An exploration of threshold concepts in accounting education

Magdziarz, S 2016, An exploration of threshold concepts in accounting education, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Accounting, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title An exploration of threshold concepts in accounting education
Author(s) Magdziarz, S
Year 2016
Abstract Using a research framework developed by Meyer and Land (2003), this study examined the notion of threshold concepts within the financial accounting discipline of undergraduate accounting programs across universities in Australia. Threshold concepts are a relatively new area of research that has emerged from a national research project in the United Kingdom. A threshold concept is described as being similar to a portal in that it results in ‘opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something’ (Meyer & Land 2003, p. 3). In particular, it involves a transformation in the way a student understands, views or interprets something. Without this transformation, a student’s learning cannot progress further. A threshold concept is seen as comprising a number of characteristics or attributes that assist in identifying what a threshold concept is but they can also be used to understand the process a learner goes through when understanding a threshold concept. These characteristics describe a threshold concept as being transformative, probably irreversible, integrative, often but not always bounded and potentially troublesome (Meyer & Land, 2003). Despite the potential for knowledge of threshold concepts to inform teaching and learning practice and curriculum development, a comprehensive review of the extant educational literature highlighted the absence of a well-developed theoretical framework underpinning research into threshold concepts and very little research within the accounting discipline. Research was undertaken using an interpretivist paradigm to gain an understanding and interpret academics’ perspectives of threshold concepts generally and in financial accounting subjects. Data was collected from fifteen accounting academics from Universities across Australia using semi-structured interviews and related subject documentation and an iterative process of data analysis to organise and examine the data. Three themes emerged from the analysis with the identification of two threshold concepts and a third theme - a ‘way of thinking and practising’ in the accounting discipline. Other outcomes include the existence of the light bulb moment for students; and the importance of student experiences in life making it potentially easier for students to grasp a threshold concept. This study has added to the scant literature on threshold concepts in the accounting discipline and is a vital first step in considering the design of teaching and learning strategies that may enhance student understanding across a program of study. It has provided the impetus for further investigating the connection of threshold concepts in financial accounting with other fields of accounting. The insights gained from a way of thinking and practising in the accounting discipline could involve collection of more extensive data from academics, students and the accounting profession. Some recent significant studies in engineering, biology and law/physics, provide some insight into how variation and/or capability theory can be combined with threshold concepts to inform curriculum development. Further research into the capabilities required of an accounting graduate combined with threshold concepts (using a similar study to Baillie et al (2013)) could be used to reconsider and potentially redevelop the curriculum in an accounting degree using an interdisciplinary approach.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Accounting
Subjects Financial Accounting
Keyword(s) Threshold concepts
Accounting education
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Created: Tue, 19 Jul 2016, 11:28:28 EST by Keely Chapman
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