Entrepreneurship education is too complex to only rely on one outcome measure. It is time to rethink our view on assessment.
By Torgeir Aadland, Co-director Engage and Associate Professor, NTNU
The popularity of action-based, authentic and self-directed entrepreneurship education is prominent in many educational systems around the world today. Some entrepreneurship education implements and utilises incubators, makerspaces and the closeness of the entire world through the use of digital means in the educational offerings. As such, students have the possibility to investigate, pursue and experience endless opportunities. And as educators, we have endless outcomes to assess.
A result of the many outcomes is that evaluation and assessment of entrepreneurship education are discussed frequently among scholars. A short time ago, I participated in a forum where the question was raised again – should we assess our efforts as educators in entrepreneurship? And how should we do it? The first part I find easy to answer, but the second is a challenge. Are we educating entrepreneurs whose main purpose is to start new ventures again and again? Are we educating intrapreneurs? People in support roles for other entrepreneurs? Or just change agents that could take many roles and shine at various points in time?
Focus on students’ intentions?
Needless to say, all of the above require different approaches to assessment. If we simplify and say that the outcome should solely be entrepreneurs with new start-ups, we bite way more than we can chew. Way more. I still miss seeing any education with more than 50 percent of their student working in their own start-up upon graduation. If we rather focus on students’ intentions, I fear that the students’ last weeks’ results influence the outcome. Supportive customers, peers or mentors could boost students’ positive attitude. The same could a perfect product performance. Or sales! However, high intent is not the same as a successful entrepreneur. Nor a good one. The academic results could be below average, while the intent is high. And all of these individual outcomes could be influenced by the students’ experiences as entrepreneurs.
As such, our community still has to research and develop tools and procedures for assessment in entrepreneurship education. I think we can do this, but then we have to move beyond the individual and outdated measures, like exams or students’ intentions.Torgeir Aadland
I believe we need to rethink our view on assessment. Entrepreneurship education is too complex to only rely on one outcome measure, but at the same time, we cannot force ourselves to investigate all of our students’ outcomes and results. However, we could start with a baseline – the foundation all entrepreneurs need, like an understanding of opportunities, markets and resources. General knowledge, perhaps. We could then move on to investigate the students’ skills – how they have worked with their own experiences and entrepreneurial activities. And in the end, we can build on the prior with an assessment of students’ experiences, for instance through their reflective thinking. This way, we can explore whether students have the knowledge, skills and mindset needed to become the change agents we strive to educate.
Individual student’s experiences
However, while this appears to be a straightforward job, we still lack an understanding of the needed knowledge, skills and mindset to become a successful entrepreneur. It is also a challenge to design good and efficient assessment tools, especially the more we move towards the individual student’s experiences and reflections. This part requires that the educator involves herself in and understands the student’s entrepreneurial efforts. Needless to say, this will expect much of us as educators, and perhaps more than we can afford. As such, our community still has to research and develop tools and procedures for assessment in entrepreneurship education. I think we can do this, but then we have to move beyond the individual and outdated measures, like exams or students’ intentions. We need a mix, but we need a good mix, and right now, this is an ongoing and unfinished work. I think this topic will be discussed at my next conference, too.
Read more about Torgeir Aadland research