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The Impact Of Immediate Feedback On Student Performance: An Exploratory Study In Singapore.

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This study is designed to determine whether providing immediate feedback improves the analytical review skills for accounting students trained in a setting where feedback is not normally used. In this exploratory study, a combination of training and practice with explanatory feedback improved judgment accuracy for inexperienced student auditors performing analytical review tasks. Participants receiving both training and practice with feedback outperformed participants who received training and practice without feedback and other participants who received no training or practice. The results suggest that inexperienced accountants in an educational setting that provides little exposure to feedback might improve their analytical skills through teaching methodology that includes training and practice with explanatory feedback.
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Global Perspectives on Accounting Education
|Issue 1Volume 1 Article 1
January 2004
The Impact Of Immediate Feedback On Student
Performance: An Exploratory Study In Singapore.
Iris Stuart
California State University, Fullerton
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1
Global Perspectives on Accounting Education
Volume 1, 2004, 1-15
THE IMPACT OF IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK
ON STUDENT PERFORMANCE:
AN EXPLORATORY STUDY IN SINGAPORE
Iris Stuart
College of Business and Economics
California State University, Fullerton
Fullerton, California
USA
ABSTRACT
This study is designed to determine whether providing immediate feedback improves
the analytical review skills for accounting students trained in a setting where
feedback is not normally used. In this exploratory study, a combination of training
and practice with explanatory feedback improved judgment accuracy for
inexperienced student auditors performing analytical review tasks. Participants
receiving both training and practice with feedback outperformed participants who
received training and practice without feedback and other participants who received
no training or practice. The results suggest that inexperienced accountants in an
educational setting that provides little exposure to feedback might improve their
analytical skills through teaching methodology that includes training and practice
with explanatory feedback.
Key words: Analytical procedures, explanatory feedback, immediate feedback.
Data availability: Contact the author regarding data availability
INTRODUCTION
Educational systems use a variety of methods to encourage student learning. In many
educational settings, immediate feedback is used to improve student performance. This
exploratory study to determine whether immediate feedback improves student performance
The author appreciates the research assistance of Hui-Kian Tan, Siyun Pan and Chia Lian Seah and
the helpful review comments from Joanne Tay and Minyen Tan. This research was supported by
funding from Nanyang Technological University and California State University Fullerton.
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on analytical review tasks considers the effect of feedback on judgment accuracy for students in a
teaching environment where feedback had not previously been used.
Analytical review procedures have often been used by accounting researchers to investigate
auditor performance (e.g. Bonner and Walker, 1994; Hirst and Koonce, 1996). Analytical review
procedures include simple comparisons of financial statement numbers (i.e. current year balance
sheet and income statement numbers compared to the prior year financial statement numbers) and
the use of more complex models (i.e. financial statement ratios) to examine financial differences
between two years. Past research suggests that analytical review skills are cognitive processes that
are difficult to teach, requiring more active methods of instruction than lecture presentation and rote
memorization (e.g., Bonner, 1999).
Consider a Singapore university setting, structured after the British educational system, where
accounting instruction focuses on mass lectures (450-800 students), supplemented by tutorial
sessions of 30-35 students. In this setting, quizzes are not given and homework is not collected.
Students do not volunteer answers to questions posed in class or participate in class discussion.
Because students in this setting have had little exposure to immediate feedback, it is unclear whether
student performance will be improved by such methods. But recent research (e.g. Bonner and
Walker, 1994) suggests that an educational experience that includes such feedback may improve
undergraduate learning in selective analytical procedures.
In analytical procedure studies done in the United States, educational methods using
explanatory feedback have been successful in improving judgment accuracy (e.g., Bonner and
Walker, 1994). These findings may be applicable in a setting where feedback has not previously been
used. This research project is designed to determine whether training and practice that includes
explanatory feedback improves judgment accuracy with inexperienced participants whose
educational system does not normally use explanatory feedback.
The participants (who were Singaporean undergraduates) were divided into three groups. The
control group received no training, practice or feedback. A second group received training and
practice without feedback (treatment 1). A third group received training and practice with feedback
(treatment 2). The training for the treatment groups provided basic knowledge of analytical
procedures. A practice session for each treatment group allowed participants to exercise analytical
review decision-making. Treatment 2 participants got explanatory feedback in the form of correct
answers and explanatory justifications. On analytical review tests designed to identify financial
statement errors, participants (in treatment 2) who received training, practice and feedback
outperformed the other groups. Given the relatively short time devoted to training and feedback in
the study and the importance of analytical review skills to contemporary audit approaches, the results
are encouraging. Education methods using feedback were effective in improving judgment accuracy
for students in an educational setting not previously exposed to feedback methods.
