One common challenge facing educators is determining how best to involve and actively engage students so they will do the work necessary to be successful in the course. In the author’s experience, it is important for students to take ownership of their work and their success. Much has been written about the latest generation of students now entering college and the accounting profession. While gross generalizations will not get one very far, it is important for educators to recognize that their perceptions of their students and the reality of what they need to succeed may not align. The author tried both a “new school” approach she believed students would utilize and an “old school” approach that she did not think they would embrace in an attempt to help struggling students. The approach described below has improved outcomes for students in the author’s introductory accounting class.

A Two-Pronged Approach

Many of the students in this author’s Accounting 101 course who do not pass the first exam are not successful in the remainder of the class (i.e., a final grade of C or higher). Despite the author’s consistent offers of help and suggestions of additional services provided by the school’s learning center, most students do not invest the time to take advantage of these additional resources.

How can teachers help students better use the resources that are available to them so that they can be successful? Today’s students have grown up using computer technology like tablets and smartphones; why not encourage them to use the online study tools provided by textbook publishers? Unfortunately, students were still reluctant to use these new-school resources when the author merely suggested that they do so. Therefore, taking advantage of these resources was made mandatory for students who received a D or lower on the first exam.

A refined, two-pronged approach also helped students better engage with more traditional, old-school learning resources. The first prong was the development and implementation of demonstration documents for each chapter of the textbook to be used both in class and at home as a reference. These documents were later published as a workbook that students could purchase as part of their accounting textbook package and refer to for further explanation and reinforcement. Students often comment that they find these “demo docs” very helpful.

The second prong was to offer students one-on-one tutoring in the same building where the class is being taught. The business division at the author’s institution receives grant money to help with student retention and engagement; as part of this program, the division has a part-time advisor/tutor with a background in teaching accounting. This tutor helps students with their coursework and course scheduling. Beginning in the 2015 spring semester, students who were not successful on the first exam were required to sign up with the tutor for additional help. The tutor would then make appointments with each student and help with course concepts they were struggling to understand. Unfortunately, not all of the students showed up for their appointments. These students continued to struggle with accounting concepts, and many ended up dropping the course or were not successful.


This two-pronged approach proved effective, according to the data collected by the author to determine student success rates before and after implementation. Before these changes were implemented, the passing rate of the students in this class after the first exam was as low as 77%; after they were implemented, the rate was as high as 94%. This represents a significant improvement. The Exhibit tracks the student success of those who sought tutoring help. The author was surprised by the success of this approach and plans to continue to offer both the demo docs workbook and one-on-one tutoring services to her students. The fact that students engaged more with the more traditional learning resources, as opposed to the online ones provided by the textbook publisher, may seem surprising. Many students wanted personal interaction, such as from the tutor, when they didn’t totally understand concepts as they were presented in class. Online tools were not what students chose. To retain students, educators should therefore consider mixing the old-school teaching methods of the past with those of today. It turns out that personal interaction with students is just as important in higher education today as it was 50 years ago.


Success of Students Who Sought Tutoring Help, 2014–2018

Semester/year; Students in classes; Students with D/F on first exam; D/F students seeking tutoring*; Tutored students with C or higher final grade Fall 2014; 30; 11; 4; 4 (100%) Spring 2015; 61; 16; 8; 7 (88%) Fall 2015; 30; 9; 8; 8 (100%) Spring 2016; 61; 13; 6; 6 (100%) Fall 2016; 50; 15; 9; 9 (100%) Spring 2017; 31; 8; 6; 5 (83%) Fall 2017; 19; 6; 3; 3 (100%) Spring 2018; 20; 2; 2; 2 (100%) *Note: Not all students who sought tutoring showed up for their appointments.

Sample Demonstration Document

Demo Doc 1: Basic Transactions

Cynthia Lewis opened a lawn service on May 1, 2030. She is the sole proprietor of the business (Lewis Lawn Service). During the month of May, Cynthia had the following transactions:

  • May 1; Cynthia invested $8,000 of her personal funds in the business.
  • May 3; The Lawn Service purchased equipment, paying $2,000 in cash and putting $3,000 on account.
  • May 5; Cynthia purchased $1,500 of furniture for use in her home on her personal account.
  • May 6; The Lawn Service paid $850 cash for supplies.
  • May 7; The Lawn Service performed lawn services for customers totaling $1,400. These customers paid in cash.
  • May 9; The Lawn Service also performed lawn services for customers totaling $2,600. These customers paid on account.
  • May 10; The Lawn Service paid rent (for the month of May) of $900.
  • May 25; Cynthia withdrew $1,000 cash from the business for personal use.
  • May 26; The Lawn Service collected $225 of accounts receivable. (These receivables were created on May 9.)
  • May 28; The Lawn Service paid $1,100 on the accounts payable to the office equipment store from May 3.
  • May 30; The Lawn Service received a utility bill for $350. As of May 31, 2030, it had not been paid.
  • May 31; The Lawn Service paid employees $2,500 for the month of May.


  • Analyze the preceding transactions in terms of their effects on the accounting equation of Lewis Lawn Service. (Use T Accounts.)
  • Prepare the income statement, statement of owner’s equity and balance sheet of the business as of May 31, 2030.
  • Was the Lawn Service profitable for the month of May? Given this level of profit or loss, do you think Cynthia’s withdrawal of $1,000 was appropriate?
Cynthia Lewis is an assistant professor of business management at Harford Community College, Bel Air, Md.