Breaking down the barriers of accounting, one concept at a time
With every new semester brings a fresh set of students in accounting education. While a small handful sits eagerly at attention grasping the various concepts and theories with ease, this is not the case for the majority.
Dr Seedwell Sithole has dedicated his career to creating an approachable and attainable mastering of accounting for all levels through intelligent, functional design.
With business big and small being part of everyday life in society, it’s inevitable that accounting will show up in one-way or another in all industries. It is a vital subject in a business degree.
Various careers and personal experiences where accounting skills need to be applied will also present themselves through a lifetime. Dr Seedwell Sithole has made it his mission to ensure that all his students are prepared to understand the foundations of those skills.
Most students struggle to understand accounting
“Most students enrolled in accounting are not specialising in this area, it’s a subject that they have to do to fulfil their degree requirements and it can be quite a challenge to understand the material,” says Seedwell.
Of the more than 800 students studying accounting in a business degree, only about 200 will specialise in it. The large numbers are because many fields require basic accounting knowledge.
The bulk of students will struggle to understand because the subject is pitched to those that are pursuing accounting. Of the 600 students left, around 400 will struggle in one way or another or not make it through.
“Passing the unit is not enough, students need to understand so they can apply those principles and concepts in the workplace, and so they are able to work effectively with other departments, and with colleagues who are familiar with accounting principles or the language”
Using Cognitive Load Theory to help students understand
Seedwell’s research acknowledges this disconnect between accounting objectives and the retention of information of his students and has dedicated his research to cognitive load theory. This theory assumes that the task of mental integration increases the load on already limited working memory, and it does so to such an extent that learning may be severely impeded.
“The brain is not able to process certain loads of information. In my work, I try to establish that optimum level of challenge and absorption by creating designs that are not too much for the students but not too simplistic.
“If we give too much material that is too complex, students become overloaded and just do enough to pass the unit, and then they forget it. If we can get them to understand the core concepts, then it can be attached to their long term memory for a very long time.”
Having worked directly in the accounting industry for six years, Seedwell witnessed an array of practical accounting examples.
He realised there was an unmet need to make accounting more understandable for much of the population.
He now integrates his experiences into his teachings to give real-life examples to his students.
“What is happening in accounting, and across other areas of study, is a lack of detailed focus on how students learn, and how that relates to what we are teaching. Although some instructional interventions work but the key question is what works best?
“We also tend to investigate more of what is happening in companies but not how people may be fully equipped to run those companies.”
Creating instructional material for enhanced learning
Seedwell has had great success throughout his career as an accounting academic.
He has published a book on accounting education from a cognitive load theory perspective, and he has been a recipient of grants such as from the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand to further his research.
“But my proudest achievement is my students. The most important thing is to ensure that their learning has been enhanced.
Seedwell wants to see evidence to reflect that students have understood as a result of his intervention from instructional design.
“Most importantly, I want to know that they are prepared and ready for whatever accounting challenges may present in their careers.
“My work is starting to have an impact. Other academics and other areas of study are now taking note of my research and applying it.
“At university, it’s all about students learning, service and research so we need to reorganise accounting instructional materials to create the biggest benefit for our students,” he says.
Research that makes a difference
Dr Seedwell T.M. Sithole is a Senior Lecturer in Accounting at the University of Tasmania. Seedwell’s 18 years of academic experience includes research, teaching, curriculum development, administration, leadership, and students’ research supervision.
His primary research interests are in learning and teaching accounting with a special focus on reducing cognitive load on students to enhance the student experience and learning outcomes. He has published articles in leading accounting journals.
Seedwell is a CPA qualified accountant. Prior to joining academia, he had a successful 6-year career working as an assistant manager-accounting in the banking industry and as an accountant in the manufacturing industry.
Seedwell’s previous appointments include Lecturer in Accounting at Western Sydney University, Accounting Discipline Leader at Midlands State University, Lecturer and Head Tutor in Accounting at the University of Wollongong, Accounting Discipline Leader at the University of Swaziland, and Lecturer in Accounting at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.
