. In a search of the literature, only three empirical studies of syllabus components were identified. A study by Smith and Razzouk (1993) gathered information from 152 students enrolled in two upper-division marketing courses at a state-assisted university in the southwest U.S. The purpose of the study was to "assess the nature and degree of usage of course syllabi" (Smith and Razzouk, 1993, 218) by advanced undergraduate marketing students. The survey instrument developed by Smith and Razzouk was composed primarily of open-ended questions that were dependent upon a student's ability to recall specific information from the course syllabus. Smith and Razzouk were surprised at the inability of these advanced undergraduates to recall relevant syllabus information such as course objectives and evaluation procedures. Smith and Razzouk concluded it was necessary to increase the effectiveness of the course syllabus "as a communication vehicle in the classroom" (Smith and Razzouk 1993, 218).

Becker and Calhoon (1999) conducted a pre- and post-semester survey of 863 and 509 undergraduate students, respectively, in various sections of introductory psychology courses at four midwestern institutions. The students were asked to view 29 items that are likely to appear on a course syllabus and indicate (with a seven-point Likert scale) how much they would attend to each of the 29 items. Of the 29 items, the four that were "most important" to students were: "examination and quiz dates," "due dates of assignments," the "reading material covered by each exam or quiz," and the "grading procedures and policies." The four items that were the "least important" to the students were: the "titles and authors of textbooks and readings," the "drop (withdrawal) dates," "course information" (such as course number and title, section number, credit hours), and the "academic dishonesty policy." Comparing "first semester students" to "continuing students," Becker and Calhoon found continuing students ranked items pertaining to the type of exams and assignments higher than first-semester students. Comparing students of "traditional age" with those of a "non-traditional age," Becker and Calhoon found "continuing students rated items pertaining to course goals, title, and author of textbooks, and kind of assignments as more important than did traditional-age students" (Becker and Calhoon, 1993, 9).

Garavalia et al. (1999) compared survey responses (using a five-point Likert scale) of 242 students and 74 faculty at Valdosta State University. The undergraduate students were enrolled in eight sections of the university's introductory psychology course. The 74 faculty who participated in the study were solicited using a university faculty listserv that contained 536 members. Both faculty and students responded to a 39-item survey. The results of the study indicated that students and faculty members differed in the amount of importance assigned to 15 suggested syllabi components. Items students and faculty disagreed upon include: "examples of completed projects/papers," the "instructor's home phone number," the "basic format of examinations," and the "length of required projects/papers." Examples of items that faculty members and students rated similarly in importance were: the "instructor's e-mail address," the "grading scale for final course grade," and "the syllabus should be adjusted periodically throughout the semester."

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Accounting faculty at 50 colleges and universities were contacted via e-mail early in the Spring 2002 term and asked to participate in a study pertaining to the course syllabus. The contacted faculty members were asked to administer a survey questionnaire to students enrolled in an introductory accounting course. Some faculty stated they were interested in the research concept but were not teaching an introductory course in the spring term. Other faculty stated that institutional policies or other reasons made them unable/unwilling to participate in this study. Faculty at 31 institutions in 19 states agreed to administer the survey questionnaire to students enrolled in the Principles of Accounting course. Faculty who agreed to have their classes participate in the study were mailed a package that contained a specified number of student survey questionnaires and a pre paid, pre-addressed envelope in which to return the completed student questionnaires. Each faculty participant was asked to distribute the student questionnaires to willing volunteers. The students answered the survey questions after their class session.

The instructions at the top of the survey were: "The Syllabus for a course is an 'agreement' between the instructor and the students in a course. We are researching what factors students feel are important to include in a Syllabus." The survey instrument contained two sections. The first section contained 28 items that frequently appear on a course syllabus. For the most part, the items used in this study were also used in the study by Becker and Calhoon (1999). A seven-point Likert scale was assigned to the student responses (where "1" = "no attention at all" to "7" = "great deal of attention"). Each item in this section had a corresponding reference to a course syllabus component (e.g., "attendance policy," "examination and quiz dates," "late assignment policy," "course goals and objectives," and "required prerequisite coursework to enroll in the course").

The second section of the survey requested demographic data from the individual student respondent. Specific questions pertained to the respondent's gender, age, year in school, primary field of study, and grade point average. Each faculty member who distributed the survey also completed a questionnaire. The faculty responded to the 28 syllabus items and provided data pertaining to institutional characteristics. Specific questions inquired if the institution was either private or state-assisted, if the school of business was accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB), the state in which the college/university was located, and the approximate "full-time equivalent" (FTE) size of the student body.

RESULTS

This study examines perceptions of syllabi items by different student groups. Therefore, Panel A of Table 1 summarizes institutional and student data for specific demographic characteristics. Students at state-assisted institutions accounted for 71.4 percent (1,233 of 1,726) of the respondents, although only 61.3 percent (19 of 31) of the colleges and universities that administered the survey were public institutions. While approximately one-third of U.S. colleges and universities were accredited by the AACSB in 2002, almost 39 percent (672 of 1,726) of the student respondents were at these institutions. Although none of the responding colleges and universities had more than 20,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, almost half (48.4 percent) of the institutions had student enrollment between 1,000 and 4,999 FTE.

Panel B of Table 1 presents the self-reported data provided by the student respondents. Of the 1,726 respondents, the number of males and females were approximately equal, with 847 (49.1 percent) female respondents, 864 (50 percent) male respondents, and 15 non-respondents (to this question). The average age of the respondents was 21.63 years and the students were, on average, taking 14.29 credit hours of classes. Most students were in their second (44.8 percent) or third (31.6 percent) year of collegiate studies. Although a number of academic majors were represented by the respondents, the four most frequent majors were Management (18.4 percent), Accounting (16.6 percent), General Business (15.6 percent), and Marketing (14.5 percent). The average cumulative grade point average reported by the student respondents was 3.0.

