Academic journal article Trames

Learning for Entrepreneurship in Heterogeneous Groups: Experiences from an International, Interdisciplinary Higher Education Student Programme

Academic journal article Trames

Learning for Entrepreneurship in Heterogeneous Groups: Experiences from an International, Interdisciplinary Higher Education Student Programme

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Entrepreneurship education (EE) has gained popularity internationally (Katz 2003). Non-business higher education scholars are also increasingly acknowledging the added value of fostering entrepreneurial competence among students in light of new career paradigms and the need for lifelong learning (Nab et al. 2009). As a result, the number of courses, programmes, summer schools and positions in EE in Europe has grown rapidly (European Commission 2008). Nonetheless, European research shows that 1) European graduates have a poor opinion of higher education as a contributor to their entrepreneurial competence (Allen and Van der Velden 2009); 2) the traditional teaching methods used by teachers such as lectures, literature reviews and examinations only contribute to a limited extent to student learning for entrepreneurship (Gibb 2002); 3) teachers find it difficult to effectively introduce the elements of EE (McCoshan et al. 2010); and 4) EE is seldom a priority in teacher education programmes (European Commission 2011).

From a scholarly point of view, most of the scientific work on EE has drawn upon Ajzen's theory (1991) of planned behaviour with an EE focus on the stimulation of entrepreneurial intentions (Krueger et al. 2000). EE should stimulate the development of intentions to start a business, which can be further predicted by antecedents as perceived behavioural control, social norms and attitudes (Krueger et al. 2000). However, work carried out from this perspective reveals little information about the underlying learning processes which either foster or hinder entrepreneurial learning. Greater insight into such factors is necessary from not only a theoretical point of view, as research on EE is a relatively young endeavour (starting in the 1990s), but also from a practical point of view as the aforementioned European challenges with regard to EE need to be addressed.

In order to help narrow this gap, we summarize the experiences of a European Summer School (ESS), which had the aim of developing entrepreneurial competence on the part of international students from a variety of non-management and non-business backgrounds.

The ESS challenged students to articulate personal entrepreneurial goals and ambitions, translate these into entrepreneurial projects and share these with other students via a wide range of learning activities. In order to disentangle the specific factors associated with the learning processes elicited by this ESS, the following research question was posed: What factors are perceived by students to contribute to entrepreneurial learning within interdisciplinary, intercultural student groups? To answer the question, the daily reflections of 35 students on the ESS activities were analysed.

2. Theoretical perspective

One of the first challenges in EE is defining the focus (Fayolle and Gailly 2008). EE can be mainly about entrepreneurship, just like chemistry or psychology are mainly about chemistry and psychology, respectively. Learning about entrepreneurship may thus include economic theory, social capital theory and trait or personality theory. However, EE can also be about independent venturing and thus learning enterprising behaviour and learning for entrepreneurship (Honig 2004). EE can help or stimulate nascent entrepreneurs to further develop their intentions and work out their ideas into a full blown business concept, model or plan (Ardichvili et al. 2003). Finally, EE can also be seen in the light of so-called intrapreneurship (Antoncic and Hisrich 2003), i.e. being entrepreneurial within an existing organisation. This means having an eye for opportunities, being proactive, taking risks, being creative but also having sufficient self-regulation.

These perspectives have different learning foci and none of them provide an overarching learning theory or model which can be used to describe and understand learning within an EE context. …

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