Why are we, by and large, offering entrepreneurship courses only at the undergraduate level, and then, only to business or marketing majors?

The Kaufman foundation published The  National Survey of Entrepreneurship Education report in 2014 concluding that most post-secondary entrepreneurship programs fall into undergraduate business majors or MBA-level courses and are largely prescriptive in nature providing students a set of concrete skills that are not transferrable to all occupations or fields.

Aren’t the skills and mindsets of an entrepreneur something all students exposure  to?   Gone are the days of the “traditional” employee with security and a pension.  Just put in your 30 years and presto!  Retirement.   Entrepreneurship and the mindsets that go with it should be incorporated into all careers, professions, and studies (from primary grades on).  Some of these mindsets include:

  1. Knowing how to see the bigger picture and not becoming complacent  An entrepreneurial mindset involves understanding that things may not always stay the same.  Being able to deal with change and the changing environment is essential.
  2. The ability to think freely and look beyond the moment. Someone with an entrepreneurial mindset is ever-vigilant looking for better ways to do things and never missing an opportunity.
  3. The ability and willingness to tackle problems that arise. Instead of shrinking from a challenge, the entrepreneurial-minded welcome a challenge, and look for more efficient ways of solving problems.  Incidentally, this is an inherent trait of the Growth Mindset popularized by Dr. Carol Dweck and largely embraced by the academic community.
  4. The willingness to fail and the understanding that failure doesn’t always mean you failed. Knowing how something doesn’t work is almost as valuable as knowing how it does work.
  5. An abandonment of the employee or “worker bee” mindset offering steady paychecks and a long-term payoff….Of course, as mentioned before, this rarely exists these days. More common is a layoff and loss of some, if not all, of your employee retirement benefits.
  6. Entrepreneurs are willing to keep going, not abandoning dreams or ideas, instead, consistently refining them until they work.

Essentially, all of these skills can be taught.  An Entrepreneur doesn’t start out that way, he/she learns from his/her collective experiences that may begin as early as Kindergarten.  We can teach this mindset and encourage this way and level of thinking.  We should bring entrepreneurship education to students the way we are pushing STEM fields and we should teach  it as such.

Programs at the college level are not the beginning.  We must start early to educate students at all levels, which is the aim of the America’s Entrepreneurial Schools Initiative.  However, if we just take a look at the landscape of post-secondary programs according to the Kaufman report, we are leaving a huge segment of the student population out.

Who needs to have an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

It can be argued that an entrepreneurial mindset, should be addressed to all students at an early age.  Whether someone wishes to go out and start a business, create a disruptive technology, or go to work for an employer, those skills are powerful skills and can complement any field.

Even when we talk about STEM fields and other high-wage, high-demand jobs, we are leaving out Entrepreneurship as the vehicle for STEM education.  Read more about this here.  This mindset can help all industries. The entrepreneurial mindset transcends a singular business course and even the ability to write a business plan or use a specific marketing strategy.  Someone with the mindset has the ability to think bigger and see globally combined with the wherewithal to put a team together covering all bases, balancing strengths and weaknesses.  There is not one path to entrepreneurship, there are many ways someone can be and think like an entrepreneur.  It is more about building a life one loves and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise.  The ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape, notice when things are becoming outdated, and take chances on new opportunities can provide success no matter the occupation.

How to Teach Entrepreneurship?

So, how does one teach entrepreneurship?  Well, you cannot.  However, you can incorporate things that will build the entrepreneurial mindset and spirit in students from kindergarten through college.

  1. Authentic learning experiences are key. What do your students identify with?  What do they know?  What do they want to know?  How can you build an authentic experience out of this?
  2. Provide opportunities for students to be creative and stretch or challenge thinking. Put them in situations where they have to be creative, where there is not just one right answer to a problem.
  3. Give them teaming and leadership opportunities. Create situations where they are working with a variety of personalities – easier said than done, I realize.
  4. Give students space and license to try new things or ideas. You can actually still teach your curriculum and content and find ways to provide this freedom.  Again, easier said than done, but with some creative brainstorming, it can happen.
  5. Incorporate experimentation (i.e. failure), play, empathy and reflection into any aspect of your curriculum. These are foundational attributes of entrepreneurs.
  6. Allow student to be curious.

If you would like more idea starters on where to incorporate entrepreneurial skills into your content, check out our crosswalk here.

As we work to build our teacher resource page, we welcome and showcase any ideas from those of you currently creating entrepreneurship activities or cultivating entrepreneurial mindsets in your classroom.  If you have a great idea and want us to publish it on our site, please upload it here.

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