Can entrepreneurship be taught?
Yes in part...
The role of knowledge and 'explicit teaching' can be understood through a brief examination of a Caught-Taught-Brought model. In essence enterprise/entrepreneurship can be:
Caught from first-hand experience and environment (e.g. experiential learning)
Taught through imparting principles, processes and techniques (knowledge) relating to enterprising/entrepreneurial skills and understanding the context of their application
Brought by promoting the value of being enterprising and entrepreneurial
Acquiring knowledge about enterprise skills and their application is fundamental to becoming enterprising/entrepreneurial. Knowledge is needed in two areas:
Knowledge of the processes and techniques of the skills enhances effectiveness. For example knowing how to conduct a Forward Snowball significantly enhances a group’s capacity to generate ideas. Likewise, knowing the steps of classic problem-solving processes not only helps students to more effectively solve problems at hand but it also provides them with a tool for the future. In a way they have learnt both the ‘know-what’ and the ‘know-how’.
Understanding the context in which enterprise is to be applied is also important. For example, if people are to be entrepreneurial in a not-for-profit organisation, understanding the legal basis of such organisations is important. It is not suggested that students study a full range of economic contexts, but rather that they understand the distinguishing features of the contexts when they come across them.
TAUGHT - teaching knowledge
Interface of knowledge, skill and experience
It could be said that enterprise can be both Caught from immediate experience and Taught from ‘lessons’ (from the past). The question arises as to when it is better to teach knowledge. The learning situation and purpose should determine the sequence.
Before the experience
Teaching principles and processes of enterprise skills up front may enhance the learners’ ability to manage first-hand learning experience (e.g. a project) and thereby enhance the quality of the learning. However, teaching at the beginning may lack relevance and an authentic context – which may decrease the learning outcomes. Nevertheless, being better equipped at the beginning may be important in some situations, such as where the consequences of failure are high, e.g. waste of expensive resources.
After the experience
Teaching principles and processes after a first-hand experience (e.g. project) misses the opportunity to enhance the learner’s performance during the project. However the teaching will be able to build on the authentic context. Albeit where discovery learning is important, it may be better to ‘teach’ enterprise last.
Teaching principles and process of individual enterprise skills, before, during and after, has obvious advantages. Teaching during the experience is particularly valuable in a number of ways:
the relevance and need for the skills is apparent and immediate e.g. problem solving (also underscores the ‘buy-in’)
the context is authentic and nuances are more apparent, e.g. team conflict
the application demonstrates how the skills are intertwined and do not operate in isolation from one another, e.g. organisation and communication.
All these matters are intimately related to the role of reflection in enterprising learning.
The throughout approach includes 'teachable moments' ie opportunistic teaching
BROUGHT - motivation
Yet, this is not the complete picture. There remains the question of attitude, namely the willingness to both develop and use. Here people need to appreciate the value of being enterprising/entrepreneurial – the payoff. Young people especially need to ‘buy in’ to enterprise/entrepreneurial skills – something that can appear ephemeral needs to be made concrete. The term ‘brought’ can be used to describe this area. Experiencing the enjoyment and usefulness of being enterprising/entrepreneurial are the prime motivators.