Experiential interdisciplinary learning: the small business experience

Author: Peter Mcghee and Tim O'donovan

Abstract: There has been much written about the need for experiential learning in education. This paper provides a discussion of “real-world” experiential learning, - The Small Business Experience (SBE) - that occurs within an introductory module of a first-year interdisciplinary Bachelor of Business programme at Auckland University of Technology. The module identifies, analyses and discusses, using theoretical frameworks and technical processes drawn from the foundation business disciplines, the environment in which small to medium businesses operate. As part, of this process students undertake the SBE. Over an eight-week period, students are put into random groups to generate, develop, finance, market and operate a viable business idea. At the end of this period, students are required to present their SBE applying relevant theories and concepts to other class members and lecturers. As part of the ethos of an integrated programme students are enabled to acquire insights into what it means to be in business, to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the business world and to develop an understanding of the fundamental conceptual frameworks and technical competencies of the foundation business disciplines. The SBE contributes to this process by linking abstract conceptualisation (thinking) into real-life learning consisting of active experimentation (doing), concrete experience (sensing) and reflective observation (watching) within an integrated business framework.