Value Creation as Educational Practice - Towards a new Educational Philosophy grounded in Entrepreneurship?
Doctoral thesis, 2016
The role of entrepreneurship as a major engine for innovation, economic growth and job creation has made policymakers argue for infusing entrepreneurship into all levels of education. It is argued that citizens must develop their entrepreneurial skills in order to cope with our increasingly globalized, fast-paced and uncertain world. Making the leap of faith from entrepreneurship into education is however rife with challenges and failures. Most attempts have resulted in isolated initiatives impacting only a small number of interested students on higher levels of education. Common challenges to wider adoption are lack of definitional clarity around what exactly signifies “entrepreneurial” education, impeding organizational structures, lack of resources, assessment difficulties and fear of capitalism. To address these challenges, the purpose of this thesis is to articulate and qualify a tentatively new educational philosophy grounded in entrepreneurship, allowing teachers to use value creation as a stepping stone between entrepreneurship and education when attempting to infuse entrepreneurship into education.
An educational philosophy grounded in entrepreneurship has been defined in this thesis as letting students learn through creating value for others, giving teachers prescriptive advice on what, how and why issues in education. This is inherently entrepreneurial in its reliance on a widespread view of entrepreneurship as being about new value creation for others and constituted by a set of teachable entrepreneurial methods. The resulting process is rich with interaction between people and triggers a multitude of emotional learning events, allowing for more engaged students and deeper learning of entrepreneurial as well as subject specific knowledge, skills and attitudes.
The tentatively new educational philosophy proposed here was developed through an abductive five-year action research process of constant iterations between theory and practice. A total of nine empirical studies on all levels of education were drawn from, involving a few hundred primary, secondary, tertiary and continuing education teachers, around 2000 students and around 100 different educational institutions in three European countries. Two main action research cycles were conducted, each spanning 3-4 years in time. Theory from entrepreneurship and education guided the research, as well as theory from fields such as psychology, philosophy, anthropology, economics and methodology. A number of methodological developments were made in the research process, such as a new “proxy” theory of assessing entrepreneurial education, a mobile app based experience sampling informed interview technique and analytical frameworks for key emotional events and entrepreneurial competencies.
This is the first attempt that has been made to propose an educational philosophy grounded in entrepreneurship. Questions explored in order to qualify it included why educational philosophy is important when infusing entrepreneurship into education and what is new with an educational philosophy grounded in entrepreneurship. Compared to existing educational philosophies such as traditional, progressive and experiential education, it can contribute with a purposeful movement between often unconnected and opposing philosophical positions rather than being yet another flag on the philosophical playing field of education. Whether this makes it an entirely new educational philosophy or merely a novel combination of established ones remains to be determined.
Some important challenges and limitations with the proposed educational philosophy have emerged. It could be viewed as too excluding to view entrepreneurial education as being solely about education that includes value creation attempts. Asking students to focus on knowledge that can be useful for others could also be viewed as an overly utilitarian emphasis. The interdisciplinary challenge of bridging the two very different scholarly fields of education and entrepreneurship was also shown to be significant. It remains to be seen whether value creation as a stepping stone will allow scholars and practitioners to keep their feet dry when attempting to infuse entrepreneurship into education.