Please help me develop a new educational philosophy! I have four questions…

After six years of action-based research on entrepreneurial education I am about to finalize my doctoral thesis. It will be about value creation as a new educational philosophy, or learning-by-(using-knowledge-for)-creating-value-(to-others). I view this as an attempt to build on Dewey’s educational philosophy of learning-by-doing, trying to give a more firm answer to the question Learning-by-Doing-WHAT? Or, what should we let our students do in order for them to learn more in-depth and also to develop entrepreneurial competencies?

I have made a 10-minute video about it in English here and in Swedish here. I have also written a summary of entrepreneurial education for OECD where I outline many of my perspectives on this educational philosophy. The English version is here, and the Swedish version is here. I’ve also recently written a working paper outlining some differences between self-focused and others-focused entrepreneurial education, read it here.

The usual case for a doctoral thesis is that it will be read by almost nobody. The usual reader frequency is about 2 people – the opponent and the supervisor. This time however I know that there are people out there who are interested in this educational philosophy already. Some have  started using it explicitly, whereas others are already working like this but not labeling it learning-by-creating-value.

Therefore I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask for some help with my doctoral thesis. I have formulated a couple of questions below. Any attempt to give answers to these questions is highly appreciated. E-mail me, comment on the blog, Tweet me or call me. I have also made a web survey where you can type your thoughts on these matters, please find it here. Here are the questions:

Why is it so rare for teachers to ask of their students to create value to people outside class? I have discussed this question on page 12 in my latest working paper “Two Flavors of Entrepreneurial Education”, which you can find here. My guess so far is that it is a combination of a couple of reasons. One possible explanation could  be  that  today’s  teachers  view  themselves  as  suppliers  of  knowledge  and  view  their  students  as customers, i.e. a “students-as-takers” culture.  So the idea of regarding them as givers of value to others never crosses their mind. Another explanation could be that adults don’t perceive youths as capable of delivering value to outside stakeholders, and therefore seldom give them a chance to even try.

Why do students get more motivated and learn more in-depth from creating value to others? Much of my work has been about discussing how, when and why students learn when they create value to others. For example, in my lastest working paper linked above I have dug into motivation theory to try to find answers to this. But from a very practical point of view, what is the difference here? Any reflections are appreciated here!

How can we get more teachers to work with value creation pedagogy? While it is perhaps a nice idea in theory to let our students learn by creating value to others, how do we get our fellow teachers to start applying it in their classrooms? Educational change is perhaps one of the most challenging issues in our education system today. So what are the challenges that need to be overcome? What are the neat tips and tricks that get it going in practice? How can we increase the rate of adoption among teachers and schools?

What are the most illustrative examples of value creation pedagogy out there? We humans understand by example. When we hear about how something is applied in practice in a concrete way, we get what it is all about. So what are the most illustrative and insightful examples of value creation pedagogy out there? What value was created, for whom, and why? What did the students learn from it, and how did it connect to curriculum content? How was each student supported and assessed by the teacher, during the process and afterwards?

Please continue to my web survey and give me some much needed answers and reflections:

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“It’s the teachers fault!” Students attacking their entrepreneurial teachers

We humans like when things go our way. When we don’t end up in unexpected trouble, when we don’t end up as prime target for angry rallying people. We prefer smooth operation, and a moderate level of change. I think this is a main reason why truly entrepreneurial education is very rare in education today. Without using proper tools, entrepreneurial education is often a recipe for teachers ending up in trouble, stress and calendar strain due to the complexity of interacting with the world outside schools and universities. Therefore, most teachers don’t make their teaching as entrepreneurial as they perhaps would like to, out of self-preservation. Why mess up your life? Why not just do what the system expects in terms of traditional chalk-and-talk and keep your calendar open to family, leisure and relative calmness.

My working definition of entrepreneurial education is when we let students use their knowledge to create something of value to stakeholders outside our school / university. This requires relations to be established with such stakeholders, a time-consuming job that someone has to assume responsibility for. My way of solving this is to let my students establish these relations themselves, on behalf of our university. They generally like this a lot, but it always results in both strong positive and strong negative feelings. When people from the outside world like what the students are doing it leads to strong personal growth, pride and a feeling of meaningfulness and relevancy (and of course deep learning of curriculum content). When on the other hand these same external people dislike what happens in the collaboration process, and from time to time things end up troublesome, the students’ emotions are rather characterized by strong anguish, discontent and distress. The same thing happens when the outcome of the process is uncertain. To most people, uncertainty is really scary. And what happens then is that their resulting emotions need an outlet. Who better to direct these negative emotions to than to your own teacher? After all, it is the teacher’s fault that the course is not as structured and predictable as all the other courses provided by other teachers. And why the hell can’t the teacher just tell me what will happen now? At Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship we have seen this every single year for two decades now. Indeed, when I was a student here myself, I was one of the most emotionally explicit students, rallying againsts my teachers a lot.