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The second section contains the
background and hypothesis development. The experimental method is described in the third section,
and the results are presented in the fourth section. Section five concludes with implications of the
results, limitations of the study and suggestions for future research.
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BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESIS DEVELOPMENT
Singapore education system
Singapore is a small island country (with an area of 647 square kilometers) and a population
of approximately 3.5 million people. A former British colony, Singapore gained independence in
1965. Singaporean leaders give high priority to education. As a small country with no natural
resources, the focus of government efforts has been on the development of intellectual skills among
the citizens (Cohen, 1999). The British model of education served as the basis for the university
structure from 1965 to the late 1990’s. In Singapore’s modification of the British system, there was
no use of immediate feedback. After a 1999 survey (Cohen, 1999) conducted by the Singapore
Ministry of Education that found significant businessmen’s dissatisfaction with their university
graduate employees, the education leaders in government and the universities moved away from their
traditional education program toward an American system in part to develop some of the feedback
features common in American universities. To accomplish this agenda, the two established
universities in Singapore formed collaborations with United States universities (including
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkley, the University of
Chicago and Cornell University) and a new public university was opened in July 2000, modeled after
a United States institution, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (Cohen, 1999).
Definition of Analytical Review Procedures and a Discussion of their Importance in the Audit
Process
Analytical review procedures include simple comparisons of financial statement numbers (i.e.
current year balance sheet and income statement numbers compared to the prior year financial
statement numbers, often referred to as trend analysis) and the use of more complex models (i.e.
financial statement ratios) to examine financial differences between two time periods. Analytical
review is used in a variety of situations during an audit. It is often used to detect the presence of
errors in the financial statements. Hylas and Ashton (1982) found that a large proportion of financial
statement errors are not identified by detail testing, but by less rigorous audit procedures such as
analytical review and discussions with audit clients. As a planning tool, analytical review is used to
detect potential problem areas so that substantive testing can be concentrated on those areas where
there is higher risk of material financial misstatement. Analytical review also requires less auditor
time and resources than other, more detailed, substantive-testing procedures, so it is often used to
gather substantive audit evidence. It is less time consuming and less costly, for example, to review
payroll expense using analytical procedures than to perform detailed tests of the payroll account.
Where analytical review procedures reveal significant evidence in support of the account balances,
fewer detailed tests need be done on these balances so that the audit can be performed in a cost-
effective manner. As a result of concerns about audit efficiency and effectiveness, analytical
procedures are increasingly used as a method to gather audit evidence (Hirst and Koonce, 1996).
Education methods that increase the student’s level of skill in performing analytical
procedures will be of benefit to the contemporary accountant. To support such a process, Blocher
and Willingham (1988) suggest that analytical review procedures contribute to audit effectiveness
and efficiency only as auditors themselves appreciate its functions and are aware of its limits. It must
be noted, however, that criticism has been directed against the auditors’ use of analytical review
procedures because misinterpretations will sometimes arise from inaccurate expectations. If such
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preliminary errors in judgment are made, these may impair the subsequent audit, thus calling
analytical review procedures themselves into question (e.g., Bell and Wright, 1997). Blocher and
Willingham (1988) suggest that auditors who use analytical procedures in audit planning may reach
incorrect conclusions regarding the source of financial statement errors. Such criticism can be
countered in the educational process by teaching auditors not only the techniques of analytical
review, but also the limitations of the method and the appropriate rationale for the approach.
Difficulties in Acquiring Analytical Review Skills
Analytical review procedures are not simple tasks to perform and should be learned prior to
professional employment rather than “on the job”. Prior research has indicated the difficulties of
auditors’ learning from “experience” in the working environment. Lack of a strong foundation of
audit or accounting knowledge combined with weak learning skills complicates the acquisition of
knowledge in a complex working environment (Brehmer, 1980). Regarding the acquisition of audit
skills, Bonner and Pennington (1991) found that “the tasks that experts perform best are not only
those with a fair amount of instructions, but are also those with instructions provided early in
auditors’ careers, normally prior to the actual performance of the task.” In this context, it is
important for auditors to possess a strong foundation of analytical review skills. This crucial
foundation should emerge from the university learning environment and the earliest training efforts
in auditing firms. Singaporean auditors trained in the old system may have missed a chance to
develop analytical review skills during their undergraduate training because there was too much
emphasis on rote memorization. This study suggests that feedback techniques may have better
prepared auditors in these complicated review procedures. An education system emphasizing rote
learning rather than skill development may not prepare students to perform analytical tasks.
