The Balance in Modern Entrepreneurship Education

In modern entrepreneurship education, more and more examples of active students and authentic learning occur.

By Torgeir Aadland , Associate Professor

Students are no longer being a passive audience, reading about entrepreneurship and its phenomena, imagining entrepreneurship as a linear or phase based-process; students are now often acting as entrepreneurs. However, shifting into solely acting as entrepreneurs might influence the educational outcomes in ways educators have not thought about before.

Entrepreneurship education, as it was thirty or fourth years ago, is often described as having passive students, teaching about entrepreneurship, and being ‘old school’.

Torgeir Aadland

Doing entrepreneurship is often advocated one of the most efficient ways of learning entrepreneurship, and in the later decades, higher education seems to follow this view, too. The literature on entrepreneurship education described this approach as ‘learning by doing’ (Pittaway and Cope, 2007), or that students’ new ventures function as ‘learning vessels’ in the educational setting (Lackéus and Williams Middleton, 2015). Entrepreneurship education has therefore moved into being more student-centred and authentic – in modern entrepreneurship education, teachers are facilitators and the world is the classroom. However, this rapid shift has also alerted researchers to warn about cursorily moving from ‘the old school’; students should not experience risks whose consequences they cannot bear, while teachers need to overlook the course and ensure students learn. Hence, there are pros and cons with various approaches and good combinations are necessary to obtain an excellent education.

Student-centred vs. Teacher-centred

Entrepreneurship education, as it was thirty or fourth years ago, is often described as having passive students, teaching about entrepreneurship, and being ‘old school’. On the other, ‘modern’ side, we find action-based education, teaching through entrepreneurship and being the ‘ideal approach’. In the modern approach, students are taking responsibility for their learning, choosing topics to study in detail, and select the problems they will solve themselves. While this approach gives the students ownership of their learning situation, it also risks that the students focus on less important topics, invest less effort in the activities, and focus solely on practice without relating it to theory. Although the more teacher-centred educational design also has limitations, educators should strive for a balance between the uses of the two outliers.

Authentic vs. Imitation

As entrepreneurship education focus more on learning by doing or educating the students to be entrepreneurial, education in entrepreneurship also move more towards and into the professional, entrepreneurial context; entrepreneurship education becomes more authentic. This way, students are working on complex entrepreneurial activities, feeling the uncertainty of entrepreneurship, and obtaining professional experiences from authentic entrepreneurial activities. However, moving away from the imitating educational approaches mean that the students and teacher lose control over the context and that the academic outcomes might be limited. While the imitating educational approaches might miss necessary complexity and not give the students professional experiences, avoiding this outlier might shift the education into an unclear design; educators should strive for a balance between authentic and imitating entrepreneurship education.

Aadland, T., & Aaboen, L. (2020). An entrepreneurship education taxonomy based on authenticity. European Journal of Engineering Education, 1-18.

Lackéus, M., & Williams Middleton, K. (2015). Venture creation programs: bridging entrepreneurship education and technology transfer. Education+ training. 57(1), 48-73.

Pittaway, L., & Cope, J. (2007). Simulating entrepreneurial learning: Integrating experiential and collaborative approaches to learning. Management learning38(2), 211-233.