A Phenomenographic Approach for Exploring Conceptions of Learning Marketing among Undergraduate Students – Discussion and Conclusions

Six categories of conceptions of learning marketing have been identified, including learning markeitng as ‘memorizing,’ ‘testing,’ ‘applying,’ ‘gaining higher status,’ ‘understanding’ and ‘seeing in a new way.’ The ‘applying’ conception of learning marketing was highly emphasized by the interviewed students.
The case-teaching method has been used in the marketing programs for many years. In general, the cases involve a description of a business situation, requiring students to identify and solve general or specific business problems embedded in the situation. They are very usual as contexts for which to apply the marketing concepts and theories, and allow students to see how marketing may be practiced in the real world, and are especially useful where students have no or limited prior experience in employment. In this study, the interviewed students’ high level of agreement with the ‘applying’ category indicates that marketing knowledge, by nature, should be applied in practice. This result demonstrates that the case-teaching method is close to students’ beliefs about the nature of marketing knowledge. Therefore, in general, most students prefer the case-teaching method in marketing courses, as it can help them obtain ‘real’ understanding of marketing concepts and theories.
Previous studies have shown that students’ conceptions of learning are shaped by culture. For example, Purdie et al showed that Australian and Japanese students had quite different conceptions of learning. Among students’ conceptions of learning, the relationship between memorization and understanding are particularly highlighted. Dahlin and Regmi (1997) indicated that memorization and understanding are often deemed as opposites in Western thinking. However, Marton et al. (1997) found that learners in Hong Kong consider memorization and understanding to be closely related. A similar view about understanding and memorization seems to be present among Taiwanese students. As illustrated in Table 1, the ‘memorization’ category overlaps with the ‘understanding’ category in some students’ conceptions of learning marketing (e.g., #2, #3, and #5). For example, one student (#3) stated that ‘when I learn marketing, I’ll memorize first and then seek to comprehend. Understanding could probably co-exist with memorization, and is based on the students’ memorization. Therefore, for some Taiwanese students, it is still practical to understand and memorize simultaneously when learning marketing.
In addition, according to Tsai’s (2004) research, student beliefs about school knowledge and learning, and conceptions are related to domain-specific epistemologies. Learning conceptions can be shaped by domain-specific factors, too. In this study, most students’ conceptions of learning marketing overlap ‘application’ and ‘understanding’ (see Table 1 for details). For example, one student (#6) stated that ‘Learning marketing needs you to apply it. Application can let you know whether you understand it or not.’ Application and understanding can coexist in the students’ conceptions of learning marketing. This result is totally different from other learning domains.
One possible pedagogical contribution this study may have related to the six hierarchical cognitive processes included in revised versions of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, namely remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating (c.f., Krathwohl, 2002). The hierarchical categories of the cognitive processes of revised Bloom’s taxonomy seem to have some resemblance to conceptions of learning. However, the taxonomy of educational objectives emphasized what educators expect or intend students to learn as a result of instruction, but conceptions of learning might represent what students view about learning. Also, students’ conceptions of learning marketing may be said to represent their purposes of learning marketing. Marketing educators are urged to use the results of the present study to evaluate their students’ conceptions of learning marketing and, simultaneously, plan marketing education curricula that are in sync with revised versions of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning.
In this study, six qualitatively different conceptions of learning marketing were identified, including ‘memorizing,’ ‘testing,’ ‘gaining higher status,’ ‘applying,’ ‘understanding’ and ‘seeing in a new way.’ Based on the hierarchical conceptions of learning proposed by Marton et al. (1993), the first four conceptions can be regarded as “quantitative-oriented” or “reproductive,” while the last two conceptions are “qualitative-oriented” or “transformative.” As McLean (2001) concluded, students’ academic achievement is related to the conceptions of learning that they hold. In this study, students with superior academic records expressed more transformative conceptions of learning (‘understanding’ and ‘seeing in a new way’) than did their less academically achieving peers. According to Table 1, the students in this study tend to hold transformative conceptions of learning marketing (‘understanding’ and ‘seeing in a new way’) less than the reproductive conceptions of learning marketing (‘memorizing,’ ‘testing,’ ‘gaining higher status’ and ‘applying’). Based on McLean’s (2001) results, we predict that some students in this study will attain unfavorable achievement outcomes when they are engaged in learning marketing. How to change students’ reproductive conceptions of learning (such as ‘memorizing’ and ‘testing’) into transformative conceptions of learning (such as ‘understanding’ and ‘seeing in a new way’) may become an essential issue for future research.