Experiential Entrepreneurship in the Classroom: Effects of Teaching Methods on Entrepreneurial Career Choice Intentions

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In recent years experiential courses have become increasingly popular. Yet to date very few studies have examined what the impact of these studies have on students' intentions to become an entrepreneur. This study examines the differences in various pedagogical approaches to entrepreneurship on career choice intentions. The study indicates that there are significant differences in these approaches' impact on entrepreneurship students' decision to become an entrepreneur and significant differences in whether the impact is positive or negative. Data was gathered from 98 students in a large Midwest University.

INTRODUCTION

While discussing entrepreneurship education, Donald F. Kuratko has stated that "unless students go to bed at night and feel their spines sweat, they [will] never know what it feels like to be an entrepreneur" (Kuratoko, 2003). While it may not be possible or necessary to have their students feel their spines sweat, many instructors have experienced the challenges of trying to convey the entrepreneurial experience in the classroom. Some have compared teaching entrepreneurship without the experiential process to teaching someone to swim without a pool. The fundamentals can be taught, but the individual will not really know what it's like to swim until the person dives into the pool and begins to swim. If one has only been taught on land, then they will not likely have much confidence in their attempt to swim. Similarly, many students are entering their careers with only the fundamentals that were taught on "dry land." In recent years, increasing numbers of universities have begun to add experiential based programs. While not all of these programs involve the actual creation of a new venture, many involve experiential activities such as networking, business plan creation and dialogue with other entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

This study addresses several research questions, among them: Do experientially based activities have a greater impact on decisions to become entrepreneurs and, second, is the impact positive or negative? Additionally, the study examines the relationship between items that impact on the decision to become an entrepreneur and if that impact is positive or negative.

Much of the early research in entrepreneurship examined traits and characteristics of the entrepreneur with the belief that there were some defining characteristics that could help identify and predict entrepreneurial success. The trait approach has been widely criticized because of the difficulty of trying to characterize homogenous personality traits of a heterogeneous group of individuals. Some have argued that entrepreneurship should be viewed as a process rather than a set of traits that define entrepreneurs. Gartner (1989) suggested that the process in which entrepreneurs engage is what makes them unique, articulating that even if someone has all the required entrepreneurial traits, the person may not become an entrepreneur. Gartner argued it is the start up of a new venture that makes someone an entrepreneur. If one were to apply the process view to education, then focus in the classroom should be on the steps individuals take in setting up a business such as networking and writing business plans. Recent surveys on the methods used in teaching entrepreneurship indicate that few actually go though the steps and processes required in starting a new venture. In other words, many entrepreneurship students seem to be learning by reading and listening, not doing.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP EDUCATION

It is widely argued that entrepreneurial education started in 1947 at Harvard University with a single course. In the mid-1980s, entrepreneurship became more popular with many programs offering entrepreneurship tracks and some majors for MBA and undergraduate students.

Much of the focus in entrepreneurship education has been on developing a business plan (Ronstadt, 1985), although many entrepreneurship courses include activities such as visits from experts, case studies and special projects related to the development of a business, including some limited hands-on approaches (Gorman, Hanlon, & King, 1997; Vesper & McMullan, 1988). …