Table 2 reports the summary statistics (mean and standard deviation) for each of the 28 survey items, listed in order from the highest mean (most important item to appear on the syllabus) to the lowest mean (least important to appear on the syllabus). Using a seven-point Likert scale for the responses ("1" = "no attention at all" to "7" = "great deal of attention"), the five items with the largest numerical values were: "Grading procedure and policies" (6.451), "Number of examinations and quizzes" (6.262), "Examination and quiz dates" (6.255), "Instructor information (for example, name, title, office location, phone number, and e-mail address)" (6.126), and the "Due dates of out-of-class assignments" (6.065). The five items with the lowest numerical values were: "Academic dishonesty policy" (4.691), "Title and authors of textbooks and readings" (4.750), "Required prerequisite coursework necessary to enroll in the course" (4.975), "Course information (for example, course number and title, section number, credit hours)" (4.992), and "Drop/withdrawal dates" (5.051). These results indicate that students attach differing amounts of importance to syllabus components. The extreme example is the amount of importance students place upon "Grading procedure and policies" as compared to "Academic dishonesty policy." The difference in the mean scores between those two items is 1.76 = (6.451 - 4.691). Thus, the score for "Grading procedure and policies" increased by 37.52 percent over the score given to the survey item titled "Academic dishonesty policy."

For Tables 3 through 6, tests were conducted to see if gender, years in college, GPA, or the age of the students made a difference in their responses to the syllabus components. In general, the sample data for each of the 28 items exhibited some distribution tendencies of skewness or kurtosis. However, if each group has more than 30 subjects, a traditional ANOVA procedure is robust against moderate departures from normality (Lehman et al., 2005). Also, a Levene's test for equal cell variances was conducted for each of the 28 items in each of the following analyses. The Levene's test results indicated that unequal variances occurred (p < .05) for gender in nine of 28 cases, two of 28 cases for GPA, eight of 28 cases for class rank, and 13 of 28 cases in the analysis of traditional and nontraditional students. Therefore, a Welch ANOVA was selected as a conservative statistical approach, as it allows for unequal group variances when testing for differences in group means. If the Welch ANOVA indicated that a significant difference (p < .05) between groups existed, then a Games-Howell Pairwise Comparison test was used when more than two groups existed in the means test. The Games-Howell test is a nonparametric multiple comparison procedure used to determine which of the groups are different from one another. In addition, Tamhane's T2, Dunnett's T3, and Dunnett's C nonparametric multiple comparison procedures were conducted on the data and the parametric Tukey-Kramer HSD multiple comparison procedure was applied to the data. All of the tests yielded approximately the same results provided by the Games-Howell Pairwise Comparison test.

Table 3 indicates that significant differences (p < .05) exist between male and female ratings of syllabus components on 11 of the 28 questions. Except for three items, ("Where to obtain materials for class," "Amount of work," and "Course goals and objectives") females rated the syllabus components as more important than males. Thus, females appear to place more importance on the communication of syllabus information. Both sexes rate "Grading procedures and policies" as the most important item, and both sexes provide the lowest mean for the item, "Academic dishonesty policy." The most significant differences between the two groups' responses were the items: "Instructor's office hours," "Attendance policy," "Number of examinations and quizzes," and "Instructor information (for example, name, title, office location, phone number, e-mail address)." These results suggest that females put more importance on instructor information than males.

Table 4 reflects the effect of college experience on the importance that students attach to syllabus components. Traditional class ranks of freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior were designated as one, two, three, or four years of experience, respectively. Students who reported that they had attended university classes for more than four years were placed into the same group, and designated to have at least five years of college experience. The number of usable responses to the 28 items ranged from 1,675 to 1,694. Panel A of Table 4 displays the Welch ANOVA results. The ANOVA results indicate that significant differences (p < .05) exist between the different class groups on nine of the 28 items. Items displaying the most significant differences (p < .001) include "Where to obtain materials for class (for example, texts, readings, lab materials)" and "Academic dishonesty policy."

Panel B of Table 4 provides the results from the Games-Howell Pairwise Comparison tests for each of the nine items. In general, the group of students with at least five years of college experience was never significantly different from the other groups. The senior group (class year = 4) had the lowest mean scores on eight of the nine items. The only item on which the senior group did not have the lowest mean score was Item 10, the "Number of examinations and quizzes." Item 10 was also the only item where the multiple comparison procedure did not find a significant difference among the years, although the Games-Howell Pairwise Comparison test almost showed a significant difference between year three and year one (p-value = .054). Specifically, the multiple comparison tests reveal that the most common difference occurs between freshman and seniors. Although other class groups also had significant differences with the seniors, Items 22, 26, 28, 18, and 27 typically found that students in their first year had the highest mean response, and students in their fourth year provided the lowest mean response. This result is logical for some items such as "Where to obtain materials for class (for example, texts, readings, lab materials)," and "Available support services (for example, tutoring, computerized study guides)." Presumably, freshmen may be unaware of how to access these resources, while the fourth-year student may already know this information based upon experience. Also, experience would explain why fourth-year students whose academic career is almost finished assign less importance to items such as Item 19 ("Required prerequisite coursework necessary to enroll in the course") and Item 23 ("Course goals and objectives"). Seniors should be completing their academic program, thus one could expect that they have researched these two items of information long before they enrolled in the class. In contrast, sophomores and juniors are just starting to satisfy core curriculum requirements, and they usually are very concerned about this information.