Previous research has indicated that university education methods in general and training in
the firms have not placed enough emphasis on analytical review (e.g., Bonner and Pennington, 1991;
Bonner and Walker, 1994). American universities have sometimes focused too much on rote
learning. Bonner and Walker (1994) note that merely providing specific ratio definitions and the
basic instruction of audit steps to be performed in analytical review does not teach the rationale
behind calculating the ratios. Without an understanding of this rationale, students merely learn to
calculate ratios according to memorized formulae and may fail to understand the causal explanations
for changes in the ratios. This lack of understanding may inhibit the development of analytical skills
(Bonner and Walker, 1994). The present study builds upon Bonner and Walker’s insight. Because
Singapore students have had little exposure to immediate feedback in the education process, it is not
known whether their performance will be improved by practice and feedback opportunities. Rather
than a process of experience, immediate feedback, revision, and re-evaluation, their modification of
a British system of education had focused only on the final examinations’ evaluation of achievement.
This study hypothesizes frequent assessment with an immediate feedback component may be an
important step in the development of analytical skills, going beyond the practice of minimal (and
delayed) feedback of final exam marks.
Despite the common belief that analytical review skills are cognitive processes that are
difficult to teach, Bonner and Walker (1994) found that students in the United States who practiced
ratio analysis problems and received immediate explanatory feedback showed improvement in
analytical review skills. Bonner (1999) also found that “for the more complex skills of rules and
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cognitive strategies, more active methods” of teaching are necessary and effective. Bonner and
Walker (1994) used both explanatory feedback (providing the subject with an explanation of why
the outcome occurred) and outcome feedback (providing the subject with the outcome or correct
answer). Their findings showed that explanatory feedback resulted in performance improvement in
ratio analysis problems. No improvement in student performance was demonstrated when they were
given outcome feedback. Given Bonner and Walker’s result, the present study will not examine
outcome feedback.
Hypothesis Development
The current study investigates, in an environment where feedback has not normally been
used, the impact of training, practice and immediate feedback on the performance of students on
analytical review tasks. Bonner and Walker demonstrated that explanatory feedback allows a student
to develop a set of rules for generating financial statement errors from analytical procedures. This
study seeks to show that introducing explanatory feedback in the education experience will improve
the performance of the students in analytical review tasks. This study considers whether performance
improves for students after receiving training and practice or if classroom training and practice must
be combined with explanatory feedback to improve performance. Merely providing students with
training and practice opportunities should not improve performance, because, consistent with the
results of previous researchers (e.g. Bonner, 1999), skill development in analytical procedures
requires more active methods of education (i.e. feedback) than training and practice opportunities.
Providing students with only training and practice without explanatory feedback may even worsen
performance. Based on prior research, training and practice in performing a task will only improve
judgment accuracy when the subject learns from the process (e.g. Hirst et al., 1999; Bonner and
Walker, 1994; Bonner, 1994). If the subject does not know how to perform a task, he does not learn
how to perform the task by repetition. Performance repetition might actually worsen performance
as the subject becomes more frustrated at working a series of problems he does not know how to
solve.
Performance differences will be investigated among three experimental groups: a control
group and two treatment groups. The control group will receive no training or practice. Treatment
1 will receive training and practice and treatment 2 will receive training, practice and feedback. The
research question examines whether the performance of either treatment group exceeds the
performance of the control group on analytical review tests of trend and ratio analysis. The final
questionnaire presented to participants in all three groups was a set of four questions related to
analytical review procedures ) two multiple-choice ratio analysis problems, a trend analysis problem
and an open-ended ratio analysis problem. The trend analysis problem and the open-ended ratio
analysis problems required the students to analyze the client’s background information and financial
statements. These problems were more unstructured than the multiple-choice problems because the
students had to process more information, discriminate useful information and filter out irrelevant
information. This increased the complexity and difficulty of the questionnaire and allowed the
researcher to evaluate the benefits of the training session on different analytical review skills from
those taught during the training session.
Performance differences are not expected on the multiple-choice problems, representing basic
knowledge of analytical review problems because all participants should have acquired this basic
knowledge in their accounting classes. This expectation is formally stated as hypothesis one.
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The participants were asked to report to a classroom to participate in the research project. As they arrived at the
1
classroom, they were randomly assigned to one of three rooms (each room represented one of the three groups).
H1: Performance on questions related to general knowledge of analytical review
procedures will not be significantly different between the control and
treatment groups.
Training and practice with feedback should have a positive effect on the judgment accuracy
of participants. Participants trained on analytical procedures, given opportunities to practice using
analytical procedures and receiving immediate explanatory feedback after each decision, should
perform better than participants who are given training and practice opportunities but no feedback.
This expectation is formally stated as hypothesis two.
H2: Judgment accuracy will be greater for participants receiving training and
practice with explanatory feedback (treatment 2) than for participants who
receive training and practice without feedback (treatment 1).