I often try to tell both my fellow teachers and our students that negative emotions are an important part of entrepreneurial pedagogy, and that it is a good sign that we are doing something quite right. This does not always lead to people calming down, neither my colleagues, my students nor myself. I wonder how I had reacted to such an “excuse” for educational messiness and ambiguity 15 years ago when I was pouring my own anguish and distress over my teachers.

Yesterday I found myself (again) in front of ten students rejecting my attempts to explain that negative emotions are natural to the process – “This is entrepreneurship!”, “This is what you signed up for!”, I tried to say. Rejecting this, they instead asked me to confess all my mistakes made as a teacher during the last six months. And boy did I confess. “Sorry for putting you in such an ambiguous situation with outside stakeholders holding you accountable. Sorry for trying to give you a really good educational experience, it was all my fault. And I even did it on purpose, knowing how bad you would feel about it. Let’s all go back to traditional class-room lecturing with no real-life content. Then you can get your 100% waterproof course-PM. You will know exactly what will happen, every minute of it all.”

I don’t know if they forgave me. They are probably still upset with me. So I thought i’d write this text to reflect on it. One good thing that we have now that didn’t exist 15 years ago is the entrepreneurial toolbox of effectuation, customer development, appreciative inquiry, design thinking etc. I think this can be a way to simplify for the teacher and streamline the complex and emotional roller-coaster process that entrepreneurial education can result in. It could also serve as an explanatory base for the students, to show them what they are experiencing and why they feel so bad about it. One of my favourite quotes is from Blank: “If you are not prepared to fail, you are destined to do so”. Read more about these tools here in my paper for OECD on entrepreneurship in education, or watch my short 10-minute videos about it here.

But entrepreneurial and experiential education will keep leading to emotionally distressed students at times. And what should they do with their negative emotions? Whose responsibility is it to cure them from their uncertainty and ambiguity fever? And what is the best way to break the news? Ideas anyone?

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Bridging the traditional versus progressive education rift

Two years of writing and testing out my ideas in practice in the municipality of Sundsvall, Sweden, have now taken me to finalize an article and submit it to a scientific journal for publication. The idea put forward is that tools from the entrepreneurship domain can help teachers bridge between traditional and “progressive” pedagogy, allowing for combining standardized curriculum with individual students’ needs and abilities. This is one of the most important challenges in education according to Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor in education.

In the article I also outline and define the idea of value creation as pedagogy, or “learning-by-creating-value” that we have worked with at Chalmers for two decades, and that has the potential to be used on all levels of education, from preschool to university. This idea has been adopted by the people I work with in Sundsvall, see their video in Swedish here, and their website here.

If you want to read it, send me an email and I could probably send it to you. Since it is in double-blinded peer review right now I cannot post it here.

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Presenting at a webinar for OECD on value creation as pedagogy

Today I will be speaker at a webinar hosted by OECD, topic is a practitioner paper I have done for OECD on Entrepreneurship in Education – what is it, why to do it, when to do it, how to do it. Attendees are researchers, teachers and school managers from around Europe interested in the topic. It is a preparation for a conference in Berlin in November where around 100 researchers, school principals and teachers will spend a week to discuss entrepreneurship in education. All of these activities are part of the Entrepreneurship360 project hosted by OECD, read more here.

In this webinar I will be focusing on what entrepreneurship is, why it is relevant and why it is often neglected, and how to do it in practice when applying a “value creation as pedagogy approach”. My slides for the webinar can be found here: Webinar OECD 141024.

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Three research-informed ideas hopefully contributing to best-in-Sweden for Sundsvall’s schools in 2021

Tomorrow I am in Sundsvall talking to around 200 school management people.  My task is to give a background on entrepreneurial education / learning, and to propose some ideas for the future to school managers in Sundsvall in their ambitious mission to become Sweden’s most successful school municipality by the year 2021 in a prestigious ranking by SKL. They found me through a Youtube film I published 1,5 years ago on my research, and they have identified my idea of learning-by-creating-value as an interesting strategy to achieve educational excellence (the idea is outlined in my dissertation here). It goes well with their focus on improving the value creation ability of the public sector in Sundsvall, a mission articulated by the “managing director” of Sundsvall, Stefan Söderlund. I have spent the last couple of weeks outlining three ideas that hopefully can inspire them to achieve their goals. These three ideas are outlined below.

Idea 1: Focus on the how-to question. Articulating ambitious goals is the easy part, whereas the difficult part is identifying stategies that really work. Drawing on my proxy theory stipulating that instead of focusing on the entrepreneurial competencies, we should focus on the critical events leading to developed entrepreneurial competencies. Applied to general schooling this means that school authorities should identify critical events that they believe create a superior school, and then steer the schools towards generating such critical events, for example making students interact with the outside world, create value to outside stakeholders and work for prolonged time in teams, preferably months or even years.

Idea 2: Change perspective on value creation. Instead of asking outside stakeholders to create value to the students by participating in class and giving guest lectures etc, students should be asked to create value to external stakeholders, leading to deep learning and increased sense of meaningfulness and relevancy. Here I relate to John F Kennedy’s famous quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.

