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Saturday, July 13, 2013

How can we encourage and support innovative and entrepreneurial behaviors + mindsets within our students? 07-14

How can we encourage and support innovative and entrepreneurial behaviors + mindsets within our students?

"My college experience is like starting a company where you are the product. You conceptualize, plan and design yourself to see a viable candidate when you graduate." ~ undergraduate student
BIF is unpacking some interesting opportunities in the grey space between ourStudent and Entrepreneur Experience Labs. In this post, we begin with a question: 
How can we encourage and support innovative and entrepreneurial behaviors and mindsets within our student populations?

Context of the Question

Research within the Student Experience Lab reveals that high-achieving students graduating from today’s secondary education system are not accustomed to failure. Many, in fact, do all that they can to avoid situations where failure might occur. Yet within the context of entrepreneurship, we know that pushing past what you know, or creating new ways of thinking cannot happen without experimentation—you have to act your way into knowing. Within this process, failure is expected. In fact it’s critical to adaptation and growth. Capturing what’s learned from each failed attempt is key to “knowing what not to do next time around or discovering another way down the road.” Work needs to be done to understand how to transition this form of entrepreneurial thinking into tangible learning experiences and environments both inside and outside the classroom.

Things to Think About

Traditionally, entrepreneurship has been associated with launching new businesses. However, many individuals and institutions are beginning to think of entrepreneurship as a vital life skill that extends far beyond the ability to launch a venture, a life skill that prepares individuals to deal with an ambiguous and uncertain future. To this end, we should dive into connected adjacencies and actively investigate a diverse range of models and systems that have “normalized the process of failure” and recognized the value experimentation and failure have on successful outcomes (e.g. sports systems, R&D labs, seed accelerators).
From here, it's easy to imagine a set of experiments focused on translating those connected adjacencies into programmatic opportunities to develop “entrepreneurially-minded” students who are assessed against non-traditional academic-based metrics such as critical thinking, problem-solving and innovation skills, social networking and relationship building skills, teamwork and self-promotion skills. 
Further still, thinking in earnest about what students need to succeed in today's global economy suggests new and very different education models - models where students go beyond problem-solving to generate the questions and problems that need to be solved. With iteration and risk-taking now core to the curriculum, we also have new and very different learning outcomes on our hands. 

Examples in Action

Fenway High School in Boston recently incorporated an experiential year-long entrepreneurship program into their core curriculum. While launching their own ventures over the course of the year, students learn basic skills in math, finance, marketing, and design. But more importantly they learn critical thinking and innovation skills, social networking and relationship building skills, teamwork and self-promotion skills. 
For many students in the public school system, it’s the first time they’ve been asked and encouraged to think creatively about their own skills, interests, and ambitions. The benefits for the students, independent of their particular venture, are unquestionable.
Ashoka’s Youth Ventures takes a similar approach but with youths as social innovators. The program inspires and invests in teams of young people to start and lead their own social ventures and is building a strong network of young changemakers across the world.
 A particularly unique aspect of this program is the emphasis on thinking entrepreneurially, but allowing such thinking to find application in a variety of different ways and contexts. By giving young people the means to know that they have the ability to change the environment around them, Ashoka believes that youth will gain the skills and understanding that they can be powerful long into their adult future.

Implications to the System

Investigating what instructional methods will be necessary to create student entrepreneurs can help teachers and schools begin to transition to new models, help teachers and students understand what achievement will look like in the near future, and inform policies for student assesment, student achievement and teacher effectiveness. It's a win:win all the way around.

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