Entrepreneurial learning

If schools and educators want to promote entrepreneurial thinking and action its students who need to be in the driver’s seat. That’s one of the findings from a year-long Australian initiative. 

Researchers also found students wanted teachers to step back rather than sit back and ‘best acquired entrepreneurial-mindedness when they collaborated regularly with their teachers or other adults, and had an authentic audience (often in cross-age settings)’.

The trial and research project was led by Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, New South Wales Secondary Principals’ Council and Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals. The collaborative initiative involved 21 government secondary schools in New South Wales and Victoria using entrepreneurial learning principles developed by Professor Yong Zhao, who also acted as a critical mentor. It was completed in May 2017.

A Mitchell Institute report Paradigm Shifters: entrepreneurial learning in schools detailing the findings and impact, notes a growing workforce demand for graduates with skills and capabilities such as creativity, critical thinking, advanced problem-solving, collaboration and communication.

Year 7-12 students were the key partners in the trial approach. Students started the ball rolling by identifying an issue or problem they wanted to do something about. Working with teachers, they put together school action teams of between four and 20 students to research and co-design solutions. Teams from different schools shared their solution ‘prototypes’ at learning days – discussing and testing out their ideas and using feedback to move forward. At the end of the trial, a network learning showcase and celebration was held.

Benefits reported by students who participated in the trial included increased confidence, greater resilience, stronger collaboration skills and improved empathy. The research suggests entrepreneurial learning can be adapted to fit school’s local contexts, needs, strategic priorities and student cohorts.

The Mitchell Institute report includes ‘do and don’t advice’ from students to help schools increase entrepreneurial thinking and acting. Advice to fellow students includes: Go in with an open mind; Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone as much as you can; Accept things might not go smoothly – it’s okay to make mistakes; and Embrace working with students above and below you in years.

Student advice to teachers includes: Trust us; Recognise that everyone is smart and talented in different ways; Let us be in the driver’s seat, put more control in our hands, step back, let go; Give us a chance to surprise you, to show you what we are capable of; and Remember these are student not teacher projects.

References:
Anderson, M., Hinz, B. & Matus, H. (2017). The Paradigm Shifters: Entrepreneurial Learning in Schools. Mitchell Institute Report No. 04/2017. Mitchell Institute, Melbourne.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au