Table 5 examines the differences in syllabus component ratings by students with differing grade point averages (GPA). The student sample was split into five groups. The first group self-reported a GPA of less than 2.5. The GPAs of the second, third, and fourth group ranged from 2.5 to 2.99, 3.0 to 3.49, and 3.5 to 4.0, respectively. The fifth group was composed of students who did not report their GPA, hence the group was labeled as "Not Reported." Panel A of Table 5 summarizes the results from the Welch ANOVA's on the 28 survey items. The number of responses ranged from 1,705 to 1,726 for a given item. Significant results at the 0.05 level are shown for five of the 28 items. Those five items were further analyzed using the Games-Howell Pairwise Comparison procedure and the results of those tests are displayed in Panel B of Table 5. The analysis failed to find any significant difference between the groups for Item 23, "Course goals and objectives," although the mean scores indicate students with lower GPAs rated the item as more important than students with higher GPAs. Items that impact success in a course or indicate the lack of success showed differing responses based upon GPA. For example, students with a lower GPA (e.g., 2.5 to 2.99) displayed more interest in Item 28, "Available support services (for example, tutoring, computerized study guides)," than students with a higher GPA (e.g., 3.0 to 3.49). Furthermore, students with the lowest GPA ranked information about drop/withdrawal dates, Item 27, as much more important than students with the highest GPAs. However, the Welch ANOVA results in Panel A show other items (e.g., Items 9, 11, and 12) that were related to exam dates, exam times, or types of assignments that might be graded, which did not display any significant differences among the groups. The multiple comparison test of Item 3, "Course information (for example, course number and title, section number, credit hours)," suggests that students with a GPA of 2.5 to 2.99 believe that information is more important than students with a GPA of 3.5 to 4.0. As one would expect, students in the higher GPA groups rated Item 7, "Grading procedure and policies," as more important than students with lower GPAs, but the only groups that were significantly different were the "3.5 to 4.0" group and the "Not Reported" group. Overall, the results suggest that students attach importance to specific syllabus components based upon their GPA.

Previous research (Becker and Calhoon, 1993) found differences in students of a traditional age and those of a non-traditional age. Table 6 presents the Welch ANOVA results of traditional and non-traditional students' responses to the syllabus survey instrument. Students were placed into a traditional age group if their age was 23 or less, and a non-traditional age group if their age was 24 or more. The results demonstrate very few differences between the two groups. Significant results (p < .05) were only achieved on four items. However, the results are similar to Becker and Calhoon's findings in that non-traditional students rated Items 23 and 15, "Course goals and objectives," and "Title and authors of textbooks and readings," significantly higher than traditional students. This study's results were dissimilar to Becker and Calhoon's in that Items 9 and 11 "Type of examinations and quizzes (for example, multiple choice, essay)" and "Kind of assignments (for example, readings, papers, presentations, projects)," were not rated significantly different by the two types of students. An interesting result was that traditional students rated Items 16 and 19, "Whether extra credit can be earned" and "Required prerequisite coursework necessary to enroll in the course," significantly more important than non-traditional students. Thus, the results suggest that older students may be more interested in the content of the course, but younger students have higher interest levels on grade or curriculum issues.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

As previously discussed, the syllabus has become a longer, more comprehensive document of course content and policies. The content of the syllabus is important for accreditation, resolving disputes between instructors and students, and the administration of the course. Furthermore, instructors use the course syllabus to communicate their expectations of what students must do to be successful in their course. Conversely, students make enrollment decisions and instructor evaluations based, in part, on the contents of the syllabus. Therefore, given the importance of the syllabus, one finds it surprising that only three studies have empirically examined the course syllabus. This study's primary purpose is to assess the relative importance that different types of students enrolled in an introductory accounting class place on items that frequently appear within a course syllabus. Faculty members may use the findings of this study to reassess their syllabi and perhaps include, emphasize, or provide more complete explanations of those items that are of the greatest concern to their students.

The results of the study reveal the amount of importance that students assign to different syllabus components varies greatly. Furthermore, the study shows that different types of students assign different levels of importance to syllabus components. Given that the three highest-ranking items in Table 2 deal with exams and grades, one can presume students would appreciate syllabi that fully explain and highlight those items. A secondary area of importance that emerges from the data is that an instructor's personal information and office hours are very important to students. On the other hand, one may be surprised to find that students do not consider information on the academic dishonesty policy, the name of their textbook(s), or the required prerequisites as important as holidays observed or the times and location of class meetings.

This study extends previous research on syllabus components because no other study has been conducted on syllabus components that used a sample composed mainly of students from several business disciplines enrolled in an accounting principles course. The only study conducted in a business field tested the recall of syllabus elements and by upper-level marketing students. Furthermore, this study extends prior research by investigating different responses by students to syllabus components by the factors of gender, years of college experience, grade point average, and age. The study's results suggest that females place more importance on the communication of syllabus information. Also, females desire information on the instructor more so than males. The results indicate the number of years that a student has been enrolled in a university also affect their perceptions of the syllabus. Specifically, students in their fourth year of college assign less importance to information on obtaining class materials and drop/withdrawal dates than freshmen. In addition, the fourth-year student places less importance on other syllabus components such as: the academic dishonesty policy, the required course prerequisites, the available support services, and the late assignment policy. The data analysis reveals that the GPA of a student may affect how much the student desires certain information in a course syllabus. Students with a low GPA are more interested in ascertaining the drop/withdrawal dates and the availability of support services than are students with a high GPA. Conversely, students with a high GPA rate information on grading procedures and policies as more important than students with a low GPA. These results may have implications for instructors who teach honors classes or remedial classes to "at-risk" students. Finally, some differences exist between traditional and nontraditional age students. The results suggest that students of traditional college age tend to focus more on grade and curriculum issues than nontraditional students, but the older students rated items dealing with the content of the course significantly higher than the younger students.