Training and practice without feedback should not improve the judgment accuracy of
participants. Without feedback, the participants are not actively involved in the learning experience,
so training and practice alone will not improve judgment accuracy. This expectation is formally
stated as hypothesis three.
H3: There will be no difference in judgment accuracy between participants
receiving training and practice (treatment 1) and participants who receive no
training or practice (control group).
RESEARCH METHOD
Participants
Participants for this study were 85 undergraduate students enrolled in the basic auditing
course at a large public university in Singapore. Singapore university students are admitted to a
degree program as a group based on standardized test scores and are eligible for admission only at
the end of their high school equivalency exam. Participants for this study were second-year
accounting majors with similar test scores on standardized entrance exams.
The auditing course was taught in four contact hours per week--a two-hour lecture to 450
students and a two-hour tutorial session with 25 students per class. For a study designed to test
whether training, practice, and feedback are effective means of improving judgment accuracy in
analytical procedures before the accountant enters the job market, student participants are more
appropriate than more experienced auditors. This is because more experienced auditors would have
already acquired practice and training in analytical procedures on the job. Students volunteered to
participate in the study in exchange for the opportunity to learn more about analytical procedures.
The participants were randomly divided into three groups of 27, 29 and 29 students, referred
to as control, treatment 1 and treatment 2, respectively. The control group received no training or
1
practice before completing the audit tasks. Treatment 1 received one hour training and practice, but
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The pilot tests involve a review of the ratios used in the training session by several students not involved in the
2
experiment. The purpose of the pilot test was to determine that the ratio fluctuations were seen as potential errors by
the students, to determine that the students understood the questions, and to evaluate the time needed to complete the
exercise.
no feedback on the practice problems before completing the audit tasks. Treatment 2 received one
hour of training, practice and explanatory feedback on analytical procedures before completing the
audit tasks. All training and testing was done in a classroom setting. The three groups were given
thirty minutes to complete the audit tasks. The effect of training, practice and feedback was assessed
by the differences in performance between the three groups on the audit tasks.
Development of Training Material
The multiple-choice questions used in the analytical review training for the treatment groups
were developed based on a list of commonly expected accounting errors reported in Coakley and
Loebbecke (1985, p. 236). From the Coakley and Loebbecke list, I selected material errors that
occurred with the highest frequency in different transaction cycles. Table 1 provides a list of the
errors. The errors used in the training material were overstated revenue, returned goods not counted
in inventory, overstated revenue and cost of goods sold, capitalizing wage expense to inventory, and
recording duplicate payments on accounts payable.
I then determined the impact of each error on four financial ratios – current ratio (current
assets / current liabilities), inventory turnover (cost of sales / ending inventory), receivables turnover
(sales / ending accounts receivable) and gross margin ratio ((net sales-cost of sales) / net sales).
These four ratios were found by Libby (1985) to be used most commonly by auditors in performing
ratio analysis. Consistent with Bonner and Walker (1994, p. 168), I set the expected values of all four
ratios to be constant across the problems (current ratio = 2.5, inventory turnover = 4.4, receivables
turnover = 5.5 and gross margin ratio = 0.4). Bonner and Walker (1994) used these expected values
because they were representative of “typical” manufacturing companies.
In performing analytical procedures, the auditor would compare the unaudited ratio value
(determined by the client) to the expected ratio value (based on the prior year audited financial
statements). The unaudited value of each ratio was calculated based on the effects of the errors on
the ratios. After calculating the unaudited ratio values, I adopted the fluctuation manipulations of
Bonner and Walker (1994) as follows: (1) if the error had no effect on the ratio, the expected value
was shown again; (2) if the ratios were not as expected, predetermined higher or lower numbers
were presented; and (3) higher (lower) numbers were determined by adding (subtracting) 0.6 to the
expected values for the first three ratios and 0.2 for the gross margin ratio. Pilot tests conducted
indicate that these fluctuations were large enough to be perceived as unusual fluctuations. Since the
2
multiple choice questions have one right answer, judgment accuracy is determined by evaluating the
multiple choice answer selected by the subject.
Training Session
The training session for participants in the treatment groups lasted one hour. The participants
were first given a brief lesson on the four financial ratios - current ratio, inventory turnover,
receivables turnover and gross margin ratio. They were then introduced to the three main
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TABLE 1
Commonly Expected Accounting Errors
in a Manufacturing Setting
Common Errors:
Failing to record collections on receivable.
Recording sales and related cost of goods sold entries at year-end even though goods were not
shipped.
Failure to count all goods in warehouse resulting in an incorrect stock figure to be adjusted
to the perpetual records (cost of goods sold correct).
Recording payments on accounts payable twice.
Recording too many items on the sales invoice and in sales while all shipping documents and
inventories are done correctly.
