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AU researchers win an award at this year’s 3E conference

Professor at Aarhus BSS Helle Neergaard and associate professor at the CED Sarah Robinson won the award for Best Paper at this year’s European Entrepreneurship Education Conference, which took place from 5 to 7 May 2021. The paper deals with existential learning and how it can equip students for an uncertain future.

[Translate to English:] Portrætfoto af Professor Helle Neergaard og lektor Sarah Robinson.
[Translate to English:] Professor Helle Neergaard og lektor Sarah Robinson vinder prisen for ’Best Paper’ ved dette års European Entrepreneurship Education Conference. Foto: AU Foto

The European Entrepreneurship Education Conference, 3E, is the meeting place where enterprise education researchers and educators from all over Europe can present and discuss how teaching practice can be understood and developed. This year’s conference was held online from Trondheim, where more than 80 participants had shown up to share their experiences.

At the conference, two awards were given for ‘Best paper’ and ‘Best PDW’. Among the three nominees for ‘Best Paper’ were associate professor at the CED, Sarah Robinson, and professor at Aarhus BSS, Helle Neergaard, with their paper “Entrepreneurship as existential learning: The missing link in effectual learning processes “, which ended up winning the award for ‘Best paper’.

University teaching in an uncertain future

Helle Neergaard and Sarah Robinson take the university and education philosopher Ronald Barnett theories as their starting point. He argues that modern society requires something completely different from university education than it did in the past, and Helle Neergaard and Sarah Robinson agree:

“Today, the teaching needs to be better targeted at an uncertain and unpredictable future. Therefore, the degree programme format needs to be redesigned so that the students are better equipped – not just cognitively, but also with ‘hand and heart’ – to act in the world and solve societal challenges,” Sarah Robinson says. She has conducted research and taught enterprise education for almost ten years.

Helle Neergaard and Sarah Robinson suggest using an existential approach to teaching, in which the focus is shifted from what is learned to the learner.

Existential learning as a pedagogy

However, what does it mean to teach with an existential approach?

“The purpose of existential learning is to promote the learner’s self-reflection abilities and to create a transformative process of change in which the learner considers their potential to participate and act through professionally anchored reflection,” Sarah Robinson explains.

Existential learning can be scaffolded and designed for different courses where the educator allows the students to decide who they want to be in the future, what their values are based on, and what they are motivated by and to.

“This requires that the curriculum is designed to ‘engage the self’ with Ronald Barnett’s own words if educators are to be able to equip the students to be active citizens in an uncertain and unpredictable future. With this paper, we encourage educators to decide how to design their teaching so that the students are allowed to work with their own academic and personal identities at the same time, “Sarah Robinson concludes.

The CED congratulates Sarah Robinson and Helle Neergaard on their award!