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Accounting education research: A critical examination and social semiotic case study

Therry, Len (2002) Accounting education research: A critical examination and social semiotic case study. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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To date, there has been no comprehensive study which evaluates research efforts in accounting education in terms of topics, research methods, whether (to what extent and in what manner) major calls for accounting education reform are being addressed and whether issues deemed important in the accounting education literature (emphasis on empirical research methods, consideration of learning theories, review of the non accounting and in particular education literature) are being considered by accounting education researchers.

This study addresses this gap in the literature by critically examining research output in the light of major issues identified in the accounting education literature over a ten year period (1989 to 1998) as published in the leading accounting education and accounting journals. A total of 1000 articles formed the data set initially used in the evaluation.

The results of the examination of research output indicates that two major sub topics dominated accounting education research efforts: teaching methods and curriculum-related issues (eg courses and content). A range of sub topics and research projects were also found to have been the focus of comparatively few studies. Research which dealt the topic of ‘education process’ was largely descriptive or prescriptive.

Educators had failed however to consider the potential contribution that qualitative research methods could make to accounting education and to the development of accounting education research. Learning theories (when considered) were largely drawn from the field of cognitive psychology and many educators (despite calls in the accounting education literature) had failed to consider the non accounting literature and in particular, the literature from other subject areas/disciplines. In this sense, it was argued that accounting education research was narrowly focused and that there was a need for additional research which considered these issues.

The second phase of the thesis addresses the need for such research by placing accounting education within a wider context of social theory to provide understandings concerning the complexity of the ‘textual’ or ‘discursive’ nature of social construction of accounting meaning in both the lecture and tutorial. In this sense, the study supports the need for educators to consider qualitative approaches to research, alternative learning theories, and the need to consider the education literature from other disciplines and subject areas.

Adopting a social semiotic conceptual framework and using the techniques of discourse analysis, evidence is generated which demonstrates the importance of social interaction, the significance of accounting education as representing a social practice, the relationship between language and the learning of accounting and the significance of recognising accounting as ‘discourse’. The case study represents a broader linguistic and social perspective to accounting education and in this sense, offers a different way of looking at accounting and accounting instruction - one in which learning is located in regular patterns of discourse and social practices. Recognising the importance of language as discourse and learning as inherently social challenges previously held notions of learning environments in accounting education.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Business, Information Technology and Law
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Tower, Greg
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