Towards Entrepreneurial Engineering Pedagogy: Exploring the Unsettled Trajectories of Entrepreneurial Projects
Licentiate thesis, 2019
Background: Contemporary perspectives on engineering education have featured repeated calls for development of entrepreneurial ways of practicing engineering among engineering graduates, and entrepreneurial engineering pedagogy has recently become a burgeoning research topic. Previous work on entrepreneurial engineering pedagogy has proposed engaging students in self-directedly framing and tackling of real-world projects, in connection to external stakeholders. While there are empirical accounts of such entrepreneurial projects in engineering education, little is known about how educators design and implement such projects and how students experience them.
Purpose: The thesis investigates entrepreneurial projects as a pedagogical framework in engineering education and sets out to i) inductively identify pedagogical models for designing and implementing entrepreneurial projects in engineering curricula, and ii) to study these pedagogical models in action, particularly challenges and how they are mitigated through scaffolding.
Methodology: The three studies presented in the thesis employ qualitative research approaches based in multi-case study and ethnographic methods in learning environments where engineering students are engaged in entrepreneurial projects. In the first study, educators were interviewed regarding the pedagogical models they use to infuse entrepreneurial experiences into project-based courses. The second two studies draw on in-depth ethnographic data, with an interest in what students deem challenging about entrepreneurial projects and how teachers provide continuous and contingent support.
Findings: Three pedagogical models for designing and implementing entrepreneurial projects were identified, all underpinned by an ambition to engage students in co-creating new knowledge together with external stakeholders. Tensions between students’ habitual ways of taking on curricular projects and the ways of practicing espoused by teachers were identified, causing students to struggle with connecting to externals and with sense-making the projects in light of their previous experiences. As such, the pedagogical models seemed to offer unsettled trajectories towards knowledge co-creation. Teachers were found to navigate these trajectories through arranging opportunities for reflection upon and negotiation of disciplinary practices.
Conclusion: While previous work has put forth self-directed and impact-seeking projects as integral for supporting an entrepreneurial way of practicing engineering, the studies presented in the thesis suggest that students do not necessarily move seamlessly into taking on such projects. The thesis calls both for more ethnographic investigations and for more cross-case analyses of how engineering students are engaged in curricular knowledge co-creation, and how the unsettled trajectories of entrepreneurial projects are experienced by students and scaffolded by teachers.