Entrepreneurial Action: How to Put it Into (Your Teaching) Practice?
Teaching students to think and act in an entrepreneurial way is an important challenge for education. An entrepreneurial attitude prepares students for a future with new types of jobs, new social needs and complex problems.
Many people usually only associate entrepreneurship with starting or running their own business or company, but it is much more than that! The European Union puts forward the ‘development of initiative and entrepreneurship’ as one of the eight key competencies for continuous learning.
Ghent University's Definition of Entrepreneurial Action, Entrepreneurial Spirit and Entrepreneurship
If you want to work on entrepreneurial behaviour in your course unit, it is important to understand these terms:
- entrepreneurial spirit is the ability to take initiative and develop ideas in a particular context. Perseverance, a sense of responsibility, courage, creativity and self-direction when you turn ideas into action are important characteristics of an entrepreneurial spirit. It includes planning and managing projects to achieve objectives. Entrepreneurship is one of the 21st century skills;
- entrepreneurship includes the start-up of a business and all subsequent phases that an entrepreneur can go through with their company (continuation, growth, restart etc.) within a wide range of sectors, both in the private and non-profit sectors. If you encourage entrepreneurship in your course unit, you will teach students the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to go through one or more of these phases.
Having a sense of being an entrepreneur is thus a much broader concept than entrepreneurship and is much more often put forward as an essential learning outcome for students. The Flemish Government expects all students to be taught an entrepreneurial spirit, from primary education to higher education.
- entrepreneurial action is teaching entrepreneurial spirit or entrepreneurship by mainly working on the skills and attitudes associated with it. You teach the students to act in an entrepreneurial way. In addition, you transfer knowledge and theory about entrepreneurship. After all, you sometimes have to explain certain theoretical concepts before you can work on the skills and attitudes.
Following the example of the Flemish Government, Ghent University uses the term ‘entrepreneurial action’ as a learning outcome for higher education. Ghent University mainly wants to work on the skills and attitudes for entrepreneurship, and to use the theory where necessary.
How to Incorporate Entrepreneurship into Final Competencies?
The European Commission and OESO developed Entrecomp in 2016. This European frame of reference highlights entrepreneurial spirit as a transversal key competency because that competency is important for every person at all stages of life.
Entrecomp includes competencies for both entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship. They are divided into 3 competency areas (Ideas & Opportunities, Resources and Into Action), each of which comprises 5 specific competencies. Each competency is then subdivided into different threads of sub-competencies, each with 8 different skill levels.
Entrecomp is the ideal starting point on which to base your final competencies, together with Ghent University's Competency Model and the study programme competencies formulated around entrepreneurial action. At the bottom of this tip, you will find supporting material for using Entrecomp.
How to Put Entrepreneurial Action into (Your Teaching) Practice?
In general, active teaching methods are excellent for stimulating entrepreneurial action. Consider, for example, project work, community service learning, problem-based learning and case education. But even more important is how exactly you fill in the teaching method you use.
- start from real social problems, not from made-up assignments. Involve stakeholders who experience a problem at the start and end of the process, but also during the process. Interactions with stakeholders are very valuable to sharpen students’ entrepreneurial and communication skills. After all, it teaches them to properly map out the needs of the stakeholders, to tailor their solution to those needs and to test it against those needs. Design Thinking is a widely used innovation process that is used for this. Every year, DO! – Ghent University collects challenges from organizations that you can use in your teaching practice: www.callforchallenges.be. If you choose a sustainability issue or a social problem, you are working on sustainability competencies and/or competencies for social impact at the same time;
- let students take initiative and responsibility themselves. For example, let them contact the stakeholders, let them plan and organize a company visit, let them organize a lesson or workshop;
- encourage students to be creative and come up with innovative ideas. Leave room for creativity in assignments: for example, let them determine the form in which they present their end result, or include creativity as an assessment criterion in addition to the other requirements for a project or piece of work. Respond with an open mind if students suggest unexpected but creative results or ideas;
- do not shy away from uncertainty. Teach your students to deal with that. You can explicitly build in that uncertainty to provoke a learning experience. For example, adjust expectations halfway through. This way, students learn to be flexible. Make sure that you do not increase the workload. Explain why you are doing this and what they will learn from it;
- teach students how to address their network. Instead of providing a visiting speaker, you can let them look for an entrepreneur to interview, or you can let them contact the target group for project work or market research;
- let students think about what can happen with the dissertation, project, end result ... when the course unit is over. Include that aspect in the assignment and in the assessment;
- organize an immersion in an entrepreneurial experience, for example by having the students participate in an (international) challenge, hackathon or innovation camp;
- if your course unit includes an entrepreneurship project, consult the Vlajo Small Business Project. That includes a handbook, coaching, a competition and a bank account if needed.
