Antecedents and consequences of accounting students' approaches to learning: a cluster analytic approach

Angus Duff, Rosina Mladenovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


A dominant theoretical model in the approaches to learning literature is the Presage-Process-Product Model (3P). This model, in its various forms depicts the complex interrelationships between what students bring to their studies (presage), how they engage in learning (process), and the outcomes of their learning processes (product). While an extensive literature addresses accounting students' approaches to learning, relatively few studies consider all aspects of the 3P model simultaneously. This study explores a comprehensive number of antecedents including: accounting students' expectations of learning, prior study of accounting, gender, major, and language (presage); their reflections on learning (processes); and their performance outcomes (product). A cluster analytic approach is employed to: (i) identify students' expectations of learning at an intra-individual level; and (ii) examine their relationship to approaches to learning and academic outcomes. Two inventories were administered to a diverse sample of 1553 first-year undergraduate students studying accounting at two universities in Australia. One inventory measured their expectations of learning accounting; the other, their study processes. Three distinct groups of students were identified. The cluster with the most optimistic expectations of learning accounting had the most positive approaches to learning. The cluster with the most pessimistic expectations of learning accounting had a maladaptive learning profile. The implications of this investigation include that it: (i) provides support for the holistic exploration of presage, process, and product factors; (ii) highlights the key interrelationships between all factors for student learning in context; and (iii) sheds light on the plethora of inconsistent findings in previous research with respect to gender, language, major and previous study of accounting. A further implication of these findings is that providers of accounting education should consider having two types of introductory accounting course: a technical one for accounting majors; and for non-accounting majors a conceptual one based on how to use accounting information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-338
Number of pages18
JournalThe British Accounting Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015


  • pathways to accounting
  • the first course in accounting
  • expectations of learning accounting
  • approaches to learning
  • academic performance


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