ABSTRACT This paper assesses the usefulness of concept mapping (an educational learning, assessment, and curriculum development technique developed by Novak, widely used in the natural sciences) within an accounting education context. It shows how an accounting-based concept map can be constructed by students and educators to provide a visual, conceptually transparent graphical representation of an individual's understanding of a particular knowledge domain. The method is firmly routed in Ausubel's theory of meaningful learning and its emphasis upon the hierarchical structure of concepts is particularly relevant to accounting. While concept mapping has been used extensively in many (particularly science) disciplines, it has received relatively little attention within accounting education. The paper's contribution is to extend its application within an accounting education context by focusing upon how concept mapping can enhance students' learning by evaluating student-prepared concept maps, showing how concept mapping can be used at different levels within a course (i.e. curriculum, topic and activity) and reporting feedback of its use with two cohorts of students, within a financial accounting theory component. The use of educator-prepared concept maps, with concepts omitted, proved popular as tutorial quiz exercises and increased the quantity and quality of participation. However, students were less willing to construct their own concept maps and engage in meaningful learning. While most students were able to build upon aspects of their prior knowledge, stronger students used a greater range of concepts, a richer set of linkages and more examples than weaker students did. Concept maps were useful in diagnosing students' and instructors' misconceptions. Many students found concept mapping relatively easy to use, provided a better understanding of complex issues, liked the visual representation and holistic view, and so supported their learning. However, educators need to become proficient in constructing maps and using appropriate software, not make the maps too complex, provide students with some initial training in the technique and consider the fit between using the techniques as a learning tool and as an assessment tool. While no significant differences were found in the usefulness of the method for students of different ages and gender, Asian students generally found the method to be more useful than did UK students.

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