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Students’ perceptions of the practice firms network learning environment in Brazil: a phenomenographic approach

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Jorge Santos
Publication date2008
Number of pages403
Awarding Institution
Award date31/08/2008
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This research deals with how students of a particular learning environment in
management education, which I call here the Practice Firms Network Learning
Environment (PFN), describe their relationship with this learning environment. In the PFN model students conceptualise, design and sell ‘virtual’ products and services to other people within the model, constituting a market that only exists by the pedagogical intentions of those involved with the model. The research was carried out to explore the relationship between students and the PFN model, and to describe the variation in perception of how students experienced this relationship, from their perspective.
The research sample was composed of twenty-nine students from two educational institutions in Brazil, using a phenomenographic approach. The students were interviewed and their narratives were analysed and categorised.
The analysis showed that the variation in students’ descriptions of their relationships with the PFN model could be synthesised in seven different categories. The students experienced their relationship with the PFN as a:
1) Pointless experience;
2) Discipline experience;
3) Group Work experience;
4) Competitive experience;
5) Simulated experience;
6) Way of Learning experience;
7) Realistic experience.
The conclusions extracted from the data were that
a) Students experienced the PFN in qualitatively different ways;
b) The range of variation could be arranged to show that students categorised
their experiences in the PFN from a completely pointless experience on one
hand to a realistic engagement in the PFN on the other hand;
c) From within a meaning dimension, students devalued the PFN model when
they perceived it as a ‘pointless’ experience and valued it when they perceived
it as adding meaning to their experience;
d) From within a structural dimension, students perceived the PFN model as
structured forms of experience to deal with tasks or situations. Whether or not
they learned from these structures was situational.
In summary, the study concludes that students engage in learning activities in search of meaning. Nevertheless, the structures of educational activities influence if and how students will achieve their meaning purposes.