Comments on the APPG for Micro Business 5th Report “An Education System Fit for an Entrepreneur – 2) Introduction – Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

Colton’s 1990 definitions propose that, ” The major objectives of enterprise education are to develop enterprising people and inculcate an attitude of self-reliance using appropriate learning processes.  Entrepreneurship education and training programmes are aimed directly at stimulating entrepreneurship which may be defined as independent small business ownership or the development of opportunity-seeking managers within companies.”

It’s interesting to see at the outset the emphasis on the role of enterprise education in the development of self-reliance as a prerequisite for becoming an enterprising person.  Self-Efficacy is later defined as  “the confidence to try something out and to survive repeated failures” (p.13); equally dependent on motivational drivers and knowledge.  Shima Barakat (University of Cambridge’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning) defines Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy as “a person’s belief in their own ability to undertake actions that relate specifically to being entrepreneurial.” Barakat argues for self-efficacy to be used as a construct for the design and evaluation of entrepreneurship education, as it allows outcomes to be assessed independently of pedagogical method. The direct if self-evident link between embodying “an enterprising mind and associated characteristics and behaviours” and actually doing it – going out there and starting up a business is also made.

According to the findings of the BIS (Department of Business Innovation and Skills) report “Enterprise Education Impact in Higher Education and Further Education” (2013) which failed to find a correlation between curriculum-based enterprise education and setting up an enterprise, people like me leading Entrepreneurial Business Programmes may have a lot to worry about.  However, Team Academy Newcastle (and other similar programmes globally) already seems to exemplify many of the recommendations for change made in this report so the future at least looks bright and gives me confidence and reassurance that we are on the right track however there is insufficient research as yet to explain why.

Much is made of the challenges inherent in measuring performance of the right kind of entrepreneurship education.  The best kind of programmes are acknowledged to generate both ‘hard’ and therefore easy to measure outputs as well as ‘soft’ outputs that are more slippery.  Interestingly, from the Threshold Concept perspective, some examples of these are:

  • shifting attitudes towards future visioning skills
  • the ability to evaluate opportunities when not all the data or information is available
  • developing autonomy and independent thought
  • seeing and grasping new opportunities
  • valuing failure (we learn more from failed experiments than from confirming ones)
  • appreciation of value of play and playfulness and the role of “relaxed cognition” – I have my best ideas when walking the dog.

Innovation is positioned at the core of Entrepreneurship Education.  However, on more traditional programmes, the very act of asking students to complete an assignment with a known outcome limits their opportunity to look for alternative options, and to find new ways of doing things.  In this way we are effectively reducing the creative capacity of our students.  Creativity is being undermined unintentionally.

I’ve often said to doubtful and anxious parents accompanying their offspring to university open days that the ability to learn is more important than the stuff you learn, but it’s stated more eloquently here, “The ability to harvest knowledge as and when needed becomes more important than being reliant on the recollection of the relevant facts and figures.” (p.13)  Perhaps

  • Processing, linking and connecting information rather than merely recalling it

may suggest another potential Threshold Concept?  We also need to be mindful of the need to balance analytical and conceptual thinking.

The pedagogical approach of “Team Academy” calls for more research.  It appears to work, but there’s not much to explain why.  We need to know why what we are doing works to be truly confident in our approach.  “What is needed is a more sophisticated understanding of the impact of the differing pedagogical approaches.” (Shima Barakat, University of Cambridge Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning).

Colton, T. (1990). “Enterprise Education Experience. A Manual for School Based In service Training.” SDEC.