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Constructing constructivism in management accounting education: reflections from a teaching cycle with innovative learning elements

Kelum Jayasinghe (Essex Businss School (EBS), University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 10 June 2021

Issue publication date: 16 July 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to address the possibility of integrating some elements of the “radical constructivist” approach to management accounting teaching. It answers the following two questions: to what extent should management accounting educators construct a “radical constructivist” foundation to guide active learning? Then, in which ways can management accounting educators use qualitative methods to facilitate “radical constructivist” education?

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a teaching cycle that implements innovative learning elements, e.g. learning from ordinary people, designed following the principles of “radical constructivism”, to engage students with “externalities” at the centre of their knowledge construction. It adopts an ethnographic approach comprising interviews and participant observation for the data collection, followed by the application of qualitative content and narrative analysis of the data.

Findings

The study findings and reflections illustrate that the majority of students respond positively to radical constructivist learning if the educators can develop an innovative problem-solving and authentic environment that is close to their real lives. The radical constructivist teaching cycle discussed in this study has challenged the mindsets of the management accounting students as it altered the traditional objectivist academic learning approaches that students were familiar with. Its use of qualitative methods facilitated active learning. Student feedback was sought as part of the qualitative design, which provided a constructive mechanism for the students and educators to learn and unlearn from their mistakes. This process enriched the understanding of learners (students) and educators of successful engagement in radical constructivist management accounting education and provides a base upon which to design future teaching cycles.

Originality/value

The paper provides proof of the ability of accounting educators, as change agents, to apply radical constructivist epistemology combined with multiple qualitative research methods by creating new constructive learning structures and cultures associated with innovative deep-learning tasks in management accounting education.

Keywords

Citation

Jayasinghe, K. (2021), "Constructing constructivism in management accounting education: reflections from a teaching cycle with innovative learning elements", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 282-309. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-05-2020-0067

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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