The role of visual-spatial aptitude in accounting coursework

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Virginia Tech


Accounting education research has explained some variation in student performance by aptitude, attitude, and experience variables, as well as gender. The unexplained portion of variance, however, suggests the existence of unidentified variables. This study examines the relationship of visual-spatial aptitude (VSA) to student completion and continuing behaviors and to performance in four accounting courses. VSA is a group of cognitive abilities which facilitate building mental representations and solving problems and which are positively related to performance in mathematics and science courses.

This study hypothesizes that high VSA students will complete Accounting Principles I at a higher rate, continue to Principles II at a higher rate, and perform better in Principles I than will low VSA students. Also hypothesized are gender differences and course differences in the relationship between VSA and performance.

Subjects are students tracked in accounting courses for three semesters. Independent variables include gender, prior bookkeeping coursework, and major, as well as SAT scores, GPA, and scores on two VSA tests--the MAP Planning Test (MAP) and the Mental Rotations Test (MRT). MAP and MRT measures include the number right, the number wrong, and the percentage right. Dependent variables include student completion and continuing status as well as performance scores in each of four courses.

Results indicate that high VSA subjects have a higher completion rate than do low VSA subjects and that completers of Principles I have higher VSA than do droppers. Also, continuers to Principles II have higher VSA than do non continuers.

Results indicate relationships between VSA and Principles I scores. Subjects with high MRT percentages score higher on exams and lower on homework/quizzes than do those with low MRT percentages. Subjects with few MRT wrong have higher exam scores than do those with more MRT wrong.

MAP is related only to Principles II and Intermediate, while MRT is related only to Principles I, II, and Cost. Relationships of VSA to exams are positive and frequent. Relationships to homework/quizzes are negative and less frequent. Computerized practice set scores are rarely related to VSA.

In separate analyses of students taking Principles I, VSA is related to homework and exams for females and only to exams for males. For the smaller sample of students continuing to Principles II, models which contain general aptitude covariates indicate that VSA is only related to female performance and only in Principles I.