Additional information: The STEP Model is integrated in the Flemish Government Action Plan for Entrepreneurial Education. The STEP Model Workshops developed by Vlajo target teachers and teacher trainees by providing them with a clear definition of entrepreneurial spirit, which can be useful also for policy makers implementing entrepreneurial teaching/learning in the curricula, creating awareness, etc.
The two pictures below explain the main ideas behind the STEP Model. The picture on the left show what having an entrepreneurial spirit means (a combination of 'self-steering control' and 'creativity or innovation'); the one on the right shows the factors a person needs to look at when implementing an entrepreneurial learning environment.
The STEP Model in few words:
- A model offering guideline for the implementation of entrepreneurial education
- Starts from the believe that we all have a kind of entrepreneurial spirit
- Focused on entrepreneurial spirit, not entrepreneurship!
- Not programme-related, not age-related!
- Developed by prof. F. Laevers from ‘CEGO’ – Centre for experience-based education (Leuven, Belgium)
Accepted by the Flemish government as definition and guideline for entrepreneurial education.
1. The organisation of an entrepreneurial learning environment
According to the STEP model the organisation of the learning environment is the first prerequisite for the implementation of good entrepreneurial learning environment. Schools should try to build an environment in which:
- Students’ autonomy is encouraged
- Students are confronted with simulated situations, with the best possible analogy with real-life situations
- The structure of the classroom facilitates interaction between students in small groups, to carry on problem solving activities, brainstorming, group meetings, and so on
- Learning is based on problem solving, learning by doing and interaction
- The teachers role changes: he/she will no longer deliver information but will organize, coach, supervise students’ work and develop the learning environment
An entrepreneurial learning environment should be combining formal and informal elements: traditional lectures, e-learning, interaction, sharing, working. Students must take responsibility for their own learning, create knowledge by facing real problems and sharing with others, working with peers, etc. They’re going to face a world of constant changes, and they need learn how to adapt to new things, to “pull” information from the environment instead of waiting for the teacher to “push” the information on them. Learning by doing practices must be emphasized. In this kind of learning environment the teachers’ role and responsibility is to facilitate learning by maintaining and further developing the learning environment; but without school involvement and support no single teacher can build a successful entrepreneurial learning environment.
Best practices about how to create a good entrepreneurial learning environment can be found in The Virtual Guide to Entrepreneurial Learning, under the title ‘Schools and good practice'.
2. The evaluation of entrepreneurial competencies
According to the STEP model the evaluation of the entrepreneurial competences play a crucial role when implementing an entrepreneurial learning environment. Entrepreneurial skills and abilities in the wider sense are hard to codify and evaluate by means of traditional exams and methods, it is a complex issue. First of all, entrepreneurial mindsets, attitudes and skills are complicated to observe directly: it takes many different observations, and different indicators to put them in focus. Moreover, since entrepreneurship education is not about simply starting a business, but it’s a transversal set of skills, the questions have to be generic and applicable and useful in all disciplines and in different education paths.
Entrepreneurial “knowledge”, i.e. the ability to “understand entrepreneurship” is easy to evaluate, schools have a wide experience on assessment of knowledge. But when it comes to entrepreneurial skills, especially of the non-cognitive type, things get harder, we are confronted with individual’s mindset. Managing of resources, managing uncertainty, creativity, interpersonal skills are non-cognitive skills which have to be fostered by action-based teaching methods and real-life and group-based educational assignments. This kind of methods enhance pupils’ motivation, because they understand what is the purpose of their education, how useful it is.
The teachers, working together, should assemble a questionnaire, not too long and time-consuming, to be administered to pupils both before and after the course, with a strong self-evaluation character; we should bear in mind that a fundamental aspect of entrepreneurship is the self-perception.
When pupils are involved in the JA Europe Company Programme (mini-company programme at secondary level), they can register for the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass. Other best practices on evaluation can be found in The Virtual Guide to Entrepreneurial Learning, under the title ‘Assess your school’
3. The teaching style
The teaching style plays a very important role when implementing an entrepreneurial learning environment. In the last twenty years or so, the relationship among the three sides of teaching (teacher, learner, subject) has undergone a change: the focus is no longer on the best way to transfer subject from the teacher to the learner, but on the perception of the subject by the learner, with the teacher in the position of the used medium. In other words, there has been a shift from deductive teaching to inductive learning. In a deductive classroom, the teacher conducts lessons, explains the subject to learners, and then expects learners to demonstrate that they have understood the concepts by repeating what the teacher just told or did, or by carrying on tasks. In an inductive classroom, the teacher presents or exposes the students to examples in which the subject is present. The teacher wants learners to “notice”, by reflecting around the examples, how the concept works. Then the teachers can deepen, formalize, make the concept more precise. The learners should demonstrate that they have understood by doing their own experience on the subject, coached by the teacher. Not only going from theory to practice, but also the other way round. Learner must be active, must perceive himself/herself as the protagonist of the building of his/her own entrepreneurial skills. Inductive learning is more suited when the focus is on skills and attitudes, more than pure knowledge. In industrial and military training, game-based learning is gaining growing attention lately. A game is sort of an artificial situation in which players engage in an artificial conflict against one another or in group against other forces, or another group. Games are regulated by rules, in the form of procedures, controls, obstacles, or penalties. Apart from goal, rules and challenges, the other key is interaction among individuals and groups. The game is to is set up in a way that requires a certain behavior or mindset of the student, like Collaboration, or Willingness to Experiment, Acceptance of Failure, etc. After the game, there should be a discussion by which the learners exchange ideas about their behavior and maybe compare it with that of successful entrepreneurs.
In general, an entrepreneurial teacher should be careful to the following points in his/her teaching practice:
- knowledge must be given not fully “prepared”, room should be leaved for the learner to find answers;
- different kind of tools should be used;
- student‘s independent work must be maximized;
- make comparison between the classical “easy” problem and the new “complex“ problem;
- use different methods: team work, group work, individual work etc.
4. The input/content (connection to existing curricula, STEM, etc.)
The last element to take into account when implementing an entrepreneurial learning environment is related to the content. Entrepreneurial teaching is particularly well suited to the field of STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Science and Mathematics) but it can be applied to any subject and topics.
High quality content should be provided together with teaching strategies designed to foster the acquisition of scientific and non-scientific competences, based on pro-active attitude, problem posing and solving, “laboratorial” approach to learning. The idea behind is that the learner must take responsibility to put himself on the center of the stage, to face the possibility of a failure, and he/she must dive deeply into the idea that being wrong is useful to grow, that trying and confronting with others and making connections is what learning is all about.
More information and examples about tools and methods to use in classroom with students can be are found in The Virtual Guide to Entrepreneurial Learning.
Developed with contribution from MIUR - Italian Ministry of Education.