Monday, November 27, 2017

Traditional vs. Progressive Education and the Role of Entrepreneurship

There is a continuing emphasis to promote entrepreneurism in education in order to prepare students for an uncertain future.  Take for example, the words of Founder and CEO of Startup Experience, Henrik Scheel in this 2016 TED Talk, , in which he professes that being an entrepreneur is not a choice in the lives of our students today and that the skills of adaptability and opportunity recognition are key to success in an unknown future.

In "Bridging the Traditional Progressive Education Rift through Entrepreneurship" by Lackeus et al, 2016, from the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior and Research, entrepreneurship is defined as using three tools of determination:  effectuation, customer development, and appreciative inquiry.  

As teachers, we can develop these tools to create an entrepreneurial atmosphere for learning.  First of all, Sarasvathy's concept of effectuation deals with looking at what surrounds us to help us solve a problem, looking at what we already have including resources and networks. 
Customer development is something done by teachers daily in trying to increase the learning potential of their students, striving to find ways to "market" learning and provide opportunities in various ways for students to see the value in their efforts.  Appreciative inquiry refers to teachers who seek out and recognize opportunities for advancing their knowledge and activities.

The authors go on to say that this brings about a new educational school of thought emphasizing the creation of value for others, a key component to entrepreneurism and a concept that could bring more entrepreneurial thought to the world of education.  

Generalizing itself to a larger population, this way of thinking goes beyond the narrow view of entrepreneurship as the means of starting a business to a way of approaching the learning and preparation of students, bringing about revolution in traditional education.  This necessary transition could be difficult when promoted in an environment that bases its success on measureable and results-driven teaching.  

The authors, then focus on five dualisms that they see as causing the rift between
traditional and progressive education practices:  1)simplicity vs. complexity, 2)individual vs. social, 3)content vs. practice, 4) detachment vs. engagement, and 5) theory vs. practice.

This basically presents itself as a subjectivism vs. objectivism battle within which teachers usually seem to "ride the fence" in the middle, tapping into new realms of entrepreneurial skillsets but keeping grounded into the aspects of traditional academia.  

#1 presents the simplicity of a traditional single-subject focus vs. a multi-disciplinary one that provides open inquiry and practice

#2 considers the cognitive learning of the individual learner and contrasts it to a focus on social interaction and a Vygotskiian view of students learning from the people and social contexts surrounding them

#3 questions the authenticity of learning products developed by students

#4 looks at the level of student interest in projects that are prescribed for them vs. projects based on student passions that naturally fold in aspects of formal learning to deepen it and make it more engaging and relevant

#5 considers thinking and doing in terms of student work and progress

In conclusion, the authors contend that a project-based curriculum developed with the tools of entrepreneurism:  effectuation, customer development, and appreciative inquiry can go a long way to settle the rift between traditional and progressive educational practices.  By implementing these practices in the hope to move from one side to the other in reference to the dualisms causing this rift, it is hoped that teachers can present students with the skills necessary to confidently face the uncertainty of the future. 

Gender and Academic Entrepreneurship

In  "Academic Entrepreneurship – Gendered Discourses and Ghettos," by Faltholm, et al, there is a discussion of gender as it fits into the world of entrepreneurship.  Specifically targeting women in higher education academic careers, the article refers to the female population as being part of an "entrepreneurship ghetto." In a male-dominated conceptualization of entrepreneurship, women are
seen as partaking in the activities, but not seen as part of the main contributors...more of a separate group of those practicing the components of entrepreneurship.

Other references were made to the "glass ceiling" of the corporate world that makes it more difficult for women to be seen as entrepreneurial; thus, leading to more outsourcing, women filling the roles of consultants which help to see them more as entrepreneurs in their career fields.

The "Daring Gender" project at Lulea University of Technology and Umea University that spanned from 2008-2012, aimed to "analyze, highlight, challenge, and in the long run, change prevailing gender patters on academic entrepreneurship," using Innovation funding from the Swedish government.

The study found that one of the issues with recognizing women as entrepreneurial in the academic setting is under-representation of women in the programs and concluded that if a university wants to "commercialize" and promote research results, men and women should have equal chances to do so.  In the effort to create this environment, however, appears the possibility of magnifying the issue by treating women as a special group and not part of the mainstream entrepreneurial community desired.  In order to promote sustainable change, there needs to be a restructuring of the mindset and organization of the place of work and research.