Goods returned by customers not counted in inventory although customer accounts were
credited. The goods are still in good condition.
Uncollectible accounts not written off.
Goods received but purchase not recorded (assume periodic inventory system where ending
stock balance is the stock count amount).
Expensing items that should be recorded as prepaid.
Recording tax accruals twice.
Recording more hours than actually worked to manufacture a finished product later sold.
(Adapted from Coakley & Loebbecke 1985, p. 236)
components of analytical procedures - trend analysis, ratio analysis and reasonableness tests (as
identified by Blocher and Willingham, 1988).
Five multiple-choice questions were used in the one-hour training session. Each multiple-
choice problem had four possible answers. Each multiple-choice question was based on one specific
error with the correct answer to the multiple choice question being the only choice that would
explain all the ratio differences between the expected ratios and the unaudited ratios. For example,
the training material included a set of ratios where the current ratio was overstated and the accounts
receivable turnover ratio was understated (the unaudited ratios were different than the expected
ratios). In this question, the inventory turnover ratio and the gross margin ratio were unchanged. The
participants were given four choices of accounting errors that might have caused the differences
between the actual and expected ratios: (1) too many items were recorded in the sales account, but
all shipping and inventory entries were correct; (2) sales and cost of goods sold were recorded at
year-end, although goods were not shipped; (3) uncollectible accounts were not written off; and (4)
payments on accounts payable were recorded twice. Participants were asked to identify the error that
could have caused the difference between actual and expected ratios. Participants in the group
receiving immediate explanatory feedback were told that number 3 was the correct answer
immediately after they answered the question. Then they were told that explanation 3 is the correct
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answer because accounts receivable would be overstated when companies fail to write off
uncollectible accounts. Sales, cost of goods sold and ending inventory would not be affected by
failing to write-off uncollectible accounts. Therefore, the current ratio would be overstated and the
accounts receivable turnover ratio would be understated.
For the training material, the multiple-choice questions were sequenced in order of increasing
difficulty. In this sequence, answers to the more difficult questions included a higher number of
nearly correct explanations (the answer explained most but not all of the ratio changes) than did the
answers to the less difficult questions. Participants were given five minutes to do each multiple-
choice question. Treatment 2 received immediate explanatory feedback after each question as
described above. Treatment 1 answered the questions, but did not receive explanatory feedback. The
control group did not participate in the training session.
Feedback for Treatment 2 Participants
The format of multiple-choice questions facilitated the use of explanatory feedback for
treatment 2 participants. Past research (e.g., Bonner and Walker, 1994) shows that performance in
ratio analysis is enhanced by practice with explanatory feedback. This type of feedback provides an
explanation of why the outcome occurred, not merely the correct answer. The conciseness of each
multiple-choice question enabled the students to practice several questions during the training
session. This made the explanatory feedback more manageable. Students were able to complete the
questions quickly and received immediate explanatory feedback after each question. This was done
because explanatory feedback may be more effective if provided without delay (Lewis and Anderson,
1985).
Evaluating Performance on the Audit Tasks
The audit tasks were administered to the participants in a classroom setting. The treatment
groups completed the audit tasks after the one-hour training session. The control group completed
the audit tasks immediately without receiving training or the opportunity to practice analytical review
problems.
The multiple-choice problems on the audit questionnaire were similar to the questions used
in the training session and were developed according to the procedures previously described for
training material. The errors used in the training sessions (overstated revenue, returned goods not
counted in inventory, failure to write off uncollectible accounts, capitalizing wage expense to
inventory, and recording duplicate payments on accounts payable) differed from the errors in the
audit task questionnaire (understatement of ending inventory and overstatement of revenue and cost
of goods sold).
For the open-ended questions, participants were given one page of background information
on the company, the prior year’s audited balance sheet and income statement, the current year’s
unaudited financial statements as prepared by the client, and the current year’s projected financial
statements as prepared by the auditor. The participants were told that this study was part of an
experiment to determine how auditors perform certain audit tasks. They were asked to assume the
role of an audit supervisor taking part in the continuing audit of a manufacturing company during
the preliminary planning stage of the audit. The trend analysis task required participants to identify
problem areas in the client prepared financial statements using trend analysis (comparing the current
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year unaudited financial statements to the current year’s projected financial statements prepared by
the auditor). Three material errors were seeded into the financial statements (understated accounts
receivable, understated cost of goods sold, and understated salary expense).
