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Research conducted by Sheila Handy, assistant professor of economics and business, is markedly different from that of her colleagues. Handy, who holds a degree in business education from New York University, focuses on such research topics as student attitudes toward different approaches to accounting instruction, enhancement of a first course in accounting through cumulative learning, and improvement of accounting instruction.

Handy’s research involves Lafayette students as both subjects and research assistants. Her doctoral dissertation involved a qualitative study of performance in an introductory financial accounting course for students exposed to the material through a multimedia tutorial or classroom lecture. Using a sample of eight students, she observed their experiences with the tutorial using a technique known as “Think Out Loud” protocols where words spoken by the students while working through the material become the data. This method is not designed to provide statistical measures of achievement, but to gain insights into a learning experience in real time. A principal result is that students liked to control the pace of their learning, but that the tutorial was not, by itself, an adequate tool to learn accounting.

A second project conducted at Lafayette involved collaborative homework teams in a financial accounting course. The purpose was to determine whether students working alone or in groups achieved higher test scores. Handy discovered no substantive differences in achievement between the two types, consistent with previous research.

Handy is currently administering a survey to students at other schools to determine differences in attitudes toward accounting based on instructor teaching philosophy. Accounting instructors can adopt either a “preparer” approach, which emphasizes bookkeeping techniques, or a “user” approach, which stresses a broader understanding of the information included in financial statements. Recent studies report that students find the preparer approach boring, thereby creating negative attitudes toward pursuing a career in accounting. Thuy Lan Nguyen ’07 is assisting with this research through the EXCEL Scholars program. The results were reported in April at the annual meeting of the Academy of Business Education.

An article based on the results of an honors thesis by Scott Wynne ’02, supervised by Handy, is under review at an educational administration journal. He examined the relationship between school district expenditures and standardized test scores in New York State. The results were presented at the 2003 meeting of the Eastern Economic Association. During spring, Handy also supervised an independent study with Maurice Bennett ’06, who studied the investing habits of whites and African Americans.

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