His ongoing research interest is interdisciplinary and includes a broad range of issues in accounting education, financial accounting, management accounting and not-for-profit sector. His research appeals to multiple theories and methodologies. In particular, Seedwell’s research focuses on cognitive factors in instructional design with specific emphasis on the instructional implications. One of the key threads that runs through his research is instructor and student interactions with instructional designs and the cognitive load that typically accompany these interactions. His interest is on how academics can better design accounting materials to enhance teaching in higher education and how students can self-manage their learning materials. He has published in journals such as Accounting Education, Accounting Research Journal, Journal of Modern Accounting and Auditing, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Accounting and Taxation, International Journal of Business and Social Science and International Journal of Sustainable Development.
Seedwell has a wealth of experience in teaching flipped classes, adopting a learner-centered approach to learning and the use of blended learning and contemporary methods of teaching. He possesses considerable experience in curriculum design, development and transformation, assessment, online learning, and curriculum quality assurance.
Prior to joining academia in 2000, Seedwell worked in the private sector for 3 years as an accountant of a listed retail company and for 3 years as an assistant manager-accounting for a commercial bank.
|Degree||University||Country||Date of Award|
|PhD||University of Wollongong||Australia||2015|
|MSc||National University of Science and Technology||Zimbabwe||2005|
|BAcc||University of Zimbabwe||Zimbabwe||1994|
|IFA||Institute of Financial Accountants (UK)||UK||2015|
|IPA||Institute of Public Accountants (Australia)||Australia||2013|
- Member, Certified Practising Accountant (CPA), Australia
- Member, Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ), Australia
- Member, Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA), UK
- Member, Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), Australia
- Assurance of Learning Discipline leader (Western Sydney University)
- Head Tutor (University of Wollongong)
- Accounting Discipline Leader (Midlands State University)
- Accounting Discipline Leader (University of Swaziland)
Management Accounting and Financial Accounting
Seedwell has teaching expertise in the areas of Financial Accounting and Management Accounting. He has taught in these areas across postgraduate and undergraduate levels at various universities. The University Learning and Teaching (ULT) certificate he obtained from the University of Wollongong has enhanced his teaching effectiveness.
Seedwell has particular interests and expertise in the areas of accounting education, financial reporting and regulation, not for profit accounting, management accounting, and public sector accounting.
His recent research focus is on investigating how students can deal with cognitive overload when learning accounting. This began with his PhD, which examined how students can self-manage cognitive load in accounting, and has evolved and expanded to explore how both academics and learners use cognitive load theory compliant instructional materials to support learning.
Research interests include:
- Accounting education
- Instructional preferences of students
- Financial and management accounting
- Financial and non-financial reporting
- Public sector and not for profit accounting
- Financial analysis
- Management accounting and control
- Performance measurement
Seedwell’s research aligns to the University’s research theme of Data, Knowledge and Decisions.
His research interests include understanding how to improve student performance in accounting without overwhelming working memory. Seedwell recently wrote a book “Accounting Education: A Cognitive Load Theory Perspective” which illustrates that when learners need to mentally integrate two or more distinct items of information, it places unnecessary demands on cognitive load. The book discusses how students can deal with cognitive overload when learning accounting. His research focuses on ways that provide theoretical and empirical support for developing explicit models of instruction in accounting education.
Seedwell’s research interests also include accounting knowledge and skills desired by employers and the skills demonstrated by entry level accounting graduates. He is also interested in exploring the relevance of adopting international financial reporting standards particularly for small and medium-sized entities (SMEs).
Seedwell has participated in several significant research collaborations with various academics:
- Professor Indra Abeysekera (Charles Darwin University, Australia)
- Professor Paul Chandler (University of Wollongong, Australia)
- Professor Fred Paas (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands)
- Dr Rina Datt (Western Sydney University, Australia)
- Professor Michael Blissenden (Western Sydney University, Australia)
Seedwell has attracted competitive research grants from AFAANZ (Australia) and an International Postgraduate Research Award conferred by the University of Wollongong.
