I may be one of the least fluffy fluff teachers you’ll ever meet. My background as an IT geek, programmer and engineer has made me allergic to fluff. I’ve long been on the hunt for the perfect educational algorithm. An impossible and naive mission, of course. But along the way, I’ve come up with a variety of practical tools to help teachers navigate through fancy phrases, loose talk and fuzzy approaches. I thought I’d tell you about some of them in this chapter. They help to simplify what is often otherwise a rather complicated action-based and student-centred learning process.
First, a pedagogical planning form is presented, which has become very popular among teachers. Having exposed thousands of teachers to the form, I know for a fact that this is the case. Then comes an eight-legged spider diagram, which helps teachers evaluate whether their intended design covers important aspects. Next come three practical tools that can be used in idea generation workshops with both teachers and students – the opportunity map, the canvas and the pitch template. Use them in small groups and in sequence and you will have a first draft of an idea. These three tools all have their theoretical roots in entrepreneurship, but please don’t say it out loud. Then some might get the idea that it’s all about making money.
Then we come to glamour. Our research team at Chalmers has developed a brilliant diamond model that provides guidance on what it means to be “entrepreneurial” – that uncrowned queen of flummery to words. The chapter continues with the entrepreneurial toolkit, in the form of some advice and recommendations from leading researchers and practitioners in the field of entrepreneurship. I’ve washed away all the business words, which is important for this advice to work well in schools.
The last part of this chapter is a short introduction to an approach to strengthened scholarship among teachers working with value creation pedagogy as a focus in school development, as well as some thoughts on various IT tools that can facilitate the value-creation teacher’s everyday life. One of them went by the early working name of the fluff killer. We conclude with some wise words from teacher educator Katarina Ellborg at Linnaeus University. She usually gets good feedback from teachers on in-service training when she asks them to draw up a pedagogical plan.
The form in Figures 6.1a and 6.1b (download the form as a Word document here) has been a popular practical exercise among teachers who have just been introduced to ideas about value creation pedagogy. It helps them to think carefully about their planning of value-added activities for students. The different questions make visible what a value-creating activity might mean for students. It also focuses on key issues such as student participation in planning, possible beneficiaries of value creation, assessment strategies and links to curriculum requirements. The various fields that are expected to be filled in make the form difficult to complete without creatively engaging with the idea of allowing students to learn by creating value for others. Teachers usually like to have around 20 minutes to complete the form.
The spider diagram
On the back of the planning form there is a spider diagram that each teacher fills in graphically by answering eight control questions, see Figure 6.1b. The eight legs of the spider represent a kind of self-assessment for teachers. What then often happens is that many teachers realise that perhaps they could have thought a little differently in their educational planning. Two teachers reflected as follows:
So why do the spider’s legs look the way they do? Well, the two horizontal legs represent the “waist” of the diagram and represent two of the three basic principles of value creation pedagogy – trying to create value for others and personal interaction with other people in the world . Therefore, the horizontal line is drawn thicker. We want to see a wide waist when the spider diagram is filled in and coloured.
The top and bottom of the spider diagram are taken from the phenomenon’s roots in entrepreneurship. The process should ideally be characterised by a strong sense of emotional ownership of the process by the students themselves and by repetitive elements where students are allowed to try to succeed over and over again .
The two diagonal lines are linked to the third basic principle of fine-grained mix of value creation and learning. How such a mix is achieved can be inspired by research on action-based learning. Learning becomes particularly strong when students undergo emotionally challenging processes, perhaps even failures. Learning is enhanced when students are allowed to work closely together – cooperatively – in close-knit teams. Students also need ongoing activity-based feedback and formative assessment to reinforce learning. In addition, there should always be clear links to subject knowledge and skills.
I think the spider diagram is a much-needed fluff killer. The teacher who brings all eight legs of the spider into his or her teaching can be fairly confident of capturing the otherwise elusive but highly effective entrepreneurial learning. Especially if that all-important waist is wide. Which is a bit ironic, since spiders’ waists – their so-called pedicel – are otherwise usually narrow. A rule of thumb might be something like: fat spiders make for happy students who learn a lot. At the same time, not everything teachers do needs to get high marks on all the spider’s legs. It is probably more realistic to combine many different activities that all have fairly wide waistlines and that together satisfy the eight legs of the spider over the course of an entire school year.
