Perceptions of learning and teaching accounting : a phenomenographic study
This study is concerned with students' and lecturer's experiences of learning and teaching introductory accounting within higher education. It seeks to identify the key aspects of what constitutes "learning accounting" and "teaching accounting" for lecturers and students, their conceptions of accounting and the extent to which students and lecturers share experiences in common or differ in their experiences. The research method adopted is that of phenomenography which seeks to identify the qualitatively different ways in which various phenomena are experienced. Since there has been relatively little critique of the practice of phenomenography, this study also seeks to critically review the application of the phenomenographic research method in practice. This review draws on experience within empirically-based phenomenological psychology to propose a revised phenomenographic research approach. This revised approach focuses on the need to bracket presuppositions about the phenomenon under investigation, to develop an empathetic understanding with the experiences of the participants and to report findings in a way which would most fully reveal the nature of that lived experience. Through the application of this revised research approach key aspects of the individual, common and distinctive worlds of students and lecturers are identified. "Learning accounting" and "teaching accounting" are shown, primarily, to constitute the learning of a technique. Yet this emphasis on accounting as the learning of a technique is at variance with other teaching objectives perceived by lecturers to be equally, or more, important. Lecturers perceive the development of conceptual understanding to be of importance. However, they express diverse views about what "accounting" is, they are doubtful about the relationship between conceptual understanding and the learning of the technique and their explanations of accounting concepts often reveal a partial and, arguably incomplete, conceptual framework. In addition, the findings show that students' preconceptions and perceptions of relevance are central to their experience of learning accounting and they reinforce the experience of accounting as being about the learning of a technique. Lecturers' perceptions of those preconceptions and relevance reveal teaching responses based on misunderstandings of the students' experiences. An alternative way of viewing the introductory accounting curriculum is proposed which takes into account the ways in which students and lecturers experience the learning and teaching of accounting.