Developing Entrepreneurial Competencies - An Action-Based Approach and Classification in Education
A question within entrepreneurial education that never seems to go out of fashion is “Can entrepreneurship be taught?”. To address this question, this thesis adopts the view that becoming entrepreneurial requires direct experience, and explores how learning-by-doing can be put to use in entrepreneurial education through action-based approaches. Action-based approaches are frequently advocated for but more seldom used due to cost-based and systemic challenges. The field lacks a theoretically grounded definition and classification of action-based entrepreneurial education, and conceptual discussions on the topic of learning-by-doing-what in entrepreneurial education are rare. Challenges to assess entrepreneurial education have also contributed to a dominance of cognitive approaches in entrepreneurial education, despite their inability to develop entrepreneurial competencies.
The main purpose of this thesis has been to increase our understanding of how action-based entrepreneurial education can develop entrepreneurial competencies. An empirical setting suitable for this purpose was identified, qualified and described through extensive study of various educational environments in Europe and United States. A two-year entrepreneurial education program in Sweden was found to constitute a “paradigmatic case” of action-based entrepreneurial education, defining a “venture creation approach” and justifying a single case study approach. Thirteen students from this program were studied in their two-year process of developing entrepreneurial competencies. They were studied using an interpretation framework for entrepreneurial competencies developed for the purpose, an experience sampling based “mobile app” and through quarterly interviews.
The study is still on-going, but analysis of empirical data has so far revealed 17 different kinds of events that could be linked to the development of entrepreneurial competencies. According to preliminary findings, some links are stronger than others, such as interaction with outside world leading to build-up of entrepreneurial self-efficacy, marketing skills and uncertainty tolerance. Based on this, four classes of activities that trigger such events have been proposed, constituting an attempt to establish a classification and definition of action-based entrepreneurial education. These four classes could help practitioners in action-based entrepreneurial education to compare different pedagogical approaches and subsequently decide on which activity to opt for in any given teaching situation. They could also help researchers focus more on relevant aspects of action-based entrepreneurial education, removing differentiation that is irrelevant for the purpose.
In order to explain how these four classes of activities develop entrepreneurial competencies, a causal relationship has been proposed to exist between the four classes of activity, the emotional events they trigger and the resulting development of entrepreneurial competencies. If such a causal relationship exists, it opens up for a new approach to assessment in entrepreneurial education, focusing on the frequency, strength and variety of emotional events of certain kinds. These events could thus be viewed as indirect proxies for developed entrepreneurial competencies, which is an educational outcome difficult to assess directly. In addition to the assessment implications of these findings, an “actionable knowledge” approach has been proposed, where a focus on human action / activity bridges between traditional teacher-centric and progressive learner-centric approaches to education. It could contribute with new perspectives in a century-long debate in general education impacting the domain of entrepreneurial education.
longitudinal case study