Idea 3: Measure in new ways. Beating the competition means you have to innovate. An old saying is that what you measure is also what you get. So if you want to improve your results one way can be to try articulating novel indicators of success and measure them across the entire municipality with novel IT-based methods, replacing the good old yearly student questionnaire on goal-related factors. I propose an integration of the three aspects formative assessment, systemic quality assurance and in-depth project outcome review. This approach is based on my research recently published on an emotion based approach to assessing entrepreneurial education, published here.

These three ideas could hopefully inspire some people in Sundsvall. Here are my slides (Framtidsinspiration Sundsvall 140917 handouts) in Swedish from my talk. Please come back to me in seven years and I will tell you if they made it to the top!

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How our entrepreneurship students learn and how we can improve assessment of entrepreneurial learning

An intriguing master thesis was completed just before summer by one of our students at Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship, read it here. The student, Christoffer Kjernald, had taken a theory from my research and tested it on his classmates. He labeled it “the proxy theory”, and it basically says that activities can be used as a proxy for assessing development of entrepreneurial competencies. Instead of assessing the entrepreneurial competencies themselves which is very difficult, the assessment could focus on certain kinds of activities leading to the development of entrepreneurial competencies, such as meeting potential customers, presenting for investors, managing other master thesis students and searching for funding. The proxy theory is described in-depth in my dissertation here and in a published article here.

By interviewing 12 fellow classmates approaching the end of their education, Christoffer uncovered a list of 12 different kinds of activity that they stated to be important for their own learning at the entrepreneurship program. The two most important activities were working with the same group of people for a long time and meeting potential customers in an early phase. This is in line with my own research having found that interaction with the outside world and team-work experiences are two of the most important kinds of events leading to development of entrepreneurial competencies, see my dissertation here. He also furthers my research by specifying that different kinds of presentations to others generate different kinds of learning. Presenting in front of classmates generates different kinds of learning than presenting for potential customers. And presenting for potential investors generated a third kind of learning, different from the learning generated when presenting for classmates and customers. This implies that when we label student presentations as a teaching technique, we are describing it way too shallow. The audience and context are very important factors for which learning outcomes are generated among the students.

He further found that out of these 12 different kinds of activity, only five of them are explicitly assessed at our master program today. While we today are assessing if the students make cold calls, make school presentations and meet their idea providers, we do not assess whether they make customer presentations, search for funding, manage other master thesis students or take major decisions. As Christoffer points out it is perhaps not so easy assessing activities that are not experienced by all teams. It could also lower the motivation and engagement if students are not doing these activities on their own initiative, but as part of a formal assessment. Still, it is highly interesting to see that activitiy based assessment holds much further potential here at Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship. What does this imply for education programs where activity based assessment is not at all used today? Perhaps this is a straightforward and smooth way of increasing the level of entrepreneurial competencies being developed among students in many different kinds of education and age.

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Slides from Framtidsfrön study and from seminar Göteborgs Stad

Here are some slides from this week’s seminars. On Tuesday I presented a study I’ve done together with Framtidsfrön. The slides are in Swedish. Download them here: Presentation av resultat – förstudie Framtidsfrön 140520 – handouts On Thursday I held a full day workshop / seminar at ABF. The slides are in English. Download them here: Full day seminar in English – Göteborg – 140522 – handouts

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Slides from biomimetics conference

Tomorrow I am speaker at a conference focusing on biomimetics and interdisciplinary innovation. Here are my slides (in Swedish) from that conference: Gränsöverskridande innovation – Biomimetik 140328 – handouts

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Slides from Gothenburg and Sarpsborg

The last week I have presented my research on two occasions – in Gothenburg (GR Utbildning breakfast meeting) and in Sarpsborg (Norwegian conference on entrepreneurship in education). I promised to add my slides to this blog, and here they are: Presentation Sarpsborg 140226 – Handouts

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Some differences between problem-based learning and entrepreneurial learning

I often hear the statement or question whether entrepreneurial education (or EL – entrepreneurial learning – as it is called in Sweden despite being in an educational setting) is the same as problem-based learning (PBL). I thought I’d put down some major differences that I see now based on my newly published dissertation on the topic of developing entrepreneurial competencies (read it here). The most straightforward way to put it is to say that PBL is “learning by solving problems” while EL is “learning by creating value”. Solving problems can be done without involving any external parties outside the educational setting or containing authentic content whatsoever, whereas value creation requires someone outside the education that the value is created for and then naturally also requires some degree of authenticity. This makes EL way more connected to the outside world than PBL has ever been designed to be. It also means that EL can spur much higher levels of motivation, experienced relevancy and engagement than can PBL. In my own classification of action-based pedagogies, PBL ends up in the first level – “creation pedagogy” – easy to deliver but not so effective in terms of deep learning and student motivation -  while EL ends up in the other three categories, i.e. “value creation pedagogy”, “venture creation pedagogy” or “sustainable venture creation pedagogy” – more difficult to deliver but also more effective in terms of deep learning and student motivation. Read more about this in a separate blog post here.

There are probably more differences, please let me know what you think.

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