In the open-ended ratio analysis task, participants were given five ratios: the inventory
turnover, accounts receivable turnover, gross margin ratio, current ratio and quick ratio, calculated
based on the unaudited and expected financial information. Participants were asked to explain the
divergence between the unaudited and expected ratios with a single accounting error. They were also
asked to prepare necessary journal entries with hypothetical dollar amounts to correct the error so
as to ascertain that they understood the implications and consequences of the error. A target
explanation was obtained by seeding one error (unrecorded sales in a perpetual inventory system)
causing a pattern of discrepancy between unaudited and expected financial ratios.
Performance was measured by the number of correct responses. The correct answers to the
problems are known because all errors used in the study were deliberately seeded into the financial
statements. For the multiple-choice tasks, a score of 0 or 2 points was given. The subject received
a score of 2 for identifying the answer that explained the difference between unaudited and expected
financial statement ratios. All other answers received a score of 0. Participants received a score of
0-4 for the trend analysis task (1 1/3 point given for each problem area identified). Participants
received 4 points for the ratio task (0-2 for identifying the individual accounts affected by the error
and 0-2 for listing the correct accounts in the journal entries.) The total score possible was 12 points.
The answers to the experimental tasks were reviewed by an independent grader familiar with
analytical review procedures. The subject responses were scored by two markers independently.
There were few differences in coding and all differences were resolved into a common scoring rule
that was used in the analysis. Descriptive statistics for the performance scores are reported in Table
2.
RESULTS
Hypothesis 1 predicts that performance will be the same for the control and treatment groups
on the general knowledge questions. To test hypothesis 1, ANOVA analysis was used to determine
if the performance score difference on the multiple-choice questions between the three groups was
significant. Results of the analysis are reported in Table 3, Panel A.
As shown in Table 3, hypothesis 1 is confirmed. Subject performance in the multiple choice
analytical procedures does not vary between the three groups (p=.258, F=1.376). This indicates that
student performance on multiple-choice tasks does not vary based on the level of training the
students received. Given the education environment in Singapore, this result is not surprising.
Singapore students are trained to memorize facts and rules and are expected to perform well at
multiple-choice questions testing their application of these facts. Performance differences between
training levels were not expected on the multiple-choice tasks.
Subject performance for the analytical review tasks (trend analysis, and ratio analysis) is
shown in Table 3, Panels B and C. We would not expect student performance on trend analysis and
ratio analysis tasks to be the same among the three groups. Identifying financial statement errors
based on trend and ratio analysis requires an understanding of the error situation beyond memorized
facts. As shown in Table 3, Panel B, student performance on the trend analysis task is not the same
among the three groups (p=.065, F=2.825). Task performance on the trend analysis task differs by
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TABLE 2
Descriptive Statistics
Performance Variables
Cell Means for Multiple Choice, Trend Analysis and Ratio Analysis by Training Level
Treatment 2 Treatment 1 Control Group
Measure Score Possible
Training, Practice
& Feedback
Training,
Practice
No Training or
Practice
Multiple Choice 4 2.74 2.14 2.21
Trend Analysis 4 2.17 1.52 1.79
Ratio Analysis 4 1.54 .74 1.07
Total Score 12 6.45 4.40 5.07
training level. Performance differences are also found for the ratio analysis task. As shown in Table
3, Panel C, task performance differs by training level on the ratio analysis task (p=.037, F=3.426).
Student performance on the ratio analysis task is not the same among the three groups. These
significant differences will be examined in the following section to determine the impact of training,
practice and feedback on judgment accuracy.
A comparison of the significant performance differences by training level is examined in
Table 4. Because performance is not the same among the three training groups, it is necessary to
examine performance differences across all combinations of training levels to determine if training
and practice without feedback improves performance or whether feedback is necessary for improved
performance. This analysis allows us to evaluate the predictions stated as hypothesis 2 and 3.
Hypothesis 2 predicts that judgment accuracy is greater for participants receiving training, practice
and feedback (treatment 2) than for participants who receive only training and practice (treatment
1). As shown in Table 4, hypothesis 2 is confirmed. Participants receiving training, practice and
feedback opportunities in analytical procedures outperformed participants who received only training
and practice (p=.0007). Hypothesis 3 predicts that there will be no differences in judgment accuracy
between participants receiving training and practice (treatment 1) and participants who receive no
training or practice (control group). As shown in Table 4, hypothesis 3 is confirmed. There is no
difference in performance between participants who receive training and practice opportunities and
participants who receive no training or practice (p=.1321).