However, this study does not specifically address how an instructor should incorporate these findings into their syllabus. Becker and Calhoon (1999) suggest alternative strategies may be used to communicate syllabus information. An instructor who wishes to satisfy student interests can use the results from this study to place the highest-rated components from their appropriate student groups on the first page of the syllabus or to give the information a prominent display using word processing features (e.g., boldface type, different font sizes, etc.). An alternative strategy is to use the results to determine where student interest is lower, but the instructor believes the information is highly important. Then the instructor attempts to overcome the lack of interest by making those syllabus items more prominent. A variant of this approach would be to create special handouts of the items the instructor considers the most important, or conversely, if the instructor feels their syllabus creates information overload, to eliminate unnecessary information and to use separate handouts for topics of lesser importance.

A limitation of this study is survey response bias, which is inherent in all survey research. However, the large sample size should overcome most objections to this limitation. Furthermore, the study's institutional response rate is 62 percent, as 31 of 50 schools agreed to participate in this study. Further research might look for other factors that influence syllabi components. For example, how much influence do accreditation agencies exert upon the syllabus? A longitudinal study investigating changes in syllabi components over time may be of interest to educators and administrators. Finally, a study comparing faculty ratings to students' ratings on the importance of particular syllabi items could lead to further insights that improve communication and course administration.

REFERENCES

Accounting Education Change Commission (1993). Evaluating and rewarding effective teaching: Issues statement No.5. Issues in Accounting Education 8(Fall), 436-439.

Albrecht, W. S., and R. J. Sack (2000). Accounting education: charting the course through a perilous future. Accounting Education Series, Vol. 16, Sarasota, FL: American Accounting Association.

Altman, H. B. (1999). Syllabus shares "what the teacher wants." M. Weimeer and R. A. Neff (Eds.), In teaching college: Collected readings for the new instructor (pp. 45-46). Madison, WI: Magna.

American Accounting Association (1996). A framework for encouraging effective teaching. Report of the Committee on Promoting and Evaluating Effective Teaching.

Becker, A. H., and S. K. Calhoon (1999). What introductory psychology students attend to on a course syllabus. Teaching of Psychology 26(1), 6-11.

Garavalia, L. S., J. H. Hummel, L. P. Wiley, and W. H. Huitt (1999). Constructing the course syllabus: Faculty and student perceptions of important syllabus components. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 10(1), 5-21.

Halbesleben, J. R. B., J. A. H. Becker, and M. R. Buckley (2003). Considering the labor contributions of students: An alternative to the student-as-customer metaphor. Journal of Education for Business 12(May/June), 255-257.

Jervis, K. J., and C. A. Hartley (2005). Learning to Design and Teach an Accounting Capstone. Issues in Accounting Education 20(4), 311-339.

Kerr, D. S., and L. M. Smith (2003). Effective accounting instruction: A comparison of instructor practices and student perspectives. Advances in Accounting Education Teaching and Curriculum Innovations 5, 143-163.

Lehman, A., N. O'Rourke, L. Hatcher, and E. J. Stepanski (2005). JMP for Basic Univariate and Multivariate Statistics: A Step by Step Guide Cary, NC: SAS Institute Inc.

Matejka, K., and L. B. Kurke (1994). Designing a great syllabus. College Teaching 42(3), 115-117.

Needles, B. E., Jr. (1998). The syllabus as a means of creating intellectual capital. Accounting Instructors' Report 20, 1-2.

Parkes, J., and M. B. Harris (2002). The purpose of a syllabus. College Teaching 50(2), 55-61.

Raymark, P. H., and P. A. Connor-Greene (2002). The syllabus quiz. Teaching of Psychology 29(4): 286-288.

Seldin, P. (1990). Preface. In P. Seldin & Associates (Eds.) How administrators can improve teaching, (pp. xvii-xxii).

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Shelley, P. H. (2005). Colleges need to give students intensive care. The Chronicle of Higher Education 51(18), B16.

Smith, M. F., and N. Y. Razzouk (1993). Improving classroom communication: The case of the course syllabus. Journal of Education for Business 68(4), 215-221.

Zell, D. (2001). The market-driven business school: Has the pendulum swung too far? Journal of Management Inquiry 10(4), 324-339.

Carl E. Keller, Jr., Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

John G. Marcis, Coastal Carolina University

Alan B. Deck, Bellarmine University
Table 1: Institution and Respondent Demographic Data

Panel A: Institutional and Student Respondents

 Institutions Students

 Characteristic Number Percent Number Percent

Public (state-assisted) 19 61.3 1,233 71.4
Private 12 38.7 493 28.6
AACSB 10 32.3 672 38.9
Non-AACSB 21 67.7 1,054 61.1
Less than 1,000 FTE 1 3.2 19 1.1
1,000 - 4,999 FTE 15 48.4 834 48.3
5,000 - 9,999 FTE 10 32.3 551 31.9
10,000 - 20,000 FTE 5 16.1 322 18.6
More than 20,000 FTE 0 0 0 0