The opportunity map
Starting up work on creating value for others is best based on each student’s own strengths and interests. Creating value for others tends to be more fun and successful when students are allowed to start from what they are passionate about or good at.
One way to get started is to have students fill in the Opportunity Map, see Figure 6.2. Print it out on paper, use small 4 × 5 cm post-it notes and let students silently inventory their strengths and interests for 5-10 minutes. Attach each completed post-it note to the paper, or write directly on the paper. Most people will have quite a few notes. Several students can also share the same paper, perhaps with different colours on the post-it notes. In this case, the opportunity map may need to be printed in A3 format to fit everything. With several students sharing each piece of paper, it is easier to see the links between the interests and strengths of different students in the group. The Opportunity Map originates from the theory of entrepreneurial effectuation, developed by researcher Saras Sarasvathy.
On the Interests & Passions piece, students try to write down three to five things they are really passionate about. These could be hobbies such as handball or dance, interests related to school or other work, or issues of the heart such as the environment, justice and health. Knowledge & Skills can be about things learnt at school, through work or clubs, or from other experiences. It can also be about things that are part of the course or subject that students are currently working on. Resources can be physical assets such as a mobile phone, computer, car, boat or bicycle, or perhaps a party room or sports facility that the student has access to. Contacts are about people they know who they can involve in some initiative in some way. People who can help in the students’ attempts to create value for others. Experiences may be lessons learned from school, work, hobbies, volunteer work or in other ways earlier in life.
When self-inventory is done in silence, it is time to come up with an idea for something worthwhile to do as a group. This is a creative step, and it involves the group moving from the opportunity map’s all self-centred post-it notes to a concrete and shared idea of a value proposition for others. Feel free to use post-it notes here as well, and attach them to a printed version of the canvas shown in Figure 6.3. A room with many groups tends to be full of creative buzz here. Time pressure may be needed to get students to move from loose talk to deciding on a concrete idea. I usually give the groups about 15 minutes. Ideally, the group’s idea is rooted in the complementary strengths and interests of several or all of the group members. Then there is a good base to stand on in the continuing journey, which can make it both emotional, personal and deeply engaging.
Value-creating ideas based solely on one’s own strengths and interests may risk overshadowing knowledge requirements and learning outcomes. In working with the canvas, the teacher may therefore need to clarify the framework. Perhaps every idea about creating value for others should have an element of history, religion or some other subject now being addressed? Combining one’s own strengths and interests with a predetermined area of knowledge is usually more successful than one might think. The level of ideas and innovation may even be higher than otherwise. Imagine religious football, horseback riding history or bakery chemistry.
The pitch template
The third and final step in the idea development process is to create a pitch for the value proposition that took shape with the help of the canvas. A pitch is a verbal and extremely brief presentation of what is to be offered to the intended recipient of value. One purpose of the pitch is to convince the listener of the excellence of what is being offered, in order to get a yes to collaboration or perhaps even purchase. Another purpose is to test your idea. If the reaction is lukewarm among many, the group may need to rethink its value proposition. In the beginning, it is probably more the rule than the exception that many changes and additions are required. The group may even need to restart from scratch.
Have students use the pitch template in Figure 6.4 below and write down the group’s pitch. A good pitch should be concise, oral, fun, engaging and ideally take no more than a minute to deliver. People’s attention is in short supply, so a good pitch needs to be delivered in a way that is both time-efficient and impactful. Each group’s pitch can be delivered in front of everyone in the room if participants are brave or know each other well. Each group then appoints one person to deliver the pitch. Before the pitch, it is a good idea to have the group describe the intended recipient so that everyone listening knows who the pitch is aimed at.
