Ursula Lucas

  • The identification of students at academic risk: the development of a discipline-specific inventory to support teaching interventions

    Ursula Lucas, The University of the West of England and Rosina Mladenovic, The University of Sydney

    Research paper

    Themes: teaching methods, supporting learners

    Wednesday 9 September 2009, 09.00 - 10.00 in room 119

    In the 21st century there will be an increasing emphasis on the ability of students to reflect upon, and change, their approaches to learning. This paper is concerned with the themes of teaching methods and supporting learners and poses the question: ‘how can we identify, and support, students at  academic risk?’. The aim of this research study is to provide educators with a means to support students in developing metacognitive skills around their understanding of their discipline. Whilst the context for this paper is introductory accounting, its approach and findings are of relevance to a wide number of other disciplines.

    The study utilises the Reflections on Learning Inventory (RoLI10a) (Meyer, 2004) and the Expectations of Learning Accounting Inventory (ELAcc1.4) (Lucas and Meyer, 2005). This combined inventory was administered to 1730 students of introductory accounting in two Australian universities. The RoLI seeks to operationalise a model of learning that is primarily defined in terms of prior knowledge and learning processes. The ELAcc draws on phenomenographic work in accounting to operationalise conceptions of accounting and processes of learning accounting and on work in relation to negative preconceptions of the discipline (Mladenovic, 2000).

    The findings of the study demonstrate the value of focusing on prior disciplinary knowledge and its relationship to approaches to learning through the use of a combined inventory. Three groups of students (males, non-accounting majors and English as a second language) appear to be at academic risk. However, the study also highlights, particularly in disciplines where rote-learning is well-established and a recognised way of learning, the role of memorisation, repetition and rehearsal. The study supports the view of Birkett and Mladenovic (2002) who argue that there may be necessary processes of repetition, rehearsal and memorisation that underpin any learning of accounting, regardless of ultimate intention. Certainly, this study indicates that further research on student intentions is needed. Overall, the value of this study arises from its contribution to a deeper understanding of how students approach their learning and nature of their prior knowledge. This provides the foundation for constructivist learning and teaching interventions to support students at academic risk.


    • Birkett, W. and Mladenovic R. (2002). The Approaches to Learning Paradigm: Theoretical and Empirical Issues for Accounting Education Research. Paper presented at the International Association for Accounting Education and Research 9th World Congress of Accounting Educators, Hong Kong, November 2002.
    • Lucas, U., & Meyer, J.H.F. (2005). "Towards a mapping of the student world": the identification of variation in students' conceptions of, and motivations to learn, accounting. The British Accounting Review, 37(2), 177-204.
    • Meyer, J. (2004). An introduction to the RoLI. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 41(4), 491-497.
    • Mladenovic, R. (2000). An investigation into ways of challenging introductory accounting students' negative perceptions of accounting. Accounting Education, 9(2), 135-155.