University of Tasmania

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Learning accounting through visual representations

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 00:44 authored by Seedwell SitholeSeedwell Sithole, Datt, R, Paul De Lange, Tharapos, M

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of diagrammatic visualisation techniques versus sentential learning contexts in an accounting subject using the theoretical lens of cognitive load theory (CLT).

Design/methodology/approach: The present study used four groups of students; two groups completed a task using diagrammatic visualisation learning materials, with one of the groups undertaking their leaning activities collaboratively and another on an individual basis, whereas two comparison groups were given a sentential learning context without diagrams, with one group undertaking their leaning activities collaboratively and the other individually. In addition to performance grades, cognitive load self-report scores were also elicited from participants.

Findings: The findings of this study indicate support for diagrammatic visualisation techniques for students working collaboratively. Compared with sentential learners, the authors find significantly improved test performance for students who work collaboratively in a diagrammatic visualisation environment. Students in the visualisation environments obtained higher grades than those in the sentential group. In terms of mental effort, students in the visualisation conditions reported the lowest cognitive load.

Practical implications: The authors conclude that diagrammatic visualisation learning techniques enhance student performance outcomes, particularly for those who work collaboratively. CLT assists in the understanding of the mental processes involved in learning. Instructional designers need to consider CLT when developing diagrammatic visualisation material to enable students to obtain the best possible learning outcomes.

Originality/value: This study addresses a gap in the literature by examining the use of diagrammatic visualisation materials as an alternative to text when learning accounting. The study explores the effect of visualisation material on students’ cognitive load by analysing their mental effort. The study contributes useful findings on visualisation as a conduit to enhancing the understanding of accounting using CLT principles.


Publication title

Accounting Research Journal








Emerald Publishing Limited

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© Emerald Publishing Limited

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives


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