Learning Through Disruptions: Equipping Students to Cope With Challenging Contexts Through a Field-based Course in Africa

Maribel Blasco*, Thilde Langevang, Søren Jeppesen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Students wishing to pursue careers in international business, notably in the developing world, must be prepared for complex, unpredictable, uncomfortable, and messy realities, and to collaborate with others very different from themselves. Mainstream business school learning environments are generally highly structured, cognitively oriented, predictable and hence not particularly conducive to orchestrating the disruptive experiences that can develop such abilities. In this article, we show how a field-based course in an East African country can support such learning. Based on data gathered from students over several iterations of the field course, we draw on experiential learning theory (ELT) in showing how the top-down orchestration of the course constituted a learning space that produced three main types of disruption to students’ taken-for-granted habits and assumptions, namely: intense sensory impressions and sensations, loss of predictability and control, and learning interdependency on others. Students had to “bottom-up” manage these disruptions while conducting a group assignment with local students, to a tight deadline, producing “dissonances”—feelings of discomfort—that triggered the ELT cycle. Our findings show that such disruptions can foster learning of the abovementioned abilities; and we suggest ways in which such learning spaces might be created closer to home than East Africa
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management Education
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)853-887
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 29 Jan 2022.


  • Africa
  • Developing countries
  • Experiential learning
  • Field course
  • Intercultural awareness/development
  • Project-based learning

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