Also, there must be an emphasis to step back and recognize the issues that the promotion of academic entrepreneurship presents for academia itself.  In order to provide systematic change, there should be the ability to recognize and work with the problematic aspects of making changes to promote entrepreneurism in the academic world and accept those as part of the overall process.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Determining the Making of an Entrepreneur...

According to the article, "A Study of Predictors of Entrepreneurial Behavior," it is difficult to
pinpoint personality factors that indicate an entrepreneurial spirit.  In one study cited, a positive relationship was found between emotional intelligence and entrepreneurial orientation.  But that is not a solo determining factor.  The article also distinguishes between "necessity" entrepreneurs, driven to the idea of developing the self out of personal experience with poverty, lack of employment, or other factors and "opportunity" entrepreneurs who seek out situations in which they can start a professional cause or business.

In 1985, Gartner determined that entrepreneurs are a diverse group; in fact,  most studies have been unsuccessful in connecting personality traits, gender, age, or education to entrepreneurial thinking.  Some researchers tend to believe that one can develop entrepreneurial thinking based on what is happening around him or her in a social context.

Motivations suggested to thinking entrepreneurially included characteristics such as independence, achievement, and recognizing one's own creative talents.  Its seems, then, that there is a relevance to confidence in the process of becoming entrepreneurial, to knowing one's self and the reasons for one's actions and feeling qualified to make decisions for the future.  Still, there can be barriers such as finances, shortage of skills, institutional hindrances, and uncertainty of the future.

This brings me to thinking about teachers and entrepreneurial mindsets.  If we, in fact, are promoting that more students think entrepreneurially for a future that we cannot predict, it seems that teachers should be the role models in this process.

It is compelling to me to think that there are teachers out there who are "comfortable" with what they are teaching and who do not feel the desire to strive further in an effort to set a futuristic example of forward thinking, self-motivational learning, and risk-taking for their students and colleagues.  Teachers today have many resources surrounding them that could enable them to promote and practice the entrepreneurial process.  One example is the use of social media.  By participating in online communities and networking globally, teachers not only gain relevant and timely knowledge, but they set a precedent with their students that life-long learning and adaptability are part of the new game in education. the heart of this change in the habits and mindsets of teachers comes commitment to professional development and providing the training that produces practicing and confident individuals that we want shaping the lives of our students who face a future in which these skills are of the utmost importance.

Monday, November 20, 2017

What Matters Most...

When we consider looking at changes in the education system, we often turn our attention to our teachers.  After all, they are the direct change agents who work with our students, correct?

But time after time, as I see teachers eager and willing to make
the changes necessary to take students to the next level, they seem to be barricaded into a traditional system with no way out.  Wasn't it Pat Conroy who said, "A bad teacher will always have a job...a good teacher will always be in peril"?  Why is this so?  Don't we want teachers willing to think outside of the box and excite student learning?  Don't we want teachers who "push" the system to provide what is best for our clients?

I have seen many teachers who question our traditional system only to be labeled  "radicals" or someone who doesn't want to be a team player and has an alternative agenda.

Maybe it's time we started listening to these teachers.  They are the ones brave enough to put their thoughts on the line and try new things with students to get them to learn.  Think of the teachers in your past to whom you have felt like devoting your complete attention and effort.  Chances are, they were not the teachers who were imprisoned by a textbook but who found ways to create projects and activities to teach the same concepts and make learning fun and authentic.

Recently, I felt sad when a former student revealed to me that his fondest memory of my class was when he and some classmates created a modern car chase with hot wheels cars on video to depict the storyline of Julius Caesar.  My actual comment was, " THAT'S what you remember about my class?"  I was saddened to think that he had not remembered the times we read the play aloud in class, digging into the subtle meanings of the text, pondering individual mindsets and historical perspectives, and then...something hit me.  He understood the assignment's objectives...he got it...he is now a successful filmmaker...and a feeling of pride soon replaced sadness.

I always thought something was wrong with me.  I always came up with albeit silly ways for students to display their work and show me what they had learned.  Maybe I had it right all along!

Teachers...don't be afraid to be different.  A student's understanding of The Scarlet Letter doesn't have to come from a struggle to understand Hawthorne's vernacular, but can be shown with wearing a hand made letter around the school building and feeling different and judged.  They will GET the meaning and the point of the literature.  And what is wrong with that?  Absolutely nothing.

So, if you are a teacher who thinks creatively to come up with projects to help students to learn, keep it up.  Someday, somewhere we might see a change in just how students are educated and just how creative and successful they can be.  And...who knows...we might pick up a few students on the way who have never felt like school addressed their needs.  They might actually come to like school and take control of their own learning.