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.


  1. Martin’s comments on Problem-based learning and Entrepreneurial learning are apposite. This has fascinated me for years. About 12 years ago, whilst doing my own PhD research on EL, I was also doing quite a lot of entrepreneurship teaching, and reviewing various approaches to teaching & learning. These included problem based learning, discovery learning, action learning, and a few more. I found that students tended to see problem-solving and PBL as emotionally rather negative and not an experience that motivated or inspired them. But by ‘flipping’ a problem as a source of opportunities, it changed their orientation. Students responded to creating, discovering, developing opportunities with creativity, curiosity, emotional engagement in quite a different way. From this insight the concept of ‘opportunity-centred learning – entrepreneurship’ developed. I went on to develop this as a practical teaching-learning approach which I still use today (it keeps changing through the reflexive interactions with learners-as-creators) and have just revised the book I wrote to share the latest ideas. I’m still fascinated!

    • Very interesting perspectives offered by David Rae. It reminds me a lot of Appreciative Inquiry:

      “Appreciative Inquiry focuses us on the positive aspects of our lives and leverages them to correct the negative. It’s the opposite of ‘problem-solving.”

      (White, T.H. Working in Interesting Times: Employee morale and business success in the information age. Vital Speeches of the Day, May 15, 1996, Vol XLII, No. 15.)


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