I have just finished writing up my first article based on the study I do on the students at our master program in entrepreneurship here at Chalmers. I included three of the 13 students I follow for a period of 2-3 years, and the first 9 months of that time. And I must say that I am very pleased with the results so far. Using a software package called NVIVO, I have been able to create a “coding matrix” pinpointing links between strong emotions and development of entrepreneurial competencies. And there were a lot of links! The three strongest ones so far are:
1. Interaction with the outside world seems to lead to build-up of entrepreneurial self-efficacy (i.e. “I can do this!”). Okay, maybe obvious to some from a “common sense” perspective, but I for my part have not seen that many (or almost any) empirically based studies having pinpointed this relationship down in an empirically trustworthy way. And now that the data is collected we can start understanding more in-depth why this happens, how we can make it happen more often and in more diverse environments. Because I have numerous examples of how this happens just in the three students’ interviews I have analyzed so far (I have 10 more to go for analysis, and 1-2 more years when I will follow them). We can also start arguing for the value of interacting with the outside world with more solid arguments than the current ones “it feels right” and “general learning theory seems to indicate this”.
2. A learning environment characterised by uncertainty and ambiguity seems to increase students’ ability to manage uncertainty and ambiguity (I.e. “I dare to do this” or “I know that things will sort themselves out somehow along the way”). Okay, even more obvious you might say. But remember that the usual response from a student experiencing uncertainty and ambiguity is “This is bad, you have to fix this professor”. And the usual response from professors is to try and go fix it, make the course / program / task more clear, structured and predictable. But we might actually need to do the opposite, if we want our students to be good at managing uncertainty and ambiguity, which is defined in literature as an entrepreneurial competency.
3. Team-based environments seem to lead to increased self-insight (i.e. “I now know that I am like this”). Also self-insight is defined in literature as an entrepreneurial competency.
In addition to the three links outlined above, I uncovered a baffling 17 more links with examples and stories explaining how it all connects, and from more than one student in each of the 17 links.
I think that it is now safe to claim that a learning environment that causes strong emotions among the students (provided that it is done in a “good” way, whatever “good” then is), also has a high effectiveness when it comes to developing entrepreneurial competencies among the students participating. This has some rather strong implications for educators, not only within entrepreneurial education but for educators in general. I outline these implications in my article.
If you want to know more, just contact me and I can send you the article. Or, come to the Nordic Academy of Management conference in Iceland on August 21:st to 23:rd, 2013, where I will present this article at the Entrepreneurship Education track. One day I might even be able to send this article in for publication at a journal of appropriate ranking, with editors also sharing my interest for this topic (probably not so many out there).
We so often overlook the be benefit of understanding emotions – just been reading about the benefits of using negative emotional responses to cement learning for example (thanks to Adeptt team for that one) and few educational environments seem to engage with the concept.