I’ve found that all three steps – the opportunity map, the canvas and the pitch – get a little more edgy and emotional if all participants know from the start that their group will be presenting their group’s pitch to all participants at the end. The work then feels a bit more real, and the nervousness makes the process more exciting, even a bit scary. Time pressure also creates focus. I usually run all three steps in around half an hour, including the pitches which take a minute per group. When a minute has passed, I usually make a discreet sound, by using a triangle bell. This usually elicits laughter from the participants and a little anxiety from the pitcher.
The pitch template can also be used at other times when an idea for a value proposition is to be presented to an intended recipient of value. It can become a useful tool in everyday life. After a while, it will become part of your spinal cord and no longer needs to be written down. This is the case with many entrepreneurial tools – they are a kind of beginner’s aid that are then not needed when students become experienced value creators. Just as the driving licence book is never read by experienced car drivers.
The Diamond model
Now a little longer on what it means to be entrepreneurial, because I believe that clarity and insight on this issue is an important tool for value-creating teachers.
As I write this section, it is exactly twelve years to the day since I started researching how we make people more entrepreneurial. For me as a researcher, these twelve years have consisted of four different triennial phases of entrepreneurial education – disengaged, bulldozed, crashed and resurrected. In October 2009, I stepped into a new world for me that no one seemed to care about. Entrepreneurship and education seemed to be two separate phenomena that didn’t want to know about each other. The no-man’s land in between was a kind of giveaway no one wanted. Other researchers in entrepreneurship told me to forget about that sad area no one could publish their work in. When my favourite researcher Paula Kyrö was about to present a paper at a conference in the US, almost everyone left the room. Except for me, who just sat there and enjoyed it.
In the following three years, all this changed for me unexpectedly. I stumbled into the Swedish school hype about entrepreneurial learning. It reached its peak around 2014, three years after the new national curriculum Lgr11 that emphasised entrepreneurship in schools. Everyone in the schools seemed to be wondering how that entrepreneurial learning was going to happen. Many wanted to give their clever explanation to the didactical questions what, how and why. Educational researchers as well as consultants. As a researcher, I launched several studies during this boom to try to find sensible answers. However, when we were done collecting all the data at the end of 2016, the crash came. After five years of fluff, teachers had grown tired of all the talk about entrepreneurial approaches and other fluff. Conservative forces had also successfully pushed Swedish schools into an increasingly authoritarian direction. As we began to see more clearly what was really working in the field, the number of people who cared shrank to near zero. I found my area of research to have been lost again. The only time any outsider took a genuine interest in the field was when the radio or the newspaper asked why entrepreneurship in schools disappeared so suddenly.
Somewhere around 2018, the frustration for me as a researcher was probably at its highest. We were using something that was working extremely well, we could see this in our collected research data, but nobody in the schools was interested in any e-words anymore. But why fight the school windmills, I finally thought, and took my constant armourer on school issues Carin Sävetun with me and started researching other things.
But as I sum up my first twelve years as a researcher, I realise that the last three years have actually been devoted to developing a clear and concrete alternative to all the frustrating misconceptions and narrow perspectives on being entrepreneurial that have plagued the field for so long. Because this is how it is:
- No, it’s not about starting a business or making a lot of money, it’s a relatively uninteresting side effect that sometimes occurs.
- No, asking teachers and students to “see opportunities” or adopt an entrepreneurial “approach” does not work, it is dismissed by teachers as fluff.
- No, teachers are not significantly helped by long lists of entrepreneurial competences, except for what they should write as learning outcomes in their plans.
- No, letting students sit and be “creative” and build cardboard space rockets has almost no effect whatsoever. 
But instead of admiring my nice sacrificial cardigan (well, it was probably on for a while), I sat down one spring day in 2018 with my research colleagues Karen and Mats at Chalmers and cobbled together a model of what we saw this was actually about. Negative emotions helped us focus our work, and we eventually drew up a diamond model which was later published by the European Commission (se Lackéus et al., 2020). If you ask me today what it means to be entrepreneurial, that model will be my answer, see figure 6.5. The model can probably be a useful tool in value creation pedagogy.
Being entrepreneurial is about constantly balancing between the four corners of the diamond in a non-linear four-step process that is constantly ongoing.