Panel B: Student Respondents

 Characteristic Number Percent

Male 864 50.1
Female 847 49.1
Not Reported 15 0.9
First Year 169 9.8
Second Year 774 44.8
Third Year 546 31.6
Fourth Year 174 10.1
Fifth (or More) Year 31 1.8
Not Reported 32 1.9
Accounting 287 16.6
Economics 45 2.6
Finance 144 8.3
General Business 269 15.6
Information Systems 189 11.0
Management 318 18.4
Marketing 250 14.5
Other Business 45 2.6
Sciences 20 1.2
Humanities and Social Sciences 58 3.4
Journalism 8 0.5
Mathematics & Comp. Science 15 0.9
Education 3 0.2
Fine Arts 7 0.4
Other Major 25 1.4
Undecided/Undeclared 15 0.9
Not Reported 28 1.6

 Characteristic Number Average

Age (in years) 1,677 21.63
Credit Hours Current Semester 1,691 14.29
Cumulative G.P.A. 1,508 3.00

Table 2: Syllabus Item Mean and Standard Deviation Results:
Ranked by Mean Score

10 Number of examinations and quizzes 6.262 1.098 1,719

12 Examination and quiz dates 6.255 1.293 1,720

6 Instructor information (i.e.; name, 6.126 1.226 1,725
 title, office location, phone, e-mail)

17 Due dates of out-of-class assignments 6.065 1.427 1,719

25 Instructor's office hours 6.058 1.289 1,720

8 Attendance policy 6.045 1.360 1,719

11 Kind of assignments (i.e.; readings, 6.008 1.275 1,719
 papers, presentations, projects)

9 Type of examinations and quizzes 5.981 1.339 1,722
 (i.e.; multiple choice, essay)

13 Reading material covered by each 5.975 1.335 1,719
 examination or quiz

2 Days, hours, and location of class 5.738 1.589 1,726
 meetings

16 Whether extra credit can be earned 5.712 1.558 1,720

20 Dates and time of special events that 5.690 1.630 1,721
 must be attended outside class

18 Late assignment policy 5.662 1.487 1,718

14 Schedule of topics to be covered 5.624 1.449 1,716

5 Course format (i.e.; lecture, 5.577 1.456 1,722
 discussion, videos, classroom
 activities)

1 Class participation requirements 5.457 1.522 1,725

4 Course description 5.438 1.578 1,712

21 Amount of work (i.e.; amount, number 5.322 1.598 1,721
 & length of assignments)

23 Course goals and objectives 5.300 1.608 1,715

28 Available support services (i.e.; 5.272 1.720 1,705
 tutoring, computerized study guides)

24 Holidays observed 5.213 1.822 1,720

22 Where to obtain materials for class 5.062 1.737 1,719
 (i.e.; texts, readings, labs)

27 Drop/withdrawal dates 5.051 1.865 1,714

3 Course information (i.e.; course #, 4.992 1.824 1,725
 title, section number, credit hours)

19 Required prerequisite coursework 4.975 1.884 1,712
 necessary to enroll in the course

15 Title and authors of textbooks and 4.750 1.938 1,719
 readings

26 Academic dishonesty policy 4.691 1.975 1,717

Table 3: Student Gender Analysis:

Welch ANOVA Results, Ranked by Absolute Difference between Means

 Means Absolute
 Diff.

