Alice in Wonderland - An Experience Based Approach to Learning
Paper i proceeding, 2015
Context: Experience-based learning is recognized as a critical mechanism in preparing individuals for the practice of entrepreneurship (eg. Fayolle and Gailly 2008; Solomon et al. 2002). However, as action- and experience-based entrepreneurship programmes are still a relatively new phenomenon, few studies exist which compare design and pedagogy across institutions. More recent experiential forms of learning place the learner inside the experience, but not in its center. Much like Alice in Wonderland, learners can then decide – autonomously, by taking responsibility for their learning – which role they would like adopt in their experience and how they would like to make sense of their experiences. Alice was guided by a White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat, supported by the Mad Hatter and others, and faced challenges from the Queen of Hearts, all of whom influencing Alice’s choices throughout that led her on this journey. Equally for learners in entrepreneurship programmes, the journey is facilitated by different stakeholders that may influence decisions, shape perspectives or even present barriers, but it still the learner, traveling within the journey that defines his or her own learning towards becoming entrepreneurial. The questions we care about are therefore:
• How do learners engage in experiential forms of learning?
• Which consciouness of their possibilities for action do they possess?
• How do they make sense of their learning experience?
Approach: The study uses an experiential explorative research approach in which the researchers were personally involved in reflective processes as co-learners (Kyrö et al 2009). The data originates from diverse sources such as observation, interviews and reflection logs as well as other materials handed in by students in the learning process. Students consented to the use of the material in anonymized form.
Findings and discussion: The first part of this study pointed towards a new generation of entrepreneurial educations in Europe being based on experiential forms of learning. Looking at how learners engage in the experiential learning process 3 categories of learners were identified. 1/The 'Alice-learners', fully embracing and immersing themselves inside the experience. 2/The 'hesitants', having some reservations at first but opening up to the process during the experience. And the 3/The 'disengaged', following through the motion of the process but remaining emotionally disengaged.
Implications & Value: Ideally, experiential learning in entrepreneurship education creates an 'Alice in Wonderland'-experience where learners would act just like Alice did – open to immerse and embrace the experiences. Reality shows that learners engage differently in the process and one central question for entrepreneurship educators will be to explore whether and how students from category 3 (disengaged) can transit to one of the other categories?