Opening the Black Box of Entrepreneurial Education - outline of an app-based research project
Paper in proceedings, 2015
Questions we care about (Objectives). Most attempts to scholarly assess or explain the impact of entrepreneurial education have been made on anecdotal or macro levels. Quantitative survey-based studies outline correlations between stated input and output macro variables, but do not explore the black box of entrepreneurial learning in terms of how, when or why students develop entrepreneurial competencies. This methodological article outlines a novel research design capable of opening up this black box, leaning on the key role of emotional and critical learning events for developing students’ entrepreneurial competencies.
Approach. We build on a new methodological tool consisting of a smartphone app capturing critical learning events as they occur followed by qualitative methods linking such events to key desired learning outcomes. Due to the methodological challenges with thought- and action-based assessment strategies, an emotion-based assessment strategy is applied, where emotional and critical learning events are viewed as a proxy between an educational intervention and students’ developed entrepreneurial competencies.
Results. The article outlines how four teams of educators/researchers and their students at four different universities in Europe will be equipped with a tablet / smartphone app to longitudinally capture critical learning events, thereby exploring the more general question: How could a multi-site action research and mechanisms focused impact study of entrepreneurial education be designed?
Implications. The methodological steps will lead to a possibility to identify which pedagogical methods lead to desirable learning outcomes, and how the causal mechanisms generating them are constructed. The multi-site aspect of the research design allows for finding generalizable mechanisms present in many of the learning environments, allowing for reaching beyond the contextual and anecdotal good practice case into a possibility to construct new theory for further research as well as robust guidelines for practitioners.
Value and originality. While the method of sampling everyday experiences represents a growing tradition of conducting research in fuzzy, exception-laden and socially situated environments, this method has not yet been applied to entrepreneurial education in a multi-site and international setting. A novel characteristic is also the app-based capture of teachers’ emotional events analyzed through multi-site composed focus group interviews allowing for better utilization of action research strengths. If the opening up of the black box of entrepreneurial education succeeds it can lead to more robust theory and evidence for entrepreneurial education, which could develop as well as increase the diffusion of entrepreneurial pedagogy. To illustrate this, expected findings are outlined in the article based on previous research and also based on an example given from on-going research. This has illustrated that the research design outlined in this article could very well be capable of opening up the black box of entrepreneurial education and contribute to uncovering key causal mechanisms in ways that have not been possible with more established research paradigms.