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Title: A phenomenographic study of students' perceptions of accounting
Author: McGuigan, Nicholas
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 4148
Awarding Body: University of the West of England
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2017
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Accounting, as a complex social phenomenon, is experienced by individuals in a multitude of ways. A changing professional business landscape coupled with the transforming role of the accountant highlights the need for a broader focus in accounting education. Critics of accounting education have expressed concern that less emphasis should be placed on technical skills and more focus on conceptual understanding and qualities of self-development. To facilitate this, a deeper understanding of how students relate to and contextualise accounting is imperative. Presage has therefore been identified as an area of critical importance to students’ learning. Prior research, predominantly in the sciences has indicated the importance of contrasting contexts in learning. In particular, that of the everyday and academic. As students move from an ‘everyday’ understanding of phenomena to more formalised learning contexts their conceptions of disciplinary concepts may differ significantly from a more ‘authorised’ view. This may result in misconceptions that are difficult to change. Therefore a broader interpretation of and investigation into presage, outside a purely cognitive perspective, is therefore warranted. This study takes a broad and explorative research approach to uncover variations in students’ perceptions of learning accounting. Phenomenography is used as it enables a deep investigation into the lifeworld of others. A flexible research design is created in order to successfully enter and uncover the lived experiences of students when investigating complex social phenomena. This research design and process ‘account’ further advances innovative and practical ways of gaining access to and successfully entering individuals’ lifeworlds when using the phenomenographic research approach. This study uncovers for the first time in accounting education the existence of two central worlds in the learning of introductory accounting: ‘accounting as learnt’ and ‘accounting as lived’. The findings show the ‘accounting as learnt’ world reveals a world in which accounting is perceived as something that needs to be discovered, learnt and acquired. Accounting, in this sense, is externally imposed upon students and they experience difficulty in connecting with accounting. Students struggle with the abstract nature of accounting and as such tend to focus on the concrete. They further search for relation between what they are learning in their formal university accounting education and their more ‘personal’ contexts. In stark contrast, the ‘accounting as lived’ world is a world in which students perceive accounting as familiar and part of their everyday experience. It was found that accounting provides students with future benefit and meets their need for control. Accounting further provides a social connection for students and this is linked with the image and status of accounting. Here, students connect with accounting through the way in which the control and planning aspects of accounting actively shape and play a role in their everyday lives. The findings further show students’ variations in the emphasis on motivation clearly underpin both these worlds, where the learning of accounting is fundamentally shaped by both context and relevance. These two worlds reveal an incredibly diverse and complex reality that exists within students’ studying introductory accounting, providing a new appreciation of student ‘presage’ in accounting education. An alternative pedagogical approach to introductory accounting is proposed that takes into account these two central worlds.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Phenomenography ; Accounting ; Accounting Education.