This paper examines a fundamental question faced by all accounting educators who use accounting case analyses alongside lecture‐based instruction: Does it matter whether cases precede or follow a lecture? Results from a controlled experiment indicate that students' case analysis performance is initially enhanced when a lecture precedes a case, because the lecture equips students with knowledge to apply to the case and it constrains the number of irrelevant ideas that students apply to the case. However, there is a drawback to positioning a lecture before the first case—it constrains the number of relevant ideas that students generate themselves to apply to the case. In addition, the short‐term benefits of positioning a lecture before case analyses disappear when students analyze a second case. Specifically, we find that performance on a second case is significantly better when students have previously learned in an environment that places the first case before the lecture. Our evidence suggests that these case‐before‐lecture students are more likely to engage their pre‐lecture knowledge and the knowledge obtained from the lecture when analyzing the second case. Practical implications for using cases with lectures are discussed.

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