In her doctoral dissertation, Riitta-Liisa Arpiainen (M.Sc. Econ) is examining, with a particular focus on developing countries, students’ experiences of entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial learning in situations where entrepreneurship is studied and learnt in teams in the context of experiential action learning. Entrepreneurial learning emphasises learning to take risks and coping with uncertainty. Riitta-Liisa Arpiainen's dissertation will be examined at the School of Business on 29 March.
Both the European Commission and a number of researchers have emphasised that, as worldwide competition tightens, students also should learn to think and act entrepreneurially when seeking to attain societal and economic objectives. According to the researchers, an entrepreneurial way of operating is required at the global, societal, organisational and individual level owing to the different challenges brought by uncertainty and the complexity of operating environments. Through education, citizens are equipped with the abilities to face the challenges of the future.
Arpiainen gathered data on the experiences of students of higher education in Finland and Namibia between 2009 and 2014, listening to and following the studies of students over a number of years and seeking in this way to work out which were the significant experiences encountered during their studies.
Teamwork and the resulting peer learning is very important for students
According to Riitta-Liisa Arpiainen, the most significant experiences for entrepreneurship students related to learning to take risks and cope with uncertainty, learning in and through teams, and recognising and making use in their studies of the emotions arising during the learning process.
‘Working in teams generated plenty of both positive and negative emotions, but as the process unfolded, working in teams helped students better understand each other and understand different cultures and ways of working. The mutual trust and respect created through the learning process produced a strong and well-functioning team.’
‘In many projects, an important and central factor in the students’ learning process was the regular reflection on experiences and actions together with the other team members, and then the use of the things learned through this in new projects. The support received from other team members in learning how to take risks and cope with uncertainty was also felt to be very important.’
Action, experiences and reflection – the basic components of entrepreneurship education
According to many researchers action, experiences and reflection are seen to be the basic components of current entrepreneurship education. These three are interconnected with each other and none of them produces learning in isolation from the other two. They should always be handled together in learning situations.
‘Team entrepreneurship experiences developed students’ abilities to notice and utilise different opportunities in working life and also helped to build a network of workplace contacts. Skills in accepting and understanding the differences between team members and their different cultures developed rapidly through the team learning process. This insight could be applied, for example, in many different multicultural groups in working life. Changes took place in students attitudes and their root beliefs about learning; the learning deepened, developing deep learning that caused real change in students’ entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial actions’, Arpiainen concludes.