Multi-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship Clinic: Experiential Education in Theory and Practice
Robinson, Peter, Malach, Sandra, Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship
I hear and I forget I see and I remember I do and I understand --Confucius
Entrepreneurship is a complex set of activities that encompass a wide range of knowledge, behaviors, and motivations in the identification, evaluation and development of opportunities (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000). Developing entrepreneurs requires an equally complex set of activities to facilitate the acquisition and understanding of the requisite entrepreneurial abilities. Teaching entrepreneurship, then, requires a multi-dimensional and cross-disciplinary approach with an emphasis on dynamic processes that will exposes students to the complexity of entrepreneurial activities in such a way that their actions can be examined and understood relative to the context of their own entrepreneurial development.
Experiential education provides just such a set of activities for teaching complex concepts and activities. This paper provides a theory base for the development of effective experiential educational practices for entrepreneurship and then goes on to describe the implementation of that theory base through the use of clinicalbased education in business and law. Finally three cases are provided with reference back to the theoretical framework to illustrate the effectiveness of the outcomes of experiential education.
Robinson (1996) noted that current social science theorizing about the nature of personal characteristics has adopted the perspective of a dynamic interactive relationship between an individual and the environment. Mitchell and James (1989) describe this relationship as:
a new view that stresses the important attributes of people, their contexts, and their interactions. First the person is seen as fitting into an environment. Second, both the person and the environment change over time. Third, changes in the person can cause changes in the environment and changes in the environment can cause changes in people. Fourth, people are both active and reactive with respect to these changes. Fifth, people's views of their past and future influence whether they are active or reactive and how much or how little they change. Thus, what emerges is a human who is active psychologically and behaviorally, interacting in a dynamic way with a changing environment. For the person, there is both stability and change, there is [pro]active and reactive behavior, [and] there are abilities and acquired skills that merge (p. 147).
This paradigm of human environment interaction has strong implications for education and training where the objective is to go beyond rote learning. With a dynamic paradigm, learning becomes a process whereby knowledge and understanding (2) are created through the transformation of experience with a realistic environment. In education this is best achieved through actual performance of task relevant to the learning objectives (Specht and Sandlin, 1991). This model has been a standard in the field of medicine for hundreds of years. Students of medicine are expected to learn through the "practice" of medicine and this "practice" usually includes a clinical setting as part of the overall curricula. It also follows that learning entrepreneurship or law would be best accomplished through undertaking entrepreneurial activities or "practicing law" in a realistic environment.
The fundamental assumptions of experiential education embraces a wide variety of activities consistent with the dynamic person-environment interaction critical to achieve understanding and the kinds of learning discussed above. Crosby (1995) indicated that the assumptions underlying experiential education are more reliable than those underlying traditional theories of education. By this she means "that students educated according to these assumptions are better prepared to deal with the world than are students educated according to traditional epistemologies" (pp. …