In spite of continual demands for higher‐order thinking skills in accounting graduates, accounting educators have resisted emphasizing these skills in courses on the assumption that doing so would jeopardize students' grasp of traditional accounting knowledge. We offer experimental results indicating that this fear may be unwarranted. We found that instruction developing higher‐order skills was associated with a significant increase—rather than the feared decrease—in traditional knowledge. We obtained this result by comparing the exam scores in a junior financial accounting course of students who previously completed either traditional accounting principles courses or principles courses with higher‐order learning objectives. In traditional courses, instructors focus on instilling mastery of concepts and procedures through tasks that have demonstrably correct answers, tasks known as intellective tasks. In contrast, cognitive conflict tasks for developing higher‐order skills have no correct answers because of inherent conflicts of viewpoints. Compared to intellective tasks, cognitive conflict tasks entice learners to make more elaborations and inferences to resolve conflicting aspects. They produce richer, longer‐lasting situation models in memory. Cognitive conflict tasks were staged with business simulation episodes that prompted students to create rich situation models in order to comprehend and respond to business dilemmas. To support their advice to clients, learners built spreadsheet models, analyzed the effects of assumptions on decisions, and resolved competing viewpoints. In addition to the performance effect on exam scores, we found that significantly more higher‐achieving students enrolled in the junior financial accounting course when students had the cognitive conflict versions of principles courses.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.