August 5, 2018

Entrepreneurial Pedagogy: an Approach for the Development of Transversal Competencies

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

This report was first published in French.

This report is presented in collaboration with the Projet d’éducation entrepreneuriale au collège (PEEC). Its mission is to promote college level entrepreneurship education in all its forms. The PEEC is dedicated to the identification and implementation of best practices in the field of entrepreneurship education and pedagogical approaches which facilitate the development of entrepreneurial skills.

Entrepreneurial pedagogy integrates a variety of innovative and active teaching approaches, which facilitate the integration of technology, and makes the learning process captivating and meaningful for the student. However, the reflections on entrapreneurship education and the actions in this field of teaching must not only focus on the students, but also reach the teachers, who are important agents of change and sources of inspiration.

The objective of this report is to provide educational stakeholders, teachers and decision makers, at the college level, a guide to help promote the spirit of entrepreneurship among their students. It offers educational tools for a teaching approach to implement entrepreneurial activities and offers digital tools to enhance teaching practices.

Entrepreneurship education: an overview

The competency-based approach to learning, which began implementation in 2001, has generated a lot of changes in how learning is conceived. Other realities affect the mission of the school or the role of teachers:

The social constructivist perspective
This change of paradigm places the student at the center of the learning process and modifies the role of the teacher, who accompanies and guides in the construction of knowledge.
A diverse school population
Whether it is due to the opening to immigration or to the increased presence of students with special needs, the teacher is increasingly called upon to propose differentiated teaching approaches.
A shifting job market
The employment market is affected by rapid and frequent changes. To develop functional and adaptive students, it is important to enhance their exit profile. The development of transversal competencies (critical thinking, communication skills, problem solving,) in order to strengthen the skills of their students, is today of concern to several teachers.
A generation accustomed to digital technology
In 2018, most students are already accustomed to a certain use of digital objects and pedagogical approaches involving digital technology. This reality must be taken into account in the design of educational activities and poses the challenge to provide digital skills training (ethics, methodology, digital autonomy) to the students (and teachers). The consultation arising from the Stratégie numérique du Québec (Digital Strategy of Quebec) is testimony to the importance given to this factor, which continually transforms the different sectors of activity, including education.

For these reasons, we are witnessing a need to adapt teaching in a rapidly and continually evolving social and technological context.

Convinced that schools can contribute favourably to the development of the spirit of entrepreneurship, the ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES), for the past 15 years has introduced actions to promote entrepreneurial values in schools (Pépin, 2015). The aim of  furthering entrepreneurship education at the college level is to:

  • Enable students to give a meaning to their studies
  • Stimulate regional economic development
  • Ensure a continuity between the entrepreneurial activities conducted in secondary schools and the university entrepreneurial centers

The educational potential of entrepreneurship lies in the fact that it offers the opportunity to enhance student learning on several levels and that it offers a practical approach to learning by doing. In addition, it is likely to give students the opportunity to learn differently and develop their entrepreneurial mindset, or even their entrepreneurship.

Definitions and distinctions

For Pepin (2015), entrepreneurship education is divided into 2 components, depending on whether entrepreneurship is considered as an object of study or as a learning tool.

Entrepreneurship education (entrepreneurship as an object of study)
It consists in teaching entrepreneurship as a discipline. Its objective is the transmission of knowledge in the field of entrepreneurship, the development of the entrepreneurial mindset (to undertake a project and see it through) as well as entrepreneurship (to create a for-profit or a not-for-profit business). Teachers share their knowledge of launching businesses and set up activities and projects that bring students to produce goods, a service or an innovative event that is worthwhile  for their milieu.
To implement this vision of entrepreneurship education, several colleges offer complementary courses in entrepreneurship, AEC Programs in starting up businesses, or venture creation. Colleges will also provide an exit profile for the DCS in business management or accounting and management.
Entrepreneurial pedagogy (entrepreneurship as a learning tool)
According to Kearney and Surlemont (2009), this approach advocates the integration of different disciplinary content in entrepreneurial-type contextual settings. Students learn by dealing with real world challenges like those they may encounter in their adult lives (in a job, for example). It is necessarily an active pedagogy. It brings the students to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship, which means to:
  • Imagine, innovate and create
  • Broaden their field of action
  • Translate their ideas into projects
  • Engage in a project and see it through
  • Take initiatives
  • Meet challenges
  • Be accountable to others
  • Work in a team
  • Contribute to solving social problems
  • Become actors in their own lives
This report will focus specifically on this second component of entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial pedagogy. It will also explore new avenues that digital technology can provide to support this pedagogical approach. Digital technology will also contribute to making the pedagogical approach more innovative and better adapted to the new realities.

The 4 principles of entrepreneurial pedagogy

The aim of entrepreneurial pedagogy is to implement tools, expertise, strategies and pedagogical approaches to develop entrepreneurial values, attitudes and skills among students.

To implement entrepreneurial pedagogy in the classrooms, Kearney (1999) proposes some operational considerations. To be entrepreneurial, a pedagogical sequence must contain the 4 following characteristics:

  • It is empowering. It encourages students to take charge of their own learning.
  • It is experiential. It allows the student to learn through experience rather than learn from the experience of others.
  • It is reflexive. It encourages students to think about what is learned and how it is learned.
  • It is cooperative. Collaborative work enables the different members of a team to contribute to the learning process of others.

The following table illustrates the learning outcomes of each of these 4 principles.

