R. Rudman

Stellenbosch University (SOUTH AFRICA)
The South African Institute for Chartered Accountants released a new Competency Framework in 2009 requiring that students be able to apply theoretical knowledge taught to a visualised practical business environment. Many undergraduate students struggle to do this, because they do not have the practical experience to conceptualise and visualise the subject material. Many researchers advocate that students must become active participants in their learning in order to obtain these skills.

Against this background, three different role-playing activities were developed for each year group of students at different levels of study and work covered in the curriculum. Each role-playing required a different level of participation from the students. The purpose of the practical role-playing activities was to assist students with the conceptualisation of different theoretical concepts.

The primary objective of this research was to determine whether practical role-playing contributes to students’ learning, particularly since they are unfamiliar with audit aspects. The study further investigates how these perceptions are affected by the different levels of participation, required from the students.

A questionnaire was developed to analyse students’ perceptions of skills developed, benefits and constraints associated with the three different role-playing activities. The results were also analysed to determine the impact that students' participation has on the findings.

The respondents felt that the role-playing activity helped them to gain insight into the theoretical concepts, since they were able to better understand the concepts and apply conceptual thinking to the given scenario after having been exposed visually to the concept. Their perceptions were somewhat influenced by the level of participation and level of knowledge and experience.

The principles and findings of this research apply to role-playing, simulations and the use of case studies in any environment. Auditing, historically, was a paper based subject and was taught and assessed very theoretically. Students were passive participants in the learning process. This is one of the first South African studies to show that auditing can be made practical by encouraging student participation.