Managerial accounting and financial management students' experiences of learning in a writing intensive tutorial programme.
Managerial and Financial Management (MAF) has traditionally been perceived by students as a difficult subject. Students do not fully grasp the underlying disciplinary concepts and struggle to transfer knowledge from one context to another. There is a dearth of research, particularly in South Africa, into how students learn in accounting programmes. This study sought to explore MAF students’ experiences of learning in a Writing Intensive Tutorial (WIT) programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The WIT programme is based on the principle of using informal exploratory writing, writing-to-learn, to support students’ learning of MAF. Informal writing is low stakes, ungraded, and encourages critical thinking and the learning of concepts, rather than focusing on grammatical correctness. The study was informed by the tenets of social constructivism and was conducted within a qualitative interpretative framework. Principles of case study research were applied in the data generation process. Purposive sampling was applied that reflected the MAF population in regard to race and gender demographics and academic ability. The participants were 15 MAF students who voluntarily participated in an 18-week WIT programme. Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA) (Northcutt & McCoy, 2004) was used for the research design and as a data analysis tool. Following IQA protocol, focus groups were used to generate affinities (themes) of students’ experiences of learning in the WIT programme. From the affinities generated a system diagram was constructed. In-depth semi-structured individual interviews were conducted at the end of the programme to further probe participants’ learning experiences. The primary affinity driving the system was the programme structure. which drove the other affinities – understanding of concepts, challenging the participants, the written tasks undertaken (secondary drivers), making learning fun, improved study techniques and test preparation, criticism of the programme (secondary outcomes), increased personal confidence and the interactive nature of the programme (primary outcomes). The thesis concludes with a proposal of an inductively theorised model. The model derives from the major findings in the study regarding students’ experiences of learning in the WIT programme. The model offers insights for higher education programme designs that utilise writing-to-learn pedagogies and can provide opportunities for students’ to develop deep, conceptual learning in higher education.