Fields of Research
- Financial accounting (350103)
- Accounting theory and standards (350101)
- Accounting, auditing and accountability (350199)
- Financial institutions (incl. banking) (350204)
- Auditing and accountability (350102)
- Learner and learning (160199)
- Pedagogy (160302)
- Expanding knowledge in commerce, management, tourism and services (280106)
- Assessment, development and evaluation of curriculum (160301)
- Expanding knowledge in the information and computing sciences (280115)
Seedwell recently published a book titled “Accounting Education: A Cognitive Load Theory Perspective”. Reviewers from the International Journal of Accounting stated that the book is extremely informative, comprehensive, and enlightening. He has published in reputable journals and he is a reviewer of several accounting journals. Most of his publications provide guidelines intended to assist academics in the presentation of information in a manner that seeks to optimise learners’ intellectual performance.
Journal Article(12 outputs)
|2019||Sithole STM, 'Enhancing blended learning materials using cognitive load theory', Journal of Modern Accounting and Auditing, 15, (1) pp. 40-53. ISSN 1935-9683 (2019) [Refereed Article]|
|2018||Sithole STM, 'Application of cognitive load theory in accounting education', International Journal of Accounting and Financial Reporting, 8, (4) pp. 197-207. ISSN 2162-3082 (2018) [Refereed Article]|
|2017||Sithole STM, 'Enhancing students understanding of introductory accounting by integrating split-attention instructional material', Accounting Research Journal, 30, (3) pp. 283-300. ISSN 1030-9616 (2017) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 2
|2017||Sithole STM, 'Instructional strategies and students' performance in accounting: an evaluation of those strategies and the role of gender', Accounting Education pp. 1-19. ISSN 0963-9284 (2017) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 3
|2017||Sithole STM, Paul C, Abeysekera I, Paas F, 'Benefits of guided self-management of attention on learning accounting', Journal of Educational Psychology, 109, (2) pp. 220-232. ISSN 0022-0663 (2017) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 16Web of Science - 17
|2016||Sithole STM, 'The Effects of Presentation Formats on Understanding Financial Accounting: an Experimental Study', Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal, 10, (2) Article 5. ISSN 1834-2000 (2016) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 7
|2015||Sithole STM, 'Effect of instructional design on learning the accounting equation in an introductory accounting course', Journal of Accounting and Taxation, 7, (8) Article 91C432955386. ISSN 2141-6664 (2015) [Refereed Article]|
|2015||Sithole STM, 'Quality in accounting graduates: Employer expectations of the graduate skills in the bachelor of accounting degree', European Scientific Journal, 11, (22) pp. 165-180. ISSN 1857-7881 (2015) [Refereed Article]|
|2015||Sithole STM, 'Information Technology Knowledge and Skills Accounting Graduates Need', International Journal of Business and Social Science, 6, (8) pp. 47-52. ISSN 2219-1933 (2015) [Refereed Article]|
|2015||Sithole STM, 'The Relevance of International Financial Reporting Standards for Small and Medium-Sized Entities (IFRS for SMEs) in Swaziland', Journal of Modern Accounting and Auditing, 11, (8) pp. 383-402. ISSN 1548-6583 (2015) [Refereed Article]|
|2009||Sithole STM, Mtetwa G, 'Bank Failures in Zimbabwe: Lessons from the 2003-2004 Bank-wide Liquidity Crisis', UniSwa Research Journal, 24 pp. 44-56. ISSN 1017-7442 (2009) [Refereed Article]|
|2008||Sithole STM, 'Financial reporting and regulations in Zimbabwean and Swazi charities: Towards a practical underpinning', International Journal of Sustainable Development, 1, (2) pp. 110-118. (2008) [Refereed Article]|
|2017||Sithole STM, Abeysekera I, 'Accounting Education: A Cognitive Load Theory Perspective', Routledge, New York, NY, pp. 138. ISBN 9781138286306 (2017) [Authored Research Book]|
Chapter in Book(1 outputs)
|2017||Sithole STM, 'Graphical and Textual Presentations in Financial Reports', Accounting and Corporate Reporting - Today and Tomorrow, InTech, S Gokten (ed), London, pp. 223-235. ISBN 978-953-51-3549-4 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]|
Conference Publication(5 outputs)
