Evaluation of an Innovative Approach to Teaching Entrepreneurship

By Sexton, Donald L.; Upton, Nancy Bowman | Journal of Small Business Management, January 1987 | Go to article overview

Evaluation of an Innovative Approach to Teaching Entrepreneurship


Sexton, Donald L., Upton, Nancy Bowman, Journal of Small Business Management


EVALUATION OF AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO TEACHING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The need for research into entrepreneurship education is well documented. Questions which consistently surface are: (a) Can entrepreneurship be taught? (b) What topics should be included? (C) How should the class be taught? Ronstadt has documented the relationship between education and entrepreneurial success, and many articles describe what should be taught, but little research has been done on how the material should be taught.

Some researchers believe psychological characteristics are unimportant in developing or strengthening entrepreneurship. As Stevenson notes, "the search for a psychological model [has not] proven useful in teaching or encouraging entrepreneurship." The present authors believe, however, that entrepreneurship educators must initiate change and not shirk "a responsibility they have to explore new directions and to do the most they can to develop a field that seems to be of greatly increasing importance to the economy and the nation." Consequently, they have structured a course and a delivery mechanism to appeal to the unique personality characteristics of the entrepreneurship student.

The idea of a course structure which reflects the student's psychological needs is not new. DeCarlo and Lyons suggested an educational system for entrepreneurs that "would be highly flexible and would reflect the individual entrepreneur's need for autnomy, independence, and freedom." Primary and secondary school teachers have long known that certain teaching behaviors are related to student achievement and learning gains. As Gage and Berliner note, "The characteristics and behaviors acquired by students before entering your class will surely affect what they are ready to learn and how they will learn it." the course structure reported here represents a significant departure from traditional classroom patterns, based on the author's belief that a new approach would result in a more effective entrepreneurship course.

BACKGROUND

The course structure was developed after review of a number of studies which isolated the unique personality factors of entrepreneurship students and a model of the teaching and learning process developed by Gage and Berliner (see figure 1).

This model requires the instructor to develop objectives based on the characteristics of the students before instruction. Before and during instruction, the teacher must apply both learning process concepts and motivational ones in accordance with the teaching methods chosen. Finally, after instruction, an evaluation is performed.

The authors tested 401 Baylor University undergraduates using a number of instruments, including the Jackson Personality Index (JPI) and the Personality Research Form-E (PRF-E). They compared the scores of entrepreneurship majors, business majors, and nonbusiness majors. Entrepreneurship majors (budding entreprenuers) differed significantly from nonbusiness majors on twenty scales, and from business majors (budding managers) on eight scales. Later studies utilizing a modified JPI/PRF-E found entrepreneurship students' scores to be significantly different from business students' on nine substantive scales. These scales were Autonomy (self-determined, undominated); Change (ability to adapt readily to changes in environment); Conformity (self reliance and independence); Energy LEvel (active and perservering); Harm Avoidance (little concern for physical harm); Interpersonal Affect (emotional aloofness); Risk-Taking (willingness to be exposed to situations with uncertain outcomes); Social Adroitness (subtlety and persuasiveness); and Succorance (low need for support or sympathy).

Based upon the study results, a profile of the entrepreneurship student was developed. They tend to be more autonomous than others, possessing a high degree of self-reliance and self-determination. They may also be more rebellious and unmanageable, depending on the restrictions inherent in the situation. …

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