Design Principles for Creating Impactful Entrepreneurship Education for All

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“In wide entrepreneurship education,” write Yvette Baggen, Thomas Lans and Judith Gulikers in their essay below, “the messy, uncertain and iterative entrepreneurial process of value creation is key.” If it’s messy and uncertain, a little help on finding good next steps for the educator to take is welcome. In this post, based on the article “Making Entrepreneurship Education Available to All: Design Principles for Educational Programs Stimulating an Entrepreneurial Mindset” published in the journal Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy, the authors — Baggen, an assistant professor in the Education and Learning Sciences Group at Wageningen University & Research; Lans, assistant professor of education and competence studies at Wageningen; and Gulikers, associate professor, of education and learning sciences at Wageningen — discuss the elements of wide entrepreneurship education and the questions they asked in coming up with 11 design principles. Their essay begins after the abstract of their academic paper.

Over the past decade, entrepreneurship education (EE) has increasingly been introduced as a school-wide approach to stimulating an entrepreneurial mindset across various educational levels. We refer to this as “wide approaches to EE”. Wide approaches to EE require education programs that go beyond simply defining entrepreneurial competencies (the “what” question) and ask for learning activities that enable the enfolding, cultivation, and development of such competencies (the “how” question). Although important steps have been made with respect to addressing the “how” question, principles to actually design wide EE programs are scarce. Here, we advance the educational practice and research regarding wide EE by deducing design principles for wide EE programs across educational levels based on core theories in the entrepreneurship literature, including experiential learning, social constructivism, and effectuation theory. The 11 design principles represent the entrepreneurial process, the task, and the context and relationships of wide EE programs, and are discussed in three European cases from different educational levels in order to illustrate how the design principles can be used for understanding wide EE practices. The identified design principles can promote evidence-informed discussion among teachers, curriculum designers, policy-makers, scholars, and others regarding the design, implementation, and investigation of wide EE programs.

Migration, inclusivity, climate change: these are just a few examples of urgent challenges that need creative solutions. Human behavior is key in that. How do we prepare our students for their future in which they have to deal with such demanding issues? In our conceptual article, we argue for the potential of wide entrepreneurship education (EE) in this regard. Wide EE involves the entrepreneurial mindset of taking initiative and action, learning from failure and steering your own learning, development and career – all important aspects given the high levels of uncertainty and complexity in today’s society. The scope of wide EE goes beyond the start-up – unicorn perspective as often applied in narrow EE – instead, in wide EE entrepreneurship is perceived crucial in the context of lifelong learning. As such, the learning process is key in wide EE, challenging students to become entrepreneurial by the design of their education.

Baggen Lans and Gulikers
Yvette Baggen, left, Thomas Lans, and Judith Gulikers

Offering wide EE across educational levels and disciplines requires a certain level of agreement with respect to criteria used to design such programs. However, such criteria are lacking – the pedagogical models, or the “how” of wide EE, is scarcely investigated and described. Therefore, we present evidence-informed design principles for wide EE programs. These principles stimulate discussion regarding what wide EE should entail across different educational levels between teachers, curriculum designers and other professionals involved in realizing wide EE courses, programs and/or learning trajectories.

In wide EE, the messy, uncertain and iterative entrepreneurial process of value creation is key. As such, wide EE programs should spark students’ curiosity, stimulate them to actually experience the entrepreneurial process and allow for emergent outcomes – embracing learning surprises as valuable learning moments. This requires authenticity, teamwork, working with external stakeholders, and learning from inspiring role models. In order to capture these and other ideas for designing challenging learning processes in wide EE programs, we formulated a set of entry-level characteristics and design principles for wide EE. Specifically, three characteristics are prerequisite for each wide EE program, namely:

  1. Students experience the iterative entrepreneurial process of opportunity identification, evaluation and exploration (i.e., getting into action);
  2. Students work on authentic, actual tasks with several solutions; and
  3. Students create new value for others; this value can be social, ecological, cultural and/or economic.

Next to these three core characteristics, we formulated 11 design principles that allow for variations in EE. These design principles relate to the entrepreneurial process, task and the role of context and relationships in wide EE programs. The main purpose of the design principles is to stimulate discussion among educators regarding questions such as: how did we design our current wide EE program, in terms of the design principles? Do we really spark the iterative, messy entrepreneurial process? What variety did we include in the educational program and why? Is this aligned with our learning goals? And can we further improve the educational program – that is, make it stimulating the entrepreneurial mindset and process – based on the design principles? Hereby, the design principles bring educational design back to the teachers, enabling them to reflect on existing or new educational courses and programs, truly preparing their students for their future life.

Interested in the complete article, including the 11 design principles? Please don’t hesitate to contact Yvette Baggen (yvette.baggen@wur.nl).

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