Episode 4 - Interview with Professor Laura Spira

  • Episode 4 - Interview with Professor Laura Spira

    Professor Laura Spira


    "...good textbooks provide references to the underpinning material...we encourage students to follow those up...it's a bit like a detective story..."

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    Library subject webpage for Business, Marketing and Economics

    Biography of Professor Laura Spira

    Transcript

    Transcript of an Question and Answer session between Laura Spira, Professor of Corporate Governance, Oxford Brookes Business School (LS), and David Bell, Academic Liaison Librarian, Accounting and Finance, Wheatley Library (DB) that took place at Wheatley Campus on March 5 2007.

    DB
    Welcome to the Oxford Brookes University Library Podcast for Wheatley Campus. Episode 4: an interview with Laura Spira, Professor of Corporate Governance in the School of Business.

    Laura, many thanks for agreeing to talk to us today: we are going to be looking at how students can effectively manage their learning, and in particular how they can use the library here at Wheatley. Firstly, I would like to start by asking you what part do you see the Library playing in developing independent study in your students?

    LS
    Thank you David: the Library is a major resource in enabling students to become independent learners. We encourage accounting students to use their tutors as facilitators whose role is to support their learning by helping them to make use of a wide range of resources, which includes: class sessions, textbooks, Web CT, computer aided learning packages, and most importantly the electronic journal databases, as well as all the books and other material available in the Library.

    DB
    Thank you Laura: in your own view how can students best use the references on their reading lists to develop their understanding of the topic they are studying?

    LS
    References are like signposts: we provide a very basic map to start students off on their exploration of ideas in the form of a reading list, and we hope that they will then follow up the references they find in the suggested material. Good textbooks provide references to the under pinning material that the textbook authors have distilled and we encourage students to follow those up – it’s a bit like a detective story. This helps the students to develop an understanding of the broad expanse of the literature on the many different issues that are important in the study of accounting. They should be able to see that where specific articles are frequently cited these represent particularly influential ideas: so they should be able to follow through, and they shouldn’t think that each individual piece, or article, each individual book, is the end of the story, they should keep going.

    DB
    In addition to the core texts that you may recommend do you want students to read as widely on other recommended reading that you make on reading lists?

    LS
    Absolutely. That’s tremendously important. We emphasise to students that they do need to read as widely as possible to give them the context of the issues that they are looking at and the topics that they are studying in detail. Apart from the academic literature there is a huge professional literature on the subject, which appears in professional journals and other publications from accountancy bodies, and other organisations and firms of accountants, and students need to learn to find their way about this material, and to understand the difference between this and more rigorous academic articles for example. And they need to be able to approach this critically. So the Library is very helpful in enabling them to access this kind of material.

    DB
    Yes, you did mention there that students must develop a critical approach to their reading. How do you think they can be helped to do that?

    LS
    It is tremendously important that they do this. Learning to read critically develops student’s ability to look critically at all information. Financial reports can’t be accepted at face value. The numbers in them hide a great many subjective decisions, and readers need to be alert to this.

    Our undergraduate students may be planning to follow a career in the accountancy profession and their subsequent training will concentrate on the techniques of practice: the how of accounting. Their studies at Brookes may be the only opportunity that they have to look at the why of accounting: why accounting practice has developed, and to understand the political, social, economic, and historical influences on accounting, and the contexts in which it has developed. Accountants who have a critical understanding can help to move the profession forward.

    Those who plan to follow a broader business career will have to deal with accountants and will have to understand what makes them tick, so a critical appreciation of the context of accounting will also help them.

    DB

    Thank you for that Laura, that’s very helpful I’m sure to the students. One question I would like to ask is what does the Library offer students which can best help them to succeed in their studies at Brookes?

    LS
    Well, there’s a huge range of material which can extend their capacity to grasp techniques and learn to apply them, as well as understand how those techniques have developed and become widely accepted, and what their practical limitations are. In accounting textbooks focus on techniques and tend to present them very uncritically. They also take some time to catch up with what’s happening out in the world. To become familiar with the important ongoing debates that are taking place internationally about the role and content of financial reporting students need to read the commentary that’s produced by those who are most concerned with the outcomes: accounting practitioners, investors, company directors and managers. The Library helps students to access that material, which often appears on websites and in professional journals as well as the academic articles and books that result from this.

    DB
    Thank you for that, and this brings us to the end of the podcast interview, and I would just like to thank you Laura again for sharing your comments with us today.

    LS
    Thank you.