Corporate villains: taking the bore
out of law
Accounting, Finance and Economics, Grifﬁth University, Southport, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the implementation of a storytelling teaching
method in a company law course for accounting students and to evaluate its inﬂuence on engagement
and effective learning.
Design/methodology/approach – The learning activity, known as “corporate villains”, is based on
theories of storytelling and engagement. Selected qualitative and quantitative data from university
course and teaching evaluation surveys were used to assess the achievement of objectives and identify
Findings – The corporate villains learning activity engaged students at the beginning of the lecture
and inﬂuenced student learning by demonstrating the relevance, or “real life” application, of company
law to accounting students. Corporate villains also stimulated curiosity in learning more about the law
which is characteristic of students pursuing a deep approach to learning.
Originality/value – The study extends the research on storytelling in accounting and legal
education and supports empirical evidence as to the positive impact of storytelling on student
engagement in learning. In particular, the study reveals the potential for corporate villains to address
various academic and student concerns about company law by humanising the law and enabling
students to connect the legal concepts to the story and to the curriculum.
Keywords Storytelling, Company law, Engagement, Deep learning, Accounting education, Villainy,
Education, Learning, Students, Law
Paper type Case study
Corporate law teachers face an enormous challenge – how does one take an artiﬁcial
creature known as the company and make it engaging for accounting students exposed
to an array of distractions in and out of the lecture theatre? Accounting students have
expressed concern about the potential for company law to be “dull”, “dry” and “not
very interesting”. In this respect I can relate to Miley’s (2009, p. 357) initial
frustration with her introductory accounting cohort:
I have eighty plus students in accounting this semester. All of them want to be elsewhere.
I asked them what they thought of when I mentioned the word ‘accounting’: dull, boring, too
many numbers. Not a single positive comment. One student told me he was only doing
accounting because it allowed him to plan his study schedule to have a day off. Most said
they were doing it because it was compulsory [...]
Like Miley my response was to introduce stories to lectures. “Corporate villains” is an
innovative teaching activity which adopts a storytelling teaching method. It is
designed to support learning objectives by engaging students in productive learning
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The author would like to thank the anonymous referees for providing their insightful comments.
Any errors are the author’s own.
Accounting Research Journal
Vol. 25 No. 1, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited