Gustav Hägg defended his doctoral thesis “Experiential entrepreneurship education: Reflective thinking as a counterbalance to action for developing entrepreneurial knowledge” on 22 December 2017. Below you can find out more about Gustav and his research, described in his own words.
I began my journey towards the completion of this dissertation in January 2012 as a project assistant, which led to my PhD position that started in October 2012, supervised by Associate Professor Diamanto Politis and Professor Hans Landström. During this time, I have studied how student entrepreneurs develop entrepreneurial knowledge when engaging in entrepreneurship education built on experience-based pedagogy. Throughout the process of writing my dissertation I have always believed in the greater good of academic research as a means for advancing societies in an unpredictable future.
In contemporary society entrepreneurship has been promoted as the key to forming the 21st century citizen. Over the years the accumulation of knowledge and experience of how to teach entrepreneurship has generated a call for a more pragmatic and critical approach due to the low academic legitimacy of the field. One main problem identified in entrepreneurship education is the strong emphasis on learning through action, which is something that stands in stark contrast to a more traditional view on academic education. To create a prosperous learning process in entrepreneurship education we need a counterbalance to the strong bias toward action orientation. A potential counterbalance addressed in educational literature is reflective thinking, which has been highlighted as important and gained increased attention in the literature on entrepreneurship education. Despite this recognition, there have been surprisingly few empirical attempts to study how reflective thinking might play a significant role in student entrepreneurs’ learning. In addition, we lack a comprehensive understanding of how reflective thinking develops in the entrepreneurship education situation. Hence, it is necessary to understand how reflective thinking might serve as a means that enables student entrepreneurs to transform experience into entrepreneurial knowledge. In my dissertation I have studied three different pedagogical methods, mentorship, peer-learning, and reflective diaries, and by applying these methods I answer the following research questions:
RQ1: How can different pedagogical methods support the development of reflective thinking in experiential entrepreneurship education?
RQ2: Why do these methods develop reflective thinking, and why do they create a balance between action and reflective thinking?
My dissertation has sought to explain the importance of reflective thinking as a counterbalance to the basic assumption of action orientation when educating student entrepreneurs. To achieve this purpose a conceptual framework of the process of entrepreneurial inquiry was developed through the empirical insights gained in the course of the research process. The conceptual framework combines theory on how humans store and develop knowledge from a cognitive perspective with research on how to tailor education based on learning through experience. Together, these two theoretical streams provided a platform for the empirical studies conducted and the findings that emerged.
Based on the empirical findings, the development of entrepreneurial knowledge in an educational context is dependent on the stimulation of different types of knowledge including declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge as well as contextual awareness. In addition, guidance related to the proficiency of the student, and the directional process of entrepreneurial inquiry are important elements for understanding the development of entrepreneurial knowledge in experiential entrepreneurship education. From the empirical studies it has been established that reflective thinking is the means of transforming experience into knowledge. However, the empirical studies also provided insights on how the three pedagogical methods play different roles when student entrepreneurs develop reflective thinking ability, described as a transactive educational process, termed the process of entrepreneurial inquiry. In conclusion, my dissertation has sought to develop, and to some extent challenge, an implicit assumption of action when teaching and learning entrepreneurship.