Scientists have found no significant difference between business schools offering traditional courses and those emphasising on a learning-by-doing approach to entrepreneurship education, drawing attention to why the latter may not work as expected. The research challenges the ongoing trend across higher education institutes (HEIs) of focusing on experiential learning and suggests that universities need to reconsider their approach if they are to increase entrepreneurship among their students. “Entrepreneurship education is seen as a major force capable of generating long-term socio-economic changes through developing entrepreneurial, creative, flexible and wise individuals,” said Inna Kozlinska, research associate at Aston Business School in the UK.
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“There is an ongoing shift towards experiential learning in business schools, yet there is little empirical evidence to suggest this approach has better impact than traditional learning,” said Kozlinska.
“This study has shown, contrary to our expectations that ‘learning-by-doing’ approaches do not necessarily lead to better outcomes for students, and were even found to have adverse effects in some instances,” Kozlinska added.
The study of HEIs in Estonia shows only one Estonian business school that focused on learning-by-doing produced graduates with higher entrepreneurial skills and attitudes.
This was compared to three business schools with predominantly traditional teaching.
Similar findings arose in Latvia, where no differences in entrepreneurial knowledge, skills or attitudes were found between experientially and traditionally-taught graduates.
“Many intuitively agree that experiential learning is the most appropriate and fertile given the nature of entrepreneurship entailing uncertainty, ambiguity and dynamism,” said Kozlinska.
“However, this study challenges common assumptions and draws attention to why learning-by-doing might not work as expected,” Kozlinska added.
The study, analysing more than 500 graduates, also highlights how new entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and attitude relate to further achievements in the professional life of graduates.
Kozlinska highlighted three possible reasons why experiential entrepreneurial education does not always work questioned the overall quality of entrepreneurship education.
“First, students should know how to learn experientially, how to make sense and find meaning in challenging learning situations, and how to reflect upon the learning-by-doing process,” said Kozlinska.
“Second, educators teaching entrepreneurship should have a balanced share of experience in teaching and industry and third, an entrepreneurship course should be long enough for a meaningful impact on the professional impact of graduates,” Kozlinska added.
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