In the tasks where performance was significantly different among the three groups (trend
analysis and ratio analysis), the greatest difference between the group receiving training and practice
with feedback (treatment 2) and the group receiving only training and practice (treatment 1) is the
performance level for the ratio analysis tasks (p=.0058). These tasks are the most difficult analytical
problems to solve. Because treatment 2, the training and practice with feedback group, outperformed
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12 Stuart
TABLE 3
Anova Analysis
Performance by Level of Training
Analysis of Variance: Performance Score on Multiple Choice by Training Level
Panel A
df SS F Stat P-Value
Training 2 6.020 1.376 .258
Error 82 179.392
Panel B
df SS F Stat P-Value
Training 2 6.057 2.825 .065*
Error 82 87.902
Panel C
df SS F Stat P-Value
Training 2 8.912 3.426 .037**
Error 82 106.635
** Significant at .05 level
* Significant at .10 level
treatment 1, the training and practice group, it is here that the benefits of feedback are the most
evident. Singapore students in treatment 2 learned how to perform analytical procedures from the
feedback they received during the practice session. The training and practice group received the same
training and practice opportunities, but no feedback. Their performance did not improve as a result
of the training and practice, so feedback seems to be the key to performance improvement.
Additional analysis of the results led to some interesting findings. Table 5 presents score
distributions for the control and treatment groups. The range of scores for treatment 2 (training and
practice with feedback) is 3.33 to 10.67, while treatment 1 (training and practice without feedback)
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The Impact of Immediate Feedback on Student Performance 13
TABLE 4
Group Comparisons for Performance Variables
P-Values for Difference Scores for Group Comparisons
P-Values for Differences
Group Comparisons Trend Analysis Ratio Analysis Total Score
Treatment 1 & 2 .0107*** .0058*** .0007***
Treatment 2 & Control .0873** .0654** .0136***
Treatment 1 & Control .1573 .1387 .1321
Control - no training or practice
Treatment 1 - training and practice without feedback
Treatment 2 - training and practice with feedback
*** Significant at .01 level
** Significant at .10 level
scored between 0 and 8, and the control group (no training or practice) scored between .5 and 10.67.
Although the lowest score of the training/ practice/ feedback group was higher than the lowest score
of the non-training group, the highest score for the training group was no higher than the highest
score for the non-training group.
IMPLICATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES
The current research project was conducted in one of the established Singapore universities
to investigate the effectiveness of United States teaching and assessment methods on students whose
prior experience has been in classroom settings shaped by structured British education methods.
Specifically, the study was designed to determine whether adding immediate feedback and practice
opportunities to the learning experience results in improvement in the analytical review skills of
Singaporean accounting students. Conducting this experiment in a setting like Singapore, where
students have not yet been exposed to this method of instruction, provides an ideal opportunity to
observe the impact of training and feedback for specific tasks of analytical procedures. What is more,
given the educational agenda of the Singapore universities’ switch to United States teaching
methods, research efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of new assessment techniques in the
Singapore environment are crucial and timely. The particular audit task considered in the study is
a common audit procedure used by accountants to gather evidence. Preparing students to accurately
perform analytical procedures that are common to the profession should be an important goal of the
education process. If the education system improves student performance on analytical review
procedures, students develop a valuable skill for their role as accountants.
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14 Stuart
TABLE 5
Score Distribution by Training Level
Score Distribution for Total Performance by Training Level
Treatment 2 Treatment 1 Control Group
Measure
Training, Practice
& Feedback
Training,
Practice
No Training or
Practice
Minimum Score
Maximum Score
Mean Score
Median Score
Standard Deviation
3.33
10.67
6.45
6.33
2.22
0.00
8.00
4.40
4.00
2.06
.50
10.67
5.07
4.67
2.49
Participants receiving training and practice combined with feedback outperformed
participants who received only training and practice as well as the participants with no training or
practice opportunities. This improvement in performance was based on a short feedback session,
suggesting that effective feedback can have a demonstrable impact in a short time. Teaching methods
that combine practice with brief feedback opportunities may be an effective way to improve
judgment accuracy for inexperienced participants. The finding that students who received training
and practice performed at a lower level than students who received no training or practice is
consistent with prior studies of feedback results in the United States educational setting. Training
and practice improves judgment accuracy only when the subject learns from the process (e.g. Hirst
et al., 1999). Feedback is an effective method of improving performance because it allows the
subject to correct earlier misunderstandings that developed during the lecture process. Providing
feedback in the classroom can be done fairly quickly, with little expenditure of classroom time.
This research finding supports previous research that demonstrates that training with
explanatory feedback improves students’ performance. Accounting educators and public accounting
firms may find that training and practice with explanatory feedback will achieve better learning than
current non-feedback methods. The learning process-whether in the university setting or in the staff
development of an accounting firm-may be enhanced by the addition of feedback. If the combination
of training, practice and feedback improves students’ performance in analytical review, not only does
it indicate that analytical review skills can be taught effectively, but also that these skills can be
learned during the university development process and through the early training experiences in
auditing firms.
