This is the sixth post in a series which looks at higher education learning and teaching through a disciplinary lens. What can the knowledges, theories, methods and practices of particular disciplines tell us about learning and teaching across the university? In each post, I speak to disciplinary experts from Macquarie and seek their insights to inform the teaching practices of colleagues in other disciplines.

Previous posts in the series include Psychology, Economics, Environmental Sciences, Interdisciplinary Research Training and Creative Writing.

Today’s post focuses on Entrepreneurship education.

I spoke with Dr Frances Chang, head of the Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship major in the Department of Management. Her teaching interests are in entrepreneurship, small business ownership, business models and internationalisation. In the major, students evaluate and critique contemporary strategy and entrepreneurship issues to develop solutions and build expertise for innovation in new ventures, innovation in established organisations, social entrepreneurship and new business start-ups.

What is entrepreneurship education?

Entrepreneurship education (EE) is any pedagogical program or process of education to develop skills, knowledge, attitudes and personal qualities to encourage students to pursue setting up novel business ventures as a viable career option. The first tertiary entrepreneurship program was delivered in 1947 at Harvard Business School!

The main aim of EE is to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, which research defines as a cognitive perspective that enables an individual to recognise opportunities and, importantly, to create value by acting on those opportunities. (See the recommended reading list at the end of this post). Students are supported to embrace ambiguities, make decisions with limited information, and remain adaptable and resilient in complex conditions.

MIT Sloan Management School defines the characteristics of an entrepreneurial mindset as being (a) solutions oriented, (b) adaptable and (c) anti-fragile.

Solutions-oriented: this means approaching problems as challenging and interesting, and finding creative solutions that might lead to viable business ventures.

Adaptable: the environment from which we operate is constantly changing, it’s dynamic so we can’t be static. Our creativity, our solutions, our business venture must be able to adapt and we, as entrepreneurs need to be able to adapt in order to survive and strive!

Anti-fragile: this is a positive trait. It means that entrepreneurs tend to be confident, resilient and even tenacious when confronted with problems. Problems are here for us to solve and in solving them we add value to what we do.

Modelling the way in which she shares examples in her teaching, listen to Frances in this 50 second audio excerpt:

What skills are developed?

Students taking EE often have an entrepreneurial intention. In other words, they want to start their own business for various reasons. Entrepreneurs need to have the:

  1. know-why (values and motivation of entrepreneurs)
  2. know-what (knowledge about what needs to be done)
  3. know-how (practical abilities and skills)
  4. know-who (awareness of social networks and ability to use them) and
  5. know-when (experience and intuition about when to take action).

In essence, this is the why, what, how, who and when to start your new venture.

As students continue on their EE journey, they learn skills at different stages. At the start, skills will involve creative problem-solving, scanning the environment for opportunities and critical thinking. Then moving on to business skills such as how to do a feasibility analysis of their business idea, explore different business models, writing a start-up business plan, and how to pitch their business idea to investors.

These combined skills develop an entrepreneurial mindset where there is an inclination towards creative problem-solving, opportunity seeking, and acting on opportunities to create value.

Listen to Frances describe an entrepreneurial learning approach in this 1.43 min audio extract:

How do you encourage students to look for entrepreneurial opportunities?

To get into an entrepreneurial mindset, consider the following questions:

  • What frustrates you most when you try to buy something?
  • What product or service would really make your life better?
  • What makes you annoyed or angry?
  • What product or service would take away your aggravation?
  • What needs fixing in our society and our communities?
  • What is the wackiest business idea you can have?

Listen to a whacky idea students shared with Frances (31 seconds):

Here are some of the learning exercises that Frances shares to immerse students in the entrepreneurial space:

Key ideas for entrepreneurship education that are applicable across disciplines include: adapting pedagogical approaches (in this case, experiential learning) to incorporate discipline-specific knowledge and skills; encouraging group work to test ideas; keeping assessment tasks authentic (such as pitches for funding and business plans); and sharing key messages to build self-efficacy such as: everyone is creative!

Listen to the full 26 min recording:

Download a PDF transcript of the full conversation:

Recommended reading

Bouquet, C., Barsoux, J.-L., & Wade, M. 2018. Bring your breakthrough ideas to life. Harvard Business Review, 96(6): 102-114.

Fayolle, A., & Gailly, B. (2008). From craft to science Teaching models and learning processes in entrepreneurship education. Journal of European Industrial Training, 32(7).

Johannison, B. (1991). University training for entrepreneurship: Swedish approaches. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 3(1), 67-82.Lorz, M., Mueller, S., & Volery, T. (2013). Entrepreneurship education: A systematic review of the methods in impact studies. Journal of Enterprising Culture, 21(2), 123-151.

Nabi, G., Linan, F., Fayolle, A., Krueger, N., & Walmsley, A. (2017). The Impact of Entrepreneurship Education in Higher Education: A Systematic Review and Research Agenda. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 16(2), 277–299.

Nabi, G., Walmsley, A., Liñán, F., Akhtar, I., & Neame, C. (2018). Does entrepreneurship education in the first year of higher education develop entrepreneurial intentions? The role of learning and inspiration. Studies in Higher Education, 43(3), 452-467.

Slavtchev, V., Laspita, S., & Patzelt, H. (2012). Effects of entrepreneurship education at universities. Jena Economic Research Papers, 25, 1-33.

Souitaris, V., Zerbinati, S., & Andreas Al-Laham, A. (2007). Do entrepreneurship programmes raise entrepreneurial intention of science and engineering students? The effect of learning, inspiration and resources. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(4), 566-591.

Tang, J., Baron, R and Yu, A. (2021). Entrepreneurial alertness: Exploring its psychological antecedents and effects on firm outcomes. Journal of Small Business Management

Banner image: Photo by Pixel-Shot from Shutterstock
All other images provided by Frances Chang

Posted by Agnes Bosanquet

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