Addressing a 'Preconceptual Threshold': A transformation in student preconceptions of introductory accounting

Nicholas McGuigan, Sidney Weil

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The study of introductory accounting can be challenging for students for manyreasons, one of which is the formation of negative preconceptions about the discipline.These preconceptions are often reinforced by a university environment in whichintroductory accounting programmes are positioned as mandatory components ofmany business degrees and taught to large cohorts of students using traditionalmethods of curriculum design, instruction and assessment (Zeff, 1989; Mladenovic,2000; Lucas, 2002). Students’ negative preconceptions are further entrenched throughcommonly found stereotypes in the popular media (Cory, 1992; Unerman & O’Dwyer,2004), with the accounting profession currently experiencing “a widely perceivedethical breakdown of a trusted fiduciary institution that has been at the epicenterof a number of financial scandals” (Strier, 2006: 67). Drawing on threshold concepttheory (Meyer & Land, 2006a, 2006b), this paper argues that students’ preconceptionsof the accounting discipline form a major preconceptual threshold in their learning.Through an analysis of phenomenographic data collected from six student cohortsover a three-year period, the project examines students’ experiences in a first yearaccounting course to identify the types of negative preconceptions that exist in anintroductory accounting course; followed by a review of students’ reflective workusing the threshold concepts’ paradigm to analyse individual student learningjournal entries and summative reflective essays; and a consideration of the role ofaccounting educators in redesigning aspects of the accounting curriculum to addresskey thresholds, such as student preconceptions, in order to better assist learnersto deal with these barriers and ultimately to enable them to achieve a heightenedepistemological understanding of the discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15 - 33
Number of pages19
JournalAccess: Critical Perspectives on Communication, Cultural & Policy Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes

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