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An Application of Variation Theory of Learning in Higher Education

Chapter in book
Authors Airi Rovio-Johansson
Published in Malcolm Tight & Jeroen Huisman (Eds.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research. International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Vol. 9
Pages 261-279
ISBN 978-1-78190-682-8
Publisher Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Publication year 2013
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Pages 261-279
Language en
Subject categories Pedagogy, Didactics


The purpose of this paper is to investigate students’ qualitatively different ways of understanding the learning object, basic economic relationship in three undergraduate courses in the discipline of accounting. The theoretical framework of variation theory, a general learning theory is applied. The lecturers chose a learning object which is investigated under two different teaching conditions – the traditional lecture model and the variational method. Two student groups were identified as a comparison group and a target group, comparable in various relevant parameters. All students took three required accounting courses. In the comparison group, the lecturers used the traditional lecture model and in the target group the variational model. The results indicated significant differences between the two groups’ examination results in the three courses. Students in the target group performed much better. The conclusions for students’ understanding of the subject, educational implications, contributions, limitations and further research of the study are discussed.

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