How to Give Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Spirit a Substantive Place in Your Course Units?
- Discuss the entrepreneurial competencies you are working on in your course unit. Students often have no idea of the difference between entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship and what skills you need. Students too often think that those skills are only interesting if you want to start your own business. Correct that misunderstanding in your lesson.
- Communicate the DO! offer to your students so that they know where to go if they have entrepreneurial ambitions, whether or not as part of the course unit. Tom is happy to visit your class (with or without a student entrepreneur) and Gerlinde will be happy to send you the latest information about the DO!
- Let students reflect on their own entrepreneurial skills. The Hunchup test is a test developed at Ghent University that realistically maps the entrepreneurial potential of students. The test is free for Ghent University staff and students. In the education tip about reflecting in community service learning course units you will find many concrete tips that you can use for other teaching methods.
- Discuss how an innovation process proceeds. Make it clear that new products or services do not just come out of the blue. This can be done, for example, on the basis of a case study, or by explaining the Design Thinking/Lean Startup approach and discussing the various steps.
- Invite guest speakers. This is how students come into contact with an entrepreneurial spirit or entrepreneurship. The guest speakers are preferably graduates from the study programme and/or are entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs in an area linked to the study programme – intrapreneurs have an entrepreneurial attitude but work within a company. Vlajo has a large network of entrepreneurs who want to participate in education.
- Use tools such as the Business Model Canvas, the Lean Canvas or the Flourishing Business Canvas to get students to think about their business model. This way, they not only think about the start of their project, but about how they can continue their project in a feasible way and how they can realize added social value.
- DO!, the centre for student entrepreneurship, has a set of online teaching materials to encourage entrepreneurial action in your lesson. Please contact Jolien for this.
- Are you looking for inspiration about what is discussed in other entrepreneurial subjects? Have a look at the Ufora courses of the electives Learn Entrepreneurship, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Dare to be an Entrepreneur or Dare to Start.
How to Assess Entrepreneurial Action?
- Decide what exactly you want to assess. Depending on the entrepreneurial competencies you have selected, it may be interesting to only assess the process and/or the reflection and not or to a smaller extent to include the end result in the assessment. This is especially important for entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurial action is about the learning moments the students had and how they responded to them, less about the ‘right’ end result.
- When assessing entrepreneurship, it is important to include a number of knowledge elements that were discussed, such as financial planning, the business model and the corporate structure. In that case, the end result is important to include in your assessment.
- Because many entrepreneurial competencies are soft skills, it is important to communicate well to students what level and behaviour you expect and what you understand by this. Use rubrics, which you communicate to students, to clarify the difference between insufficient, sufficient and good. Entrecomp is a good source of inspiration.
- The form of assessment can vary greatly, but usually an assessment moment is used at the end (within or outside the examination period), whether or not in combination with several assessment moments during the semester. Some examples of assessment methods:
- a portfolio or diary in which the students describe their learning moments;
- interim presentations to monitor and/or assess students’ progress and skills;
- a presentation in which students present their learning trajectory during the course unit;
- a presentation or fair in which students present their end product to a large or limited audience;
- a business plan in which students write out all aspects of starting a business.
Looking for a jury member for the final presentations of an entrepreneurial project? Contact DO!
Want to Know More?
- VLAIO portal site of education stimulating enterpreneurship
- Vlajo support for higher education, including innovation camps, Small Business Project and guest speakers
- Lackéus, M. (2015). Entrepreneurship in Education: What, Why, When, How. OECD. 1-35.
- Entrecomp: website
- Entrecomp: competency overview
- Entrecomp: overview of support materials
- Entrecomp playbook with specific learning activities to work on one or more competencies.