Not Your Ordinary Accounting Class

Professor uses nontraditional techniques to convey accounting principles

If you are looking to enroll in an accounting class where students just sit and listen to a professor lecture about financial statements, then Professor Sharon Gibbs' courses are not for you. However, if you are looking to learn about accounting by performing financial analysis on Fortune 500 companies, playing Monopoly, participating in service learning, or eating candy to learn about inventory methods, then Gibbs is the professor for you.

Gibbs knew while she was a college student that she wanted to one day teach others accounting. Instead of just trying to become a professor right away, she opted for the real world first by working at Norfolk Southern. Gibbs chose to work first so she could teach students about real-world work environments and share her experiences with them.

Gibbs is known for requiring accounting students to perform a few hours of service learning. Her students have volunteered to work for are the YWCA and Habitat for Humanity, to name a couple. The students teach members of these organizations basic accounting and money management skills that they can use.

"Service learning is not always perfect but I believe that students need to learn how to communicate with those who do not have any experience or understanding of accounting because many of the students will interact with these people on a day-to-day basis when they enter the workforce," says Gibbs.

Gibbs strongly believes in the small-group learning environment that Roanoke College fosters, especially having come from a large state university. "Communication within a peer group can be essential to understanding material because sometimes students' peers can help them understand concepts even better than professors can and, since Roanoke is smaller, we can get into small groups and allow this type of learning to occur." She also says that having smaller classes helps in being able to teach lessons in ways that are more appealing to students.

Her favorite lesson to teach is about ethics in her auditing class. She loves to teach ethics case studies because not only is it very important, but it is also very interesting for the students and for Gibbs. "It is interesting to have students analyze a situation and look at the various options of how to handle the situation. I am always fascinated to hear the new ideas and opinions students have on these topics because students are always coming up with different answers that I have not heard or thought of before and that makes it really fun," says Gibbs.

The hardest aspect of her style of teaching is that it can be very time consuming to come up with creative ways to teach accounting concepts, but she says it makes it more exciting and seems to work very well. "I like lessons that cause students to communicate with each other and get them to ask questions, because in accounting, those are keys to learning the concepts," she says.

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