The presentation will present data resulting from a gaming experience used to teach professional skepticism to graduate accounting students. The gaming experience created a situated learning environment that included a blend of synchronous online gaming with asynchronous discussion boards and in-class F2F learning.
The analysis sheds light on how individuals' personalities and motivation toward a task interact to form a lens within which they view the task situation and then react. In the current scenario, the task situation differed on the degree to which a superior was either highly supportive or not highly supportive of their efforts to be skeptical in the task. It extends work by Carpenter and Reimers (2009) to understand the effect of superiors' attitudes toward skepticism on the ability of subordinates to be skeptical and to fully report what they have observed or encountered.
The conclusions should help practitioners and educators understand how personality (e.g., introversion vs. extroversion) and motivation (e.g., desire to learn or perform a task to meet the minimum requirements or to do the best you possibly can) affect the likelihood that an individual will be professionally skeptical when the authoritative literature requires them to do so. If personality and motivation impact professional skepticism negatively then the goal of training and remediation in terms of supervision and audit aids such as checklists will be to implement strategies to obtain optimal performance. Stated positively, personality and motivation may interact to produce a combination of characteristics that are associated with better outcomes, which in turn could then serve as the benchmark for training or decision aids to more uniformly achieve desired outcomes across all personality and motivation combinations.
The online gaming setting was an ideal situated context for the confrontation between superior and subordinate: the subordinates, aware of the superiors' support or lack of support for the subordinates to engage in professional skepticism, had to report findings to their superiors that resulted from engaging a skeptical attitude. The course grade, like an employee's performance evaluation, was dependent on the quality of work and the ability to follow instructions. (This condition, as well as the entire activity, was approved by the University's Institutional Review Board). Such a confrontation could not be done as effectively in a traditional paper-and-pencil case assignment even if the assignment included discussion because it would be devoid of the confrontation. In contrast, the online setting combined with the follow-up debriefing and interaction in the online discussion board created a setting more conducive to meeting the learning objectives.
Although game-based learning is not as widespread as other technology for online learning, it also is not new (e.g., Barab et al., 2010, Gros 2007, Squire 2006). In fact, many might be familiar with the use of Second LifeTM as a gaming platform that has been used in a variety of disciplines including social work (e.g., Vernon et al. 2009) and accounting (e.g., Hornik and Thornburg 2010). Game-based learning using Second LifeTM is consistent with general notions of situated cognition or learning, which is "thinking that is embedded in the context in which it occurs" (Elsbach, Barr, and Hargadon, 2005: 423).
Students spent approximately 14 hours out of the 40 hour class over five days participating in the Lord of the Rings (LOTRO) gamed-based activity. Students were classified on the basis of personality (primarily as introverts or extroverts based on MBTI) and motivation (deep approach to tasks as measured by the desire to do the task in an active and meaningful way vs. other (strategic or surface) including going through the motions to simply complete the task or to be evaluated in a good way without necessarily focusing on doing the task as well as possible). We regressed their classification on personality and motivation against the change in professional skepticism (posttest score on the Hurtt instrument after the LOTRO activity - pretest score before the LOTRO activity) when situated in either the high or low support condition.
In a situation in which their superior was highly supportive of subordinates being professionally skeptical extroverts who were not deeply motivated were more skeptical while introverts who were not deeply motivated were less skeptical. Introverts are likely to withdraw and become less skeptical if they assume that someone else on the team will become more skeptical in line with what the superior recommends. In this case it is not known whether extroverts may in fact over audit. In contrast, when the superior was not highly supportive the extroverts became much less skeptical - even more than introverts - probably because they need the ability to raise concerns outwardly but can't when the superior is not supportive.
At the end of the activity students engaged each other in small groups in a discussion thread and revealed the condition they were in regarding the support of their superior and then discussed how they reacted in their situation and reflected on how they might react in the alternative scenario. In particular, they were introspective about the role of their personality and learning style/motivation in how they did react and would react in the different scenario.