 Item Item Female Male between
Number Means

25 Instructor's office hours 6.1965 5.9233 0.2732

8 Attendance policy 6.1809 5.9149 0.2660

17 Due dates of out-of-class 6.1708 5.9582 0.2126
 assignments

6 Instructor information (i.e.; 6.2326 6.0209 0.2117
 name, title, office location,
 phone number, e-mail address)

16 Whether extra credit can be 5.8197 5.6095 0.2102
 earned

10 Number of examinations and 6.3586 6.1676 0.1910
 quizzes

18 Late assignment policy 5.7547 5.5728 0.1819

20 Dates and time of special 5.7787 5.6074 0.1713
 events that must be attended
 outside of class

22 Where to obtain materials for 4.9775 5.1347 0.1572
 class (i.e.; texts, readings,
 lab materials)

11 Kind of assignments (i.e.; 6.0852 5.9313 0.1539
 readings, papers,
 presentations, projects)

7 Grading procedure and policies 6.5284 6.3766 0.1518

14 Schedule of topics to be 5.6956 5.5535 0.1421
 covered

1 Class participation 5.5242 5.3893 0.1349
 requirements

15 Title and authors of textbooks 4.8107 4.6834 0.1273
 and readings

12 Examination and quiz dates 6.3147 6.1947 0.1200

26 Academic dishonesty policy 4.7476 4.6276 0.1200

28 Available support services 5.3293 5.2255 0.1038
 (i.e.; tutoring, computerized
 study guides)

13 Reading material covered by 6.0225 5.9302 0.0923
 each examination or quiz

2 Days, hours, and location of 5.7792 5.6968 0.0824
 class meetings

19 Required prerequisite 5.0095 4.9274 0.0821
 coursework necessary to
 enroll in the course

24 Holidays observed 5.2539 5.1798 0.0741

5 Course format (i.e.; lecture, 5.6107 5.5406 0.0701
 discussion, videos, classroom
 activities)

21 Amount of work (i.e.; amount 5.3001 5.3442 0.0441
 of reading, number and length
 of other assignments)

4 Course description 5.4618 5.4179 0.0439

9 Type of examinations and 5.9965 5.9594 0.0371
 quizzes (i.e.; multiple
 choice, essay)

23 Course goals and objectives 5.2889 5.3097 0.0208

27 Drop/withdrawal dates 5.0548 5.0418 0.0130

3 Course information (i.e.; 4.9965 4.9850 0.0115
 course number and title,
 section number, credit hours)

 Item Item F ratio Prob > F
Number

25 Instructor's office hours 19.3602 <.0001

8 Attendance policy 16.4798 <.0001

17 Due dates of out-of-class 9.4894 0.0021
 assignments

6 Instructor information (i.e.; 12.8107 0.0004
 name, title, office location,
 phone number, e-mail address)

16 Whether extra credit can be 7.7925 0.0053
 earned

10 Number of examinations and 12.9764 0.0003
 quizzes

18 Late assignment policy 6.4075 0.0115

20 Dates and time of special 4.7242 0.0299
 events that must be attended
 outside of class

22 Where to obtain materials for 3.4846 0.0621
 class (i.e.; texts, readings,
 lab materials)

11 Kind of assignments (i.e.; 6.224 0.0127
 readings, papers,
 presentations, projects)

7 Grading procedure and policies 10.4629 0.0012

14 Schedule of topics to be 4.1092 0.0428
 covered

1 Class participation 3.3544 0.0672
 requirements

15 Title and authors of textbooks 1.8313 0.1762
 and readings

12 Examination and quiz dates 3.6547 0.0561

26 Academic dishonesty policy 1.5665 0.2109

28 Available support services 1.5393 0.2149
 (i.e.; tutoring, computerized
 study guides)

13 Reading material covered by 2.0428 0.1531
 each examination or quiz

2 Days, hours, and location of 1.1514 0.2834
 class meetings

19 Required prerequisite 0.8046 0.3698
 coursework necessary to
 enroll in the course

24 Holidays observed 0.7025 0.4021

5 Course format (i.e.; lecture, 0.9835 0.3215
 discussion, videos, classroom
 activities)

21 Amount of work (i.e.; amount 0.3221 0.5704
 of reading, number and length
 of other assignments)

4 Course description 0.3282 0.5668

9 Type of examinations and 0.3249 0.5687
 quizzes (i.e.; multiple
 choice, essay)

23 Course goals and objectives 0.0704 0.7908

27 Drop/withdrawal dates 0.0206 0.8859

3 Course information (i.e.; 0.0170 0.8963
 course number and title,
 section number, credit hours)

Table 4: Years of College Experience Analysis:

Panel A: Welch ANOVA Results, Ranked by F ratio

 Item Item Total Degrees of
Number Observations Freedom

22 Where to obtain materials for 1687 4
 class (i.e.; texts, readings,
 lab materials)

26 Academic dishonesty policy 1685 4

19 Required prerequisite coursework 1680 4
 necessary to enroll in the course

28 Available support services (i.e.; 1675 4
 tutoring, computerized study
 guides)

12 Examination and quiz dates 1689 4

18 Late assignment policy 1686 4

23 Course goals and objectives 1683 4

10 Number of examinations and 1687 4
 quizzes

27 Drop/withdrawal dates 1684 4

4 Course description 1681 4

2 Days, hours, and location of 1694 4
 class meetings

9 Type of examinations and quizzes 1690 4
 (i.e.; multiple choice, essay)

16 Whether extra credit can be 1688 4
 earned

13 Reading material covered by each 1687 4
 examination or quiz

11 Kind of assignments (i.e.; 1687 4
 readings, papers, presentations,
 projects)

5 Course format (i.e.; lecture, 1691 4
 discussion, videos, classroom
 activities)

14 Schedule of topics to be covered 1684 4

17 Due dates of out-of-class 1687 4
 assignments

1 Class participation requirements 1693 4

20 Dates and time of special events 1689 4
 that must be attended outside of
 class

3 Course information (i.e.; course 1693 4
 number and title, section number,
 credit hours)

21 Amount of work (i.e.; amount of 1689 4
 reading, number and length of
 other assignments)

25 Instructor's office hours 1688 4

15 Title and authors of textbooks 1687 4
 and readings

24 Holidays observed 1688 4

7 Grading procedure and policies 1691 4

6 Instructor information (i.e.; 1693 4
 name, title, office location,
 phone number, e-mail address)

8 Attendance policy 1687 4

 Item Item F ratio Prob > F
Number

22 Where to obtain materials for 7.8392 <.0001
 class (i.e.; texts, readings,
 lab materials)

26 Academic dishonesty policy 5.2700 0.0005

19 Required prerequisite coursework 4.8377 0.0010
 necessary to enroll in the course

28 Available support services (i.e.; 4.5156 0.0017
 tutoring, computerized study
 guides)

12 Examination and quiz dates 3.9945 0.0039

18 Late assignment policy 3.3917 0.0105

23 Course goals and objectives 2.6417 0.0352

10 Number of examinations and 2.6129 0.0368
 quizzes

27 Drop/withdrawal dates 2.5719 0.0393

4 Course description 2.3633 0.0547

2 Days, hours, and location of 2.3435 0.0564
 class meetings

9 Type of examinations and quizzes 1.9090 0.1106
 (i.e.; multiple choice, essay)

16 Whether extra credit can be 1.8266 0.1254
 earned

13 Reading material covered by each 1.7438 0.1421
 examination or quiz

11 Kind of assignments (i.e.; 1.6211 0.1707
 readings, papers, presentations,
 projects)

5 Course format (i.e.; lecture, 1.5199 0.1981
 discussion, videos, classroom
 activities)

14 Schedule of topics to be covered 1.4247 0.2274

17 Due dates of out-of-class 1.3682 0.2466
 assignments

1 Class participation requirements 1.3201 0.2640

20 Dates and time of special events 1.2813 0.2788
 that must be attended outside of
 class

3 Course information (i.e.; course 1.2604 0.2872
 number and title, section number,
 credit hours)

21 Amount of work (i.e.; amount of 1.2587 0.2878
 reading, number and length of
 other assignments)

25 Instructor's office hours 1.1731 0.3242

15 Title and authors of textbooks 0.9266 0.4497
 and readings

24 Holidays observed 0.9182 0.4545

7 Grading procedure and policies 0.8861 0.4734

6 Instructor information (i.e.; 0.5754 0.6808
 name, title, office location,
 phone number, e-mail address)

8 Attendance policy 0.5174 0.7231

Panel B: Results of Games-Howell Pairwise Multiple Comparison
Tests of Pairs for Items with Significant Welch ANOVA Results
(Alpha =.05 or less)

