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.