Greenwell, M. M., Habermas & Learning & Teaching, School of Accounting & Finance, University of Wollongong, Working Paper 27, 1992.
This paper presents an illustration of the use of some of the insights from the work of Jurgen Habermas within a learning and teaching situation. The empirical work is reported and informed in tandem with various aspects of the theory of communicative action (Habermas 1981), and the style of this paper is process-oriented. The illustration is sited within the course AC304 Auditing in the Department of Accounting & Financial Management at the University of the South Pacific during second semester in 1991. Four groups of people as students (a total of 17 people) took up the offer of a project that had as its aim the generating of knowledge about the phrase "A True & Fair View". The three stages of Habermas' theory of communicative action were worked through to varying degrees of completeness. It is argued that the original stock of knowledge was evidence of the colonisation of the community lifeworld by accounting professional bodies including the local Fiji Institute of Accountants. The stock of knowledge about the phrase, held by the members of the groups before the projects were initiated, was the basis of tentative explanations and the formulation of draft critical theorems. These sought to expose the integrated social and technical dimensions of the phrase. During this process initial formulations by the researcher were subjected to critique within theoretical discourses between the researcher and two colleagues. At the completion of this process the tentative explanations with the concluding critical theorems were presented to the members of the groups. This was followed by a therapeutic discourse between the researcher and the members of the four groups. Within the separate groups, the members undertook a process of practical discourse, which was followed by a process of practical discourse between the researcher and the members of the groups. It is concluded that these processes and the ensuing project report-writing, combined with a debriefing meeting, go some way toward the Habermasian process of enlightenment and selection of strategies stages. This paper concludes with reflections on the benefits generated by the above learning process, some of the "costs", and suggestions for the future.