 Class Number of Mean Standard Games-Howell
 Year Observations Deviation Pairwise Comparison
 Test Results *
Item 22

1 169 5.5740 1.4254 A
5 30 5.4667 1.3322 A B
3 546 5.0769 1.7404 B
2 769 5.0052 1.7552 B
4 173 4.6879 1.8695 B

Item 26

1 168 5.1191 1.8338 A
2 768 4.7122 1.9402 A
3 546 4.6960 1.9878 A
5 31 4.2581 2.3940 A B
4 172 4.1628 2.0823 B

Item 19

3 542 5.1365 1.8936 A
1 168 5.1190 1.8533 A
2 768 4.9583 1.8107 A
5 30 4.8000 1.7889 A B
4 172 4.3663 2.1136 B

Item 28

1 168 5.4286 1.6545 A
2 762 5.3504 1.6900 A
3 541 5.2717 1.7208 A
5 31 5.1290 1.7271 A B
4 173 4.7225 1.8719 B

Item 12

1 169 6.4556 1.0291 A
3 544 6.3640 1.1721 A
5 31 6.1935 1.2759 A B
2 771 6.1621 1.4081 B
4 174 6.1034 1.3688 A B

Item 18

1 169 5.8935 1.3231 A
3 541 5.7800 1.4278 A
5 31 5.6774 1.6204 A B
2 771 5.6174 1.4929 A B
4 174 5.3966 1.6157 B

Item 23

5 31 5.6129 1.4760 A B
1 169 5.4260 1.4907 A B
3 541 5.3715 1.5743 A
2 769 5.2705 1.6209 A B
4 173 4.9538 1.7581 B

Item 10

3 543 6.3757 1.0551 A
2 772 6.2358 1.1060 A
4 172 6.2093 1.0773 A
5 31 6.1613 1.0359 A
1 169 6.1006 1.1784 A

Item 17

1 168 5.3036 1.7260 A
2 769 5.0897 1.8473 A B
3 542 5.0480 1.9008 A B
5 31 4.7419 1.7883 A B
4 174 4.7011 1.9568 B

* Levels not connected by the same letter are significantly
different

Table 5: GPA Group Analysis

Panel A: Welch ANOVA Results, Ranked by F ratio

 Item Item
 Number

 3 Course information (i.e.;, course number and
 title, section number, credit hours)

 28 Available support services (i.e.;, tutoring,
 computerized study guides)

 27 Drop/withdrawal dates

 23 Course goals and objectives

 7 Grading procedure and policies

 19 Required prerequisite coursework necessary to
 enroll in the course

 2 Days, hours, and location of class meetings

 22 Where to obtain materials for class (i.e.;, texts,
 readings, lab materials)

 4 Course description

 21 Amount of work (i.e.;, amount of reading,
 number and length of other assignments)

 26 Academic dishonesty policy

 16 Whether extra credit can be earned

 10 Number of examinations and quizzes

 15 Title and authors of textbooks and readings

 18 Late assignment policy

 20 Dates and time of special events that must be
 attended outside of class

 5 Course format (i.e.;, lecture, discussion, videos,
 classroom activities)

 1 Class participation requirements

 14 Schedule of topics to be covered

 11 Kind of assignments (i.e.;, readings, papers,
 presentations, projects)

 8 Attendance policy

 25 Instructor's office hours

 9 Type of examinations and quizzes (i.e.;, multiple
 choice, essay)

 12 Examination and quiz dates

 6 Instructor information (i.e.;, name, title, office
 location, phone number, e-mail address)

 17 Due dates of out-of-class assignments

 24 Holidays observed

 13 Reading material covered by each examination
 or quiz

 Item Total Degrees of F ratio Prob > F
 Number Observations Freedom

 3 1725 4 3.4539 0.0083

 28 1705 4 3.4386 0.0085

 27 1714 4 2.9425 0.0198

 23 1715 4 2.9092 0.0209

 7 1722 4 2.7459 0.0275

 19 1712 4 2.1635 0.0715

 2 1726 4 2.0298 0.0885

 22 1719 4 2.0171 0.0903

 4 1712 4 1.9956 0.0934

 21 1721 4 1.7715 0.1327

 26 1717 4 1.7005 0.1480

 16 1720 4 1.6756 0.1538

 10 1719 4 1.5755 0.1790

 15 1719 4 1.4756 0.2078

 18 1718 4 1.2769 0.2775

 20 1721 4 1.1207 0.3455

 5 1722 4 1.0483 0.3813

 1 1725 4 0.9734 0.4213

 14 1716 4 0.9723 0.4219

 11 1719 4 0.9333 0.4440

 8 1719 4 0.9163 0.4538

 25 1720 4 0.7866 0.5340

 9 1722 4 0.6133 0.6531

 12 1720 4 0.5911 0.6692

 6 1725 4 0.5750 0.6808

 17 1719 4 0.4031 0.8065

 24 1720 4 0.3986 0.8097

 13 1719 4 0.3955 0.8120

Panel B: Results of Games-Howell Pairwise Multiple Comparison Tests
of Pairs for Items with Significant Welch ANOVA Results (Alpha =.05
or less)

