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Content-based approaches

Teachers identify content areas that are fundamental to learning at a given level and that help students understand the big ideas in accounting.

Sample content: Communicating relevant and reliable information for decision making (level 7)

Why is this learning important?

Relevance to students’ current and future lives

Students will readily understand why a business needs to have resources to continue to provide employment and goods and/or services in the future.

Students also need to understand that businesses must be financially viable to survive.

A business relies on access to high-quality information and effective decision-making. Weak financial literacy often contributes to business failure. A business can survive without making a profit but the day the business cannot meet a major cash payment, it is likely to fail.

Students also need to gain a greater understanding of the big ideas of accounting, in particular integrity and accountability. This includes understanding the importance of communicating relevant and reliable information in financial statements to show a true and fair view of its financial affairs.

Links to previous or future learning

Introduce and use vocabulary and basic accounting skills that will be used in subsequent units. (Refer to the appropriate sections in Pedagogy for ideas on reinforcing students’ literacy and numeracy skills, in the context of accounting.)

Ask students to think about good and poor decisions they have made in the past and identify how the quality of information they used influenced their decision-making.

Who are the learners I am working with?

  • Base the programme on a particular business context or a series of related business contexts that students recognise or identify within their community.
  • Use the interests or aspirations of students in your class to identify businesses that could be used as contexts.
  • Expose students to diverse business contexts beyond their current experience and get them to research and chose a context that fires their imagination.
  • Create a pseudo business within the classroom environment that the students 'live' and as a result learn real consequences of decisions that they make.

Approaches for establishing prior learning

  • Brainstorm words the class associate with financial statements.
  • Create a mind map about sustainability and sustainable business practices.
  • Have students analyse their level 1 NCEA external/internal assessments to identify strengths and gaps in their understandings of financial statements.
  • Buddy-up students who have studied accounting at level 6 with those new to accounting and have them complete a classification exercise with the five financial elements, encouraging the students with prior learning to teach those with less knowledge.
  • Ask groups to answer a series of questions on required prior knowledge about the topic to ensure that everyone in the group starts from a shared understanding.
  • Have students complete a jigsaw of income statement and balance sheet formats and headings to help them recognise misunderstandings.

What content could be explored?

Choice of content relates to the curriculum learning objective 7.02.

Content should also be chosen to reinforce the big ideas in accounting and accounting practices. It could include:

  • accounting policies
  • income statements
  • balance sheets
  • notes to the financial statements
  • cash-flow statements
  • influences:accounting concepts
  • qualitative characteristics
  • sustainability
  • limitations of financial statements
  • financial elements
  • entries for balance day adjustments.

How will I teach this material?

A large amount of content can be taught through one context across the year.

The teacher could model the learning with a context they know will appeal to their students and that they feel confident will illustrate the points to be made.

Students could then apply the learning to their own selected context. If this takes place in a web-based environment, students and teachers can provide feedback on work completed for each student’s entity.

Sample unit: A plumber as a business entity (teacher’s choice to model learning)

Develop tasks that require different levels of understanding and thinking about a concept.

Traditionally a large number of activities have focused only on knowledge recall. Teachers need to ensure they develop students’ ability to apply and think critically about concepts.

Knowledge recall

What does a plumber do?

What supplies does a plumber use?

What waste might a plumber generate?

What assets does a plumber have?

What are the characteristics of an asset?

  • Use a word trail game (I have xx. Who has yy?).
  • Give quick quizzes.
  • Ask students to construct a crossword based on the topic’s key terms.
  • Create a quiz for the school intranet, for example, using Hot Potatoes.
  • Create interactive whiteboard activities.
  • Use cloze activities, cue cards, or easy prompts, for example, income and expense definitions: expense minus, minus, not; income plus, plus, not; or asset and liability characteristics: past, present, future.
  • Highlight or code different financial elements in a trial balance.


Discuss sustainable business practice, applying characteristics for assets, depreciation of plumbing equipment, expense recognition, journal and ledger entries, entries in financial statements for depreciation. Ask:

  • How could a plumber dispose of old toilets in a sustainable way?
  • How can a plumber minimise use of fuel for work vehicles?
  • Tell a story about the plumber’s equipment being an asset.
  • Draw a picture of the characteristics and recognition criteria of plumbing equipment.
  • Use a colour-coded diagram to show flow of asset and depreciation expense from initial entry to financial statements.
  • Practice using financial statement extracts, for example, ten minutes to do the PPE note.
  • Colour-code journal and ledger entries.
  • Incorporate balance day adjustments on a trial balance.
  • Translate adjustments on a trial balance into journal and ledger entries.
  • Complete fully classified income statement and balance sheet with accompanying notes.

Justifying/Critical thinking

Questions include:

  • Why be sustainable?
  • What are the recognition criteria for the plumber’s financial elements?
  • What is an appropriate method of depreciation for plumbing equipment?
  • How can the plumber save costs by using sustainable practices?
  • What impact does sustainable business practice have for the profitability of the plumber?

Ask groups to choose an appropriate depreciation method and report to class justifying their choice.

Use a social media forum to generate discussion on the impact of an unethical plumber’s practices (for example, cash jobs, recycling, dumping waste) on the local community.

Links to assessment

Formative assessment can be used throughout the learning to assess understanding, misconceptions, and areas for further study. Students may want to adopt their own organisation to explore the different content being taught and to assess their comprehension of the different concepts being learnt.

Learn more:

The content-based learning described could contribute to achievement in the following level 2 accounting achievement standards:

  • AS91174 Accounting 2.1 Demonstrate understanding of accounting concepts for an entity that operates accounting sub-systems
  • AS91176 Accounting 2.3 Prepare financial information for an entity that operates accounting subsystems
  • AS91177 Accounting 2.4 Interpret accounting information for entities that operate accounting subsystems

Please ensure that you are using the correct version of the standards by going to the NZQA website.

Last updated July 11, 2012