The first step starts at the bottom of the diamond with taking action from the heart. What are you frustrated about? What do you want to spend time on in a busy day? What new ideas do you dare to stand for? What risks are you willing to take? Because if you don’t care, why should others?
The second step is about imagining something new. This is not a solitary task for inventors, but requires constant dialogue. With the group, with potential beneficiaries of value, with experts, friends, neighbours, indeed with almost anyone. What is possible? What would be required? What can we try? What would you think of …? What would it take to …? A great idea for something new is not the starting point of the process, as many believe, but the result of a large number of open-minded dialogues over time with other people.
The third step is the concrete attempt to help someone else in a new way, on a small scale and in a relational way. It requires empathy, sensitivity, humility and an ability to put the needs of others first. But it also requires careful planning, resources and perhaps a prototype – which may be a simple brochure. Some in the group also need to sell the idea to outsiders about doing something together, making the first pitch to those who didn’t expect to be helped. This is where the pitch template comes in handy. Often the answer is no thanks, which is perfectly normal.
In the fourth step, the learning is collected after the experiment. Three kinds of learning need to take place based on thoughts, actions and feelings. Thought-based learning in the classroom involves seeking information, making phone calls, engaging in dialogue, writing down insights in plans and analysing the situation. Action-based learning often takes place outside the classroom or school – meetings, exhibitions, experiments and networking. Emotion-based learning can happen anywhere, and is about those crucial moments of presenting to others, receiving criticism, being struck by a decision, gaining a deep insight in the middle of a sleepless night. In short, moments of success as well as failure. Learning is about the process, the value proposition and the self. These emotional experiences build our capacity to handle uncertainty, persevere, deal with adversity, build relationships and understand ourselves a little better.
After step four, it all starts again. And again and again. In our report to the European Commission we have described in great detail how the diamond model can be used by entrepreneurial employees in any organisation. Perhaps one day there will be a version of this report for teachers and students in schools as well. But I haven’t quite figured out yet how teachers can use the diamond model in their everyday work with students. However, I use it myself in everything I do. For example, this book was written entirely from the four steps of the Diamond Model:
- Action from the heart. The book was written in frustration at how many students never get to experience a deeply meaningful school, my own children included.
- Imagine something new. Everything new in the book came about through twelve years of dialogue with thousands of people in and out of school.
- Creating value for others. The book represents my attempt to create some tangible value for you, the reader.
- Collect learning. In time, I will learn more about whether my attempt was successful, and if so, how successful it was, via a number of emotional moments for me where we might even meet and I will hear about your experience of reading my book.
The Entrepreneurial Toolbox
Everyday work for entrepreneurial people is about moving between learning for themselves and creating value for others. Back and forth between the left and right corners of the diamond model. There are plenty of suggestions for how that pendulum movement might happen. My colleague Yashar Mansoori at Chalmers University of Technology who is researching this calls them entrepreneurial methods. 
I myself am very fascinated by these methods and their recommendations, and collectively call them the entrepreneurial toolbox. Each method is a small microcosm in itself, with a few mostly American prophets and lots of followers globally. The methods are rarely challenged, which is a problem in itself. But they have a lot of interesting and sensible advice to offer. The most widespread methods – Lean Startup, Customer Development, Design Thinking, Appreciative Inquiry and Effectuation – are each used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, perhaps even more. Search for them and you’ll find a sea of information.
But I didn’t intend my book to be too thick. So I wasn’t going to go through the methods one by one here. If you want to read more about them, you can always download a paper I did for the OECD a few years ago, with short reviews of the relevance of the methods in education (se Lackéus 2015, s. 29–32). There are also shelves of literature written about these methods by many others. A few writings are also critical.
More interesting here is what the methods recommend in practical terms, and how this advice can be applied in schools. Figure 6.6 therefore provides a summary of what students might be allowed to do, sorted according to the eight dimensions of the spider diagram.
