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Critical thinking in the context of group learning: A qualitative study of postgraduate accounting and finance students' perceptions

Tew, Edward W. K.


Edward W. K. Tew


Critical thinking has been seen as the foundation of Western university education (Barnett, 1997). Today, educators and industry constantly emphasise the importance of acquiring critical thinking by students and graduates. One of the possible ways to facilitate critical thinking in students’ learning is group learning. The aim of this qualitative study grounded in Constructivism is to work towards an understanding of critical thinking in the context of group learning. The research objectives are concerning with the postgraduate accounting and finance students’ perceptions and experiences within and between students in this constructivist model of learning.

The sample was composed of twenty students who enrolled in a Fundamentals of Financial Management (FFM) Module of the MSc Accounting and Finance. Students were required to participate in group learning and engaged in critical thinking to complete the group assignment. The primary data collection method was in-depth semi-structured interviews and the supportive method was students’ individual reflection reports. The study particularly interested in their perceptions and responses in relation to critical thinking and group learning.
This study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as the guide for data analysis. Student profiles were created in order to understand their perceptions and experiences according to their voices rather than the researcher’s. This study adopted two approaches to generate the findings. First, it considers the significant variations of the ways students described and revealed the perceptions and responses in the context of group learning. At this stage, the study identified presents findings which include students’ stance, perceptions, orientations to group learning, motivation and critical responses. Second, it used matrices to identify potential relationship between the identified findings at the first stage. This research identified there were both congruent and incongruent relationship between the findings. In other words, it revealed that group learning provided a complex environment for learning and engagement with critical thinking. Students brought with them particular stance, perceptions, orientations, and motivation that appeared to predispose them to engage in particular ways within the group. Hence, the congruent and incongruent relationship will make sense only after considering students as ‘the person who learn’ (Javis, 2006).

This study concluded that students should take central role to engage in critical thinking and learning. This study also concluded that group learning provide the social contextual conditions for critical thinking to take place. However, it must be employed with students in mind. With these in mind, the implications and recommendations for pedagogy were made for the policy makers and educators. Limitations of the research were reported and a number of recommendations for future research were offered in relation to critical thinking and group learning. The study seeks to make a unique contribution to the research of critical thinking and group learning and illuminates the teaching and learning pedagogical practices in HE and AE. Its conclusion will be of value to policy makers and educators in advancing knowledge of critical thinking and group learning in HE and professional accounting education.


Tew, E. W. K. Critical thinking in the context of group learning: A qualitative study of postgraduate accounting and finance students' perceptions. (Thesis). University of the West of England

Thesis Type Thesis
Keywords critical thinking, group learning, perception, 3P model, accounting, finance


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