 GPA Group Number of Mean Standard Games-Howell Pairwise
 Observations Deviation Comparison Test
 Results *
Item 3

 2.5 to 2.99 471 5.2144 1.7512 A

 Not Reported 217 5.0507 1.7956 A B

 < 2.50 234 4.9615 1.9040 A B

 3.0 to 3.49 483 4.9255 1.7998 A B

 3.5 to 4.0 320 4.7469 1.8974 B

Item 28

 < 2.50 232 5.4526 1.5947 A B

 2.5 to 2.99 465 5.4194 1.7794 A

 Not Reported 214 5.3551 1.6686 A B

 3.5 to 4.0 317 5.1230 1.7413 A B

 3.0 to 3.49 477 5.1006 1.7120 B

Item 27

 < 2.50 233 5.3176 1.6847 A

 2.5 to 2.99 469 5.1429 1.9422 A B

 Not Reported 215 5.0512 1.8974 A B

 3.0 to 3.49 481 4.9688 1.8419 A B

 3.5 to 4.0 316 4.8418 1.8654 B

Item 23

 Not Reported 218 5.4495 1.5745 A

 2.5 to 2.99 467 5.424 1.5462 A

 < 2.50 232 5.3922 1.6268 A

 3.5 to 4.0 318 5.1635 1.7234 A

 3.0 to 3.49 480 5.1563 1.5797 A

Item 7

 3.5 to 4.0 319 6.5517 0.9161 A

 3.0 to 3.49 482 6.4959 0.8414 A B

 2.5 to 2.99 471 6.4544 1.0008 A B

 < 2.50 232 6.3707 1.0322 A B

 Not Reported 218 6.2798 1.1638 B

* Levels not connected by the same letter are significantly different

Table 6: Traditional/Nontraditional Student Analysis
Welch ANOVA Results, Ranked by Absolute Difference between Means

 Item Item Mean
 Number
 Acred.

 23 Course goals and objectives 5.5810

 16 Whether extra credit can be earned 5.4546

 15 Title and authors of textbooks and 4.9842
 readings

 19 Required prerequisite coursework 4.7331
 necessary to enroll in the course

 26 Academic dishonesty policy 4.4841

 24 Holidays observed 5.0438

 9 Type of examinations and quizzes (i.e.; 5.8110
 multiple choice, essay)

 27 Drop/withdrawal dates 4.8849

 4 Course description 5.5857

 17 Due dates of out-of-class assignments 5.9170

 28 Available support services (i.e.; tutoring, 5.1355
 computerized study guides)

 3 Course information (i.e.; course number 4.8504
 and title, section number, credit hours)

 20 Dates and time of special events that must 5.5516
 be attended outside of class

 5 Course format (i.e.; lecture, discussion, 5.4643
 videos, classroom activities)

 14 Schedule of topics to be covered 5.7115

 11 Kind of assignments (i.e.; readings, 6.0870
 papers, presentations, projects)

 21 Amount of work (i.e.; amount of reading, 5.2222
 number and length of other assignments)

 2 Days, hours, and location of class 5.6732
 meetings

 18 Late assignment policy 5.5929

 22 Where to obtain materials for class (i.e.; 4.9842
 texts, readings, lab materials)

 8 Attendance policy 6.0000

 12 Examination and quiz dates 6.1976

 6 Instructor information (i.e.; name, title, 6.0827
 office location, phone number, e-mail)

 7 Grading procedure and policies 6.4229

 25 Instructor's office hours 6.0717

 13 Reading material covered by each 5.9802
 examination or quiz

 1 Class participation requirements 5.4606

 10 Number of examinations and quizzes 6.2569

 Item Mean Absolute F ratio Prob > F
 Number Diff.
 Non-Acred. between
 Means

 23 5.2406 0.3404 9.8364 0.0019

 16 5.7497 0.2951 6.1928 0.0133

 15 4.6923 0.2919 4.8106 0.0289

 19 5.0064 0.2733 3.9648 0.0473

 26 4.7027 0.2186 2.3535 0.1260

 24 5.2423 0.1985 2.2928 0.1309

 9 6.0014 0.1904 3.6334 0.0575

 27 5.0644 0.1795 1.6853 0.1951

 4 5.4122 0.1735 2.6217 0.1063

 17 6.0783 0.1613 2.2371 0.1357

 28 5.2919 0.1564 1.5188 0.2187

 3 5.0063 0.1559 1.4950 0.2223

 20 5.7037 0.1521 1.5958 0.2074

 5 5.5904 0.1261 1.4506 0.2293

 14 5.5962 0.1153 1.3689 0.2428

 11 5.9824 0.1046 1.4464 0.2299

 21 5.3247 0.1025 0.7603 0.3839

 2 5.7533 0.0801 0.4468 0.5044

 18 5.6688 0.0759 0.4701 0.4934

 22 5.0599 0.0757 0.3527 0.5530

 8 6.0642 0.0642 0.5299 0.4671

 12 6.2616 0.0640 0.5086 0.4762

 6 6.1294 0.0467 0.2699 0.6038

 7 6.4532 0.0303 0.1817 0.6702

 25 6.0556 0.0161 0.0315 0.8593

 13 5.9661 0.0141 0.0211 0.8845

 1 5.4536 0.0070 0.0044 0.9470

 10 6.2609 0.0040 0.0027 0.9589
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Article Details
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Author:Keller, Carl E., Jr.; Marcis, John G.; Deck, Alan B.
Publication:Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:9189
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