While learning occurs under a variety of education systems, feedback may be used effectively
in the classroom to shorten the time needed to master a task. The teacher who is trained in the use
of feedback can devote class time more efficiently to skills that students have not yet mastered. This
allows the teacher to devote more classroom time to cover skills where students need practice and
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The Impact of Immediate Feedback on Student Performance 15
feedback and less classroom time to areas where feedback indicates that student learning has
occurred.
This study raises several questions that might be considered in future research projects.
Training with feedback was limited to a one-hour session so that participants would volunteer for
a brief commitment of time. Longer sessions or more frequent training and feedback may result in
even greater improvement in judgment accuracy. It would be interesting to determine whether
knowledge or intelligence level differences, or factors such as gender or grade point average are
associated with better performance. Since the current study was exploratory in nature, the sample
size was limited to 85 students. Although significant results were obtained with the current sample
size, the sample size might be expanded in a follow-up study. One might ask, if feedback is effective
in the accounting setting in improving judgment accuracy, is feedback also a useful tool to increase
learning in other business disciplines? The design of future research might answer these questions.
REFERENCES
Bell, T. B., and A. M. Wright. 1997. When Judgment Counts. Journal of Accountancy (Vol. 184,
No. 5) 73-76.
Blocher, E., and J. J. Willingham. 1988. Analytical Review - A Guide to Evaluating Financial
Statements. (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill).
Bonner, S. 1994. A Model of the Effects of Audit Task Complexity. Accounting, Organizations and
Society (Vol. 19, No. 3) 213-234.
Bonner, S. 1999. Judgment and Decision-Making Research in Accounting. Accounting Horizons
(Vol. 13, No. 4) 385-398.
Bonner, S. E., and N. Pennington. 1991. Cognitive Processes and Knowledge as Determinants of
Auditor Expertise. Journal of Accounting Literature (Vol.10) 1-50.
Bonner, S. E., and P. L. Walker. 1994. The Effects of Instruction and Experience on the Acquisition
of Auditing Knowledge. The Accounting Review (Vol. 69, No. 1) 157-178.
Brehmer, B. 1980. In One Word: Not from Experience. Acta Psychologica (Vol. 45) 223-241.
Coakley, J. R., and J. K. Loebbecke. 1985. The Expectation of Accounting Errors in Medium-Sized
Manufacturing Firms. Advances in Accounting (Vol. 2) 199-246.
Cohen, D. 1999. United States Replaces Britain as Singapore’s Higher-Education Model. The
Chronicle of Higher Education (November 5) A62-A63.
Hirst, M., P. Luckett, and K. Trotman. 1999. Effects of Feedback and Task Predictability on Task
Learning and Judgment Accuracy. Abacus (Vol. 35, No. 3) 286-301.
Hirst, D. E., and L. Koonce. 1996. Audit Analytical Procedures: A Field Investigation.
Contemporary Accounting Research (Vol. 13, No. 2) 457-486.
Hylas, R. E., and R. H. Ashton. 1992. Audit Detection of Financial Statement Errors. The
Accounting Review (Vol. 57, No. 4) 751-765.
Lewis, M. W., and J. R. Andersen. 1985. Discrimination of Operator Schemata in Problem Solving:
Learning from Examples. Cognitive Psychology (Vol. 17, No. 1) 26-65.
Libby, R. 1985. Availability and the Generation of Hypotheses in Analytical Review. Journal of
Accounting Research (Vol. 23, No. 2) 348-367.
15
Stuart: The Impact Of Immediate Feedback On Student Performance: An Explo
Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2004
... Feedback is an essential element of learning in any context. It has been shown that immediate feedback while a student is undertaking a task provides the most benefit and avoids situations where the student solidifies misconceptions rather than accurate understandings, presumably because the student is still engaged in thinking about the concepts and processes at hand (Bowman-Perrott et al. 2013;Crook and Sutherland 2017;Stuart 2004). However, determining how to provide feedback and what kind of feedback to give is of great importance. ...
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... Feedback is an essential element of learning in any context. It has been shown that immediate feedback while a student is undertaking a task provides the most benefit and avoids situations where the student solidifies misconceptions rather than accurate understandings, presumably because the student is still engaged in thinking about the concepts and processes at hand (Bowman-Perrott et al. 2013;Crook and Sutherland 2017;Stuart 2004). However, determining how to provide feedback and what kind of feedback to give is of great importance. ...
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... Feedback is an essential element of learning in any context. It has been shown that immediate feedback while a student is undertaking a task provides the most benefit and avoids situations where the student solidifies misconceptions rather than accurate understandings, presumably because the student is still engaged in thinking about the concepts and processes at hand (Bowman-Perrott et al. 2013;Crook and Sutherland 2017;Stuart 2004). However, determining how to provide feedback and what kind of feedback to give is of great importance. ...
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