In this brief report I will summarize my personal reflections from the 5th European Entrepreneurship Education Workshop, which took place April 21–22.
During the first day we listened to and discussed three interesting cases of entrepreneurship education. Two of the cases, Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship in Gothenburg and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, represent technological universities, and in those presentations Mats Lundqvist (Chalmers) and Roger Sørheim (NTNU) talked about their two-year master’s programmes. Both Mats and Roger emphasized the successful companies started by students during their programmes. This is interesting, because it shows us how easy it is to fall into the trap of talking about companies rather than about the individuals we educate. I realized that I do the same … When a new group of students start our master’s programme I really enjoy inviting a successful former student – successful in having managed to grow the venture he or she started during the programme. But what espoused values do I communicate by doing this?
From Mats we also learnt how they at Chalmers have managed to create a support system within the university structure – which Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship actually controls. Roger told us about how students on the master’s programme successfully coach and support students in entrepreneurship. Mats also emphasized the importance and value of networking between alumni and students currently on the program. He told us that several of their students actually get employed by actors in the support system which facilitates collaborations between their programme and the support system. From the workshop I did learn something about the cooperation taking place between entrepreneurship education and the support system – but I am fully convinced that we need to create far more “suspension bridges” between those two systems and both “systems” have to feel confident in what we can and should do. To carve out our different roles is a challenging task, but probably necessary.
The third case was Aarhus University, and Helle Neergaard shared with us what they do and lessons learned. Helle talked about how she has learned to act “under the radar”, that is to say, to take action that sometimes is not fully appreciated by the University. But by taking action she and her colleagues manage to create room for entrepreneurship. At Aarhus each faculty organizes its own activities supporting entrepreneurship. This implies that entrepreneurship becomes an island rather than something interdisciplinary. Acting under the radar, and entrepreneurship as isolated activities, are probably recognized by others too. I am sure there needs to be an ongoing discussion about why, as well as how, we educate in, about and for entrepreneurship.
It was an interesting and informative first day and we hope that you also feel that you learnt a lot.
The second day consisted of two workshops. The take-home message from these was that when we talk about entrepreneurship education we sometimes compare apples with pears – without really thinking about it. Giving a single course in entrepreneurship cannot really be compared with offering a whole programme in entrepreneurship. Further, it is one thing to engage in entrepreneurship education and quite another to engage in entrepreneurial learning. From lessons learned at Mälardalen University we heard that all courses, in no matter what subject, can benefit from adapting an entrepreneurial learning approach. And our Danish friends urged us to try to do research to show that by applying entrepreneurship learning in schools we might get better study results. Finally, something I will remember from the workshop introduced by Paula is that perhaps it is when the students have written their meta-reflections that the process begins – just when they graduate and leave us. How do we teach students to work with reflections – can we learn to do reflexive entrepreneurship education? And what should they actually reflect upon? Is it the components in the Business Model Canvas, is it entrepreneurship as a gendered concept, is it norms and ethics in the business community? Well, hopefully it is all of these. We also discussed how to teach students to become alert to ideas and whether and how we can use emotion when teaching entrepreneurship. In doing this, what are our responsibilities as educators?
In conclusion, the two-day workshop has given me plenty of food for thought in starting to plan for the EEEW 2017! I hope to see you then!