I don’t yet know exactly when or how the entrepreneurial toolbox can be used in schools. It would need to be researched in more detail. But one thing that is clear is that all the business words in the original texts of the methods need to be washed away. They prevent teachers and students in schools from being able to apply the methods. Now, entrepreneurship is a field of business and money, so the language is expected. But more and more people are noticing that these methods are useful far beyond the world of business. Perhaps the recommendations in Figure 6.6 even capture something deeply fundamental about how we humans have created, socialized and invented our way over millions of years to a superior first place in evolution’s constant life-and-death competition for resources, existence and survival among species.
Value-creating science: Designed Action Sampling (DAS)
It is difficult for new pedagogical ideas to take hold in schools. All the lectures, workshops and training days on value creation pedagogy that I have been involved in over the years have left rather modest traces. My colleague Christer Westlund warned me early on about the risk of turning into a travelling entertainer in schools. Of course, it’s great to meet teachers around Sweden and discuss the positive effects we’ve seen on students. Many teachers really like the idea of value-creating students. But unfortunately, such meetings rarely lead to students having a more meaningful day at school. After an inspiring break, most teachers return to a stressful workday with little space to test new ideas whose effects are not followed up anyway. Nor have we been good at writing up our research findings in forms that work for teachers. Perhaps this book can change that, we’ll see.
The frustration of all my failures made me take action from the heart and try to create a whole new way of working with school development. I dropped the idea of value-creating students and instead, together with colleagues Christer Westlund and Carin Sävetun, started helping schools with whatever pedagogical idea they were working on at the time. Christer and Carin shared my frustration in the depths of their hearts, so we joined forces.
The result, after much agonising and even more failures, was a new scientific method that finally proved to work really well in schools. Today, the method is used by many thousands of teachers and head teachers across Sweden. We named the method Designed ACtion Sampling. In 2020, I wrote a book about the method – The Scientific Teacher. It describes everything thoroughly, so I won’t get long-winded here. But briefly, the method is based on a three-step working process:
- Research leaders choose focus (Design). First, the research leader at the school (often one or more lead teachers) designs a number of action-oriented missions to his/her teaching colleagues, the implementation of which will hopefully create value for students.
- All teachers test in the classroom (Action). Then many teachers in the school take action and try out the missions together in practice, each teacher in his or her own classroom with his or her students, reflecting in writing afterwards in a simple form, and receiving written feedback from the research supervisor (often a teacher, as I said) and sometimes from their school leader.
- Everyone analyses the outcome together (Sampling). Finally, everyone in the school analyses the teachers’ written reflections together, as well as the written feedback they received, in anonymous form, and then revise the missions so that they might work better next time. Then it starts all over again.
Perhaps this new method is difficult to understand or distinguish on the basis of this summary description alone. It would be strange otherwise. After all, there was a reason I needed to write a whole book about the method. My first two books are actually siblings, even pseudo-twins. Similar front pages and titles show that they belong together. First came a book about a new scientific method, then a year later this book about a new pedagogical idea. Each book took about nine months to write.
My hope is that more and more schools will now have sibling love. Because I think the two books could use each other. A new pedagogical idea needs to be tested systematically in a scientific way that works practically in schools and gets everyone on the journey. Designed Action Sampling is thus an important tool for teachers who want to work systematically and scientifically with value creation pedagogy in their schools. One day I may have cause to write a third book about what happened when the siblings were allowed to work together. A trilogy. In the epilogue, I’ll talk more about how we could take the work further in a more practical way through the two siblings.
IT support for the value-creating teacher
Some teachers take a critical approach to IT and have a low level of trust in IT vendors. However, in order to work time-efficiently with value creation pedagogy, IT is still needed in various forms. I have seen many examples of how IT tools make value creation pedagogy so much better for everyone involved. Students can communicate digitally with each other and with the outside world. Teachers can communicate digitally with students, manage the complexity of students’ interactions with the world and assess students’ value-creation based learning more easily. School leaders can digitally follow the journey of teachers.
Let me give you some examples. I won’t mention specific platforms or vendors, that would just make the book age unnecessarily fast. The IT market changes all the time. Value-creation teachers need to keep up to date with what is happening in the IT field, it is part of the profession.
