A Phenomenographic Approach for Exploring Conceptions of Learning Marketing among Undergraduate Students – Phenomenographic research

A Phenomenographic Approach for Exploring Conceptions of Learning Marketing among Undergraduate Students - Phenomenographic researchIn the 1970s, a group of Swedish researchers developed the qualitative research approach known as phenomenography. The researchers’ goal was to explore people’s understanding of their experience of the world around them. This goal was achieved, and the outcome is a distinctive qualitative research approach that has application within the social sciences.
The phenomenographic approach is noted as being distinctive in that it identifies similarities and differences in the way we experience and understand phenomena in the world around us. It follows that in higher education research, it has been used to recognize how students experience and understand ‘learning’. Within this field of research, much phenomenographic research has sought to contribute to the knowledge of learning by making evident the different ways learners perceive their learning (Marton & Booth, 1997). If the students’ different ways of experiencing learning can be obtained, it will facilitate educators to improve students’ learning outcomes, and provide a foundation for developing more appropriate curricula or instructional approaches in their class. Therefore, in the current study, the phenomenographic approach is employed in a careful investigation of how students interpret “learning marketing”.
Phenomenography is an interpretive research approach that seeks to describe phenomena in the world as others see them, the object of the research being to identify variations in ways of experiencing the phenomenon of interest. It originated with Ference Marton and his colleagues at the University of Goteborg in Sweden. The term ‘phenomenography’ was coined in 1979 and appeared in the literature related to conceptions of learning for the first time two years later. Such ways of differentiating should prove useful in understanding other people’s understandings. Since the 1970s, phenomenography has developed into a distinctive qualitative approach to understanding not only learning, but a broad range of phenomena. Marton described this approach as “research which aims at description, analysis, and understanding of experiences; that is, research which is directed towards experiential description”.
The outcomes of phenomenographic research are presented as a hypothetical ‘outcome space’, developed from the researcher analysis and interpretations of the data collected through a series of deep and open-ended interviews from a sample group. The outcome space is represented analytically as a limited number of qualitatively different ways of experiencing the phenomenon, including the structural relationships between these different ways of experiencing. This structuring of the outcome space involves highlighting key aspects or ‘dimensions of variation’ that have been found, to link and separate the different ways of experiencing the phenomenon constituted in the outcome space. For example, the six categories of conceptions of learning identified by Marton et al, that is, ‘increasing one’s knowledge’, ‘memorizing,’ ‘applying,’ ‘understanding,’ ‘seeing in a different way’ and ‘changing as a person,’ (changing in the way a person sees themselves) are the outcome space for learning. Each category represents sample students’ different ways of experiencing learning, and these categories show structural and hierarchical relationships for conceptualizing learning. Different ways of experiencing learning and different levels of learning among individual students are more efficiently accessed through the outcome space of learning.
Phenomenography is one approach for dealing with the problem of analyzing the meaning that people attribute to the world. Marton (1981) has categorized phenomenography into three lines of research. The first line of research has continued to concentrate on general aspects of learning. The second line of research concerns the conceptions of learning in domains such as engineering, nursing, or science. The third line of research is described as “pure” phenomenographic interest, and is concerned with characterizing the way in which people conceive various aspects of their world. To continue research on the conceptions of learning in a specific domain, and since almost none of the studies in marketing education have explored students’ conceptions of learning marketing, the phenomenographic approach is used here to explore students’ conceptions of marketing learning in particular.