• Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: A model of student learning in accounting

    Author(s): Ursula Lucas and Jan H. F. Meyer
    Institution(s): University of the West of England and University of Durham
    Session: Research paper  

    It is widely accepted that an understanding of students' conceptions of learning is a desirable prerequisite for effective curricula and programme design. Accordingly, the design of generic models of student learning have drawn on an understanding of how students may vary in their conceptions of learning and thus engage both the context and content of learning with resultant effects on learning outcomes. Contemporary research in this area is focused, firstly, on the need to reconstitute models of student learning within subject disciplines and to identify sources of explanatory variation specific to the disciplines. A second focus, also within such discipline-sensitive modelling, is on capturing variation attributable to learning culture and gender. A third focus is on how the variation in student learning engagement may inform university teaching generally and interventions aimed at promoting student learning. Relevant to the present study is that comparative ongoing research within the discipline of economics has demonstrated the value of adapting a generic model of student learning (operationalised through the Reflections on Learning Inventory (ROLI) (Meyer, 2000) within a subject discipline (Shanahan & Meyer, 2001) in terms that are gender-response sensitive.

    The work reported here is part of a National Teaching Fellowship project within the discipline of accounting. One intended outcome of this project is the first time construction of inferential model of student learning within this discipline. The ROLI and a pilot form of the Expectations of Learning Accounting Inventory (ELAcc) were administered to 1200 students of introductory accounting across five UK universities. The ROLI (75 items) seeks to operationalise a model of learning that is primarily defined in terms of prior knowledge and learning processes. The ELAcc (30 items) draws on phenomenographic work in accounting (Lucas, 2000) and the empirical modelling of affective dimensions of student learning engagement in mathematics (Meyer & Eley, 1999) to operationalise conceptions of accounting and processes of learning accounting. It was hypothesised that conceptions of accounting would vary between accounting (n=500) and non-accounting students (n=700).

    The analyses of these data are incomplete at the time of writing this proposal but preliminary findings confirm expected significant differences in the ways in which accounting and business studies students, and male and female students, conceive of the subject of accounting at the commencement of their studies. More detailed analyses are presently underway in order to define these differences in location and structural modelling terms and these results, together with a discussion of their implications, will be presented.


    U. Lucas. Worlds apart: students' experiences of learning introductory accounting. Critical Perspectives on Accounting (11):479-504, 2000.

    J. H. F. Meyer. Variation in contrasting forms of "memorising" and associated variables. British Journal of Educational Psychology 70:163-176, 2000.

    J. H. F. Meyer and M. G. Eley. The development of affective subscales to reflect variation in students' experiences of studying mathematics in higher education. Higher Education 37:197-216, 1999.

    M. Shanahan and J. H. F. Meyer. Developing a student learning inventory for economics based on students' experience of learning: a preliminary study. Journal of Economic Education 32:259-267, 2001.