I have seen teachers use IT support to allow students to learn a foreign language with native speakers. I have met teachers who routinely use digital word clouds in the ideation process as students brainstorm new ways to create value for others. I know many teachers who use IT support to monitor students when they are out in the world creating value, for example at a workplace as part of an internship. They may write a digital logbook, report their attendance and take photos and videos of their work which are then used in teaching when they return to school. Teachers also use IT support to collect reflections from value-creating learners in a confidential way about their emotionally powerful experiences, and then give them personalised feedback. IT support is also used more generally to save time in formative assessment and peer assessment of value creation pedagogy.
There are many more examples. The lesson is that IT support is an indispensable part of the value-creating teacher’s toolkit. The progression model in Chapter 2 also shows that IT support is particularly important for assessment and student dialogue in large value-creation projects. We will return to this in Chapter 8 on assessment.
The pedagogical plan
One way to think something through properly is to write it down. When we put our thoughts on paper for others to read, we also see more clearly what we mean ourselves. Therefore, it can be a good idea to write down your ideas about how you want to work with value creation pedagogy during a school year in a plan. Especially if many teachers are involved. Writing a pedagogical plan can be a way for the team to create participation, invite each other into the thinking process and explain the details of what, how and why in a clearer way. It can also be a way to anchor their plans with school leaders.
Together with teacher trainer Katarina Ellborg, I have been working with practising teachers in the framework of a course at Linnaeus University called Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Learning. The course is given every two years and includes value creation pedagogy as one of several perspectives. Every time I read the participants’ reflections, I am struck by how positively teachers experience the process of making a pedagogical plan.
A plan can be short or long. It can be written as a Word document or as a PowerPoint presentation, or both. It can include headings such as:
- What do we want to do? Concrete activities? Effects we want to achieve?
- How do we do it? Tools and methods? Assessment? Division of labour and timetable?
- Why do we want to work like this? Goals, purpose, vision? Scientific basis? What problems are we solving?
- How do we link our plans to the curriculum documents? In which subjects?
- How do we evaluate our work afterwards? How do we know if we have succeeded?
The points above are certainly similar to the headings of the planning form, but here it is more a question of going into more depth and writing running text in a document that is worked on over several weeks and in which many people participate.
Writing a pedagogical plan can be usefully combined with the scientific method of Designed Action Sampling. In this method, teachers first formulate concrete action-oriented missions for each other, which are written down in a specific section of the pedagogical plan. These missions are then acted upon in the classroom and followed by written individual reflection among the teachers on each completed mission. Students can also reflect on what they have learned. This more structured approach allows for a strengthened peer analysis at team level of observed effects on students, thus making visible the school’s proven experience in value creation pedagogy. The collected reflections from teachers and students can also help to strengthen the scientific evidence for different approaches to value creation pedagogy.
 Read more about how tools simplify in Lackéus, Lundqvist and Williams Middleton (2016).
 The theoretical basis of the spider diagram is also described in Lackéus and Sävetun (2019a, s. 42–43).
 See Bruyat and Julien (2001).
 See Goss (2005) and Sarasvathy and Venkataraman (2011).
 See Cope and Watts (2000) and Rae (2005).
 See Mansoori (2018) and Mansoori and Lackéus (2019).
 See Jarvis (2006) and Roberts (2012).
 See Cuban (2007), Tynjälä (1999) and Fohlin et al. (2017).
 See Black and Wiliam (1998) and Hodges, Eames and Coll (2014).
 See Kirschner, Sweller and Clark (2006) and Rosenshine (2009).
 Read more in Read et al. (2016).
 See, for example, reports in Utbildningsradion (2019) where in the introduction they ask “What became of this initiative? Who talks about entrepreneurship in schools today? “.
 See Bacigalupo et al. (2016).
 See Lackéus and Sävetun (2019a).
 See Lackéus et al. (2020).
 See Mansoori (2018) and Mansoori and Lackéus (2019).
 For a summary, see York and York (2019).
 See for example Sarasvathy and Venkataraman (2011).