In April 2020 I submitted a paper to Accounting History Review which compared the development of accounting standards in Australia with those of the UK between around 1960 and 1990. The paper uses Bowlby’s (1980) ‘attachment theory’ as a metaphor to illustrate the the pattern whereby Australian standards initially were essentially carbon copies of UK standards, but ultimately diverged on a range of key areas. Despite the divergenace, and in keeping with the parent/child metaphor, both countries still maintained close ties. As per attachment theory, the argument was that ‘securely attached’ children initially derive much of their values from their parents, but are then able to become self determined and forge their own path while still maintaining ties and inheriting similar characterisitics from their parents.

What’s important about this learning and teaching story?

Sometimes what we research can seem somewhat detached from what we teach, so I’ve been attempting to use this reseach to inform my teaching. I am the subject convenor of ACC341 and ACC518, which are both accounting ‘theory’ subjects. By ‘theory’ we mean that, instead of dealing with technical accounting issues, we look more at ‘why’ accounting is the way it is – what forces have shaped accounting practice and the accounting profession?

What were you trying to achieve?

The key goal was to to use research to inform learning and teaching. I attempted to use this research to illustrate the relevance of research to three topics in these subjects, Accounting History, Acocunting Regulaiton and International Accounting.

What did it look like?

In relation to Accounting History, writing this paper provided me with an opportunity to elaborate on historiographical concepts, particularly ‘new’ approaches to accounting history. By writing this paper I have examples of applications of my own experiences with method this of accounting history. For example, ‘new’ history often involves the use of theory in providing explanations of why history taken place in particular ways. In the case of this paper, ‘Attachment Theory’ is used a metaphor of Australian and UK divergence, where the child nation ultimately becomes capable of self-determination.

In relation to Accounting regulation and politics, the issues addressed in this paper again give me with a range of regulatory issues which can be used in discussions with students. These include the variety of events occurring in the contexts of particular nations which can have impacts on the nature of accounting standards setting and regulation in that country. In particular, the UK’s entry into the European Union in the 1970s meant that their approach to standard setting became more aligned with the rest of Europe and diverged to an extent from the regulatory and standard setting practices of Australia.

This paper also provides a range of issues which I am to use when covering issues with international accounting. A key aspect of the international accounting topics is explaining why countries have different accounting practices, with this often being linked to cultural issues. With Australia and UK having somewhat similar cultures, the paper allows me to discuss the nuances to traditional explanations for accounting differences, in that countries with similar cultures can still end up having variations to their accounting practices due to other factors. As mentioned above, the UK’s entry into the UK had a major impact on their approach to standard setting, but other more specific factors such as Australia’s relatively large mining sector has also impacted on specific elements of Australian Accounting Standards.

How can I make this happen?

The key steps involved are firstly reflecting on the relevance of research and using examples derived from research to illustrate theoretical concepts and issues covered in the subjects.

If you are interested, you can access and read my full paper here.