|2018||Sithole STM, 'Transition from classroom to Blended Online Asynchronous Learning', Accounting Educator's Conference 2018, 19 November 2018, RMIT University, pp. 1-14. (2018) [Refereed Conference Paper]|
|2018||Sithole STM, Abeysekera I, 'Undergraduate accounting students' instructional preferences in Australia and Zimbabwe: A comparative study', 2018 AFAANZ Conference: Full Program, 30 June - 3 July 2018, Brisbane, QLD, pp. 1-28. (2018) [Refereed Conference Paper]|
|2018||Sithole STM, Datt R, 'Using cognitive load theory compliant instructional resources to enhance learning', 2018 AFAANZ Conference: Full Program, 30 June - 3 July 2018, Brisbane, QLD, pp. 1-28. (2018) [Refereed Conference Paper]|
|2013||Sithole STM, 'Testing and self-management of cognitive load in accounting. A case example of Zimbabwe university students', Sydney Business School Higher Degree Research Student Conference, 7-9 August 2013, Wollongong, NSW, pp. 1-10. (2013) [Refereed Conference Paper]|
|2012||Sithole STM, 'The Relevance of International Financial Reporting Standards for Small and Medium Sized Entities (IFRS for SMEs) in Swaziland', Proceedings of the 2012 SAAA Western Cape Regional Conference, 7 September 2012, Cape Town, pp. 202-230. ISBN 9780620536738 (2012) [Refereed Conference Paper]|
|2015||Sithole STM, 'Self-management of cognitive load in accounting within a Zimbabwean University context' (2015) [PhD]|
Grants & Funding
Seedwell has won a number of competitive research grants in the area of accounting education;
2019-2020 AFAANZ Research Grant Recipient, Auditors' Perceptions on Key Audit Matters (KAM), Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ), Australia, with Tina Datt (Western Sydney University), Ashna Prasad (Monash University), Abhijeet Singh (Curtin University), and Laura Luo (Newcastle University).
2018, ‘Understanding the barriers for access to university accounting education for Tasmanian Aboriginal secondary school students’, Indigenous Student Success Program, Faculty Grant, with Terese Fiedler and Lisa MacManus, $14,588
2018, ‘Understanding the barriers for access to university accounting education for Tasmanian Aboriginal secondary school students’, Indigenous Student Success Program, Commonwealth Government Grant, with Terese Fiedler and Lisa MacManus, $6,973.76.
2017-2018 AFAANZ Research Grant, Learning with concepts maps in an Auditing and Assurance class, Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ), Australia, with Rina Datt Western Sydney University, $3500.
Number of grants
- The purpose of this study is to provide an evaluation of the Australian auditors experience in adopting the enhanced auditors report (EAR), specifically focussing on the reporting of KAMs (AUASB, 2015; IAASB, 2015). KAMs intend to address both the auditors professional judgment as to what to communicate in the auditors report and the form and content of such communication. The auditor is expected to consider various factors such as risk, areas involving significant management judgment to determine those matters that required significant auditor attention in performing the audit (AUASB, 2015; IAASB, 2015). Sufficient time has elapsed since the first disclosure of KAMs on 15 December 2016, making it timely to assess auditors experience in meeting the requirements of KAM reporting.
- Accounting & Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand Ltd ($2,000)
- Administered By
- University of Tasmania
- Research Team
- Datt R; Sithole ST; Singh A; Prasad A
Seedwell is available to supervise HDR candidates in applied research focussing on the enhancement of teaching and learning of accounting students. This includes student conceptions of learning accounting, students’ cognitive load as a result of learning approaches towards accounting, learning technologies in accounting, and financial reporting and regulation. Seedwell is also available to supervise projects in not-for-profit, financial accounting and management accounting areas.
|PhD||The Impact of Accounting Information Systems on the Quality of Financial Reporting and Decision-Making in Saudi Arabia||2019|
|Masters||Achieving Better Outcomes for Chinese Accounting Students Studying in Australia||2020|
|PhD||Quality Assurance Practices and Preferences: A study of Australian Accounting Schools|
Candidate: Syed Fahad Ashraf