The 4 principles of entrepreneurial pedagogy and their objectives
Pedagogical Principle Objectives
Empowering activity Increase autonomy and the sense of responsibility
Experiential activity Engage students in concrete experiences
Promote learning through authentic and meaningful situations
Reflexive activity Help structure ideas by systematically exploiting knowledge
Promote mental activity (metacognition) and the construction of knowledge
Stimulate attitudes of commitment, perseverance, creativity, pride and self-confidence
Cooperative activity Encourage teamwork at a distance
Develop and strengthen social skills
Support learning by social interactions (Sociocognitive conflict)
Reinforce team spirit, motivation, active listening, sharing and humility

The document Conception d’une activité d’enseignement d’attitudes professionnelles dans le programme collégial Commercialisation de la mode selon l’alignement pédagogique et le modèle ADDIE, available in French on the Centre de documentation collégiale (CDC) website, is a rich resource for methods and tools to create teaching activities.  These activities encourage the development of professional attitudes similar to those entrepreneurial pedagogy help develop .

The teacher’s roles in entrepreneurial pedagogy

The use of entrepreneurial pedagogy assumes that the teacher take on many roles, sometimes different from those associated with lecture-based teaching. These roles can be, among others:

  • Motivator. The teacher motivates the student in order to foster commitment.
  • Guide. The teacher accompanies the student throughout the learning process and serves as a guide. The teacher can refocus the student’s interest on the real objects of learning.
  • Facilitator. The teacher provides access to knowledge, but students are given the autonomy to construct their own learning.

These roles require that the teacher develop leadership and management skills, as well as the ability to create meaningful educational environments and situations for the students.

In practice: approaches and tools to implement entrepreneurial pedagogy

Teachers use various entrepreneurial approaches, often in an implicit manner. In this section you will explore various examples of the practical implementation of the entrepreneurial pedagogy at the college level. These examples will be accompanied by suggestions for tools, including digital tools, to help you set up an entrepreneurial teaching activity.

Problem-based approach

It is a pedagogical method where the student must mobilize informational resources in order to understand and then find a solution to a problem found in trigger material. Whether it is used in a collaborative or individual learning context, the problem-based approach engages the student in a cognitive process through the use of concrete situations and a constructivist approach to learning. This approach is similar to the case study in management.

Example of how to implement

In a workshop entitled Étincelles (Sparks), Marie Pier Garneau, pedagogical advisor and person in charge of the Committee of Entrepreneurship Education at the CEGEP of the Outaouais and PEEC respondent, presents students with a problem situation to resolve in teams. Students have to design a pawn that will be used in a board game for children 5 to 12 years old. The pawn must therefore be easy to handle for children, stable on the game board and in keeping with the title of the game, “The Fourth Dimension”.

Specifically, participants have to:

  • Think about the meaning of the term (“The Fourth Dimension”) to have a better sense of its meaning
  • Solve a problem that is not their own
  • Use resources external to the members of the team if they wish

Throughout this creative process, students must:

  • Share the tasks at random
  • Come up with proposals during the brainstorming
  • Keep traces of their reflexive process
  • Create a prototype of their pawn /Fin de l’encadré

This 40-minute exercise allows them to develop attitudes and behaviours that will serve them in the ideation process, later on.

Pedagogical or entrepreneurship approach

The project approach places the student at the heart of the learning process. This formula stimulates several entrepreneurial values (self-confidence, motivation, commitment, team spirit). By joining forces and finding the necessary means, the students are called upon to exploit concrete situations, in order to foster learning or to create a value-added offering for the benefit of a target audience.

Example of how to implement

Here is a project that could get students thinking creatively, collectively generating new ideas, as well as developing their organizational skills and their personal sense of efficacy.

At a certain point in my career as a teacher, I realized that my students learning became more sustainable when they were placed  in concrete situations. This explains why the project-based pedagogy was an integral part of my approach to teaching. And to enhance the development of their skills, increase their commitment, we created a club of student entrepreneurs, the Sans Limite d’Amos in the fall of 2008. The realization of various entrepreneurial projects provided my students with the opportunity to apply the theoretical concepts learned in class. Thanks to their participation in the organization of authentic activities, they could develop a range of transversal skills.

Louis Gosselin, retired teacher of Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue and founding member of Club Entrepreneurs étudiants d’Amos

Pedagogical practice firm

It is a fictitious company, operating according to the same principles as a real commercial enterprise. This concept was developed in Germany in 1970. Today, the worldwide network of practice firms (5300 practice firms in 42 countries), allows the firms to perform simulated transactions with each other. The concept is becoming more and more widespread in the Quebec college network.

Example of how to implement

Natacha Tremblay uses the Liki Lab platform to simulate managing various operations within the firm. Liki Lab is a simulation tool for online sales. It gives students the opportunity to become familiar with the best practices of online sales in an experiential manner. Students develop multiple entrepreneurial skills (inventory management, clientele communications, financial management), while dealing with the daily operations of the company.

Example of an online boutique created by the students in Nathacha Tremblay’s class.

Two students in Techniques de bureautique at Cégep de Lévis-Lauzon, at work in the school practice firm [French] (photo credits: Martin Hardy).

Simulations and games

Games and simulations can be used in an educational setting in order to help students develop critical thinking skills and to foster students’ metacognition by providing them with commonplace situations from professional life or from the business world.

Example of how to implement

Business plan competitions, entrepreneurial pitches or stock market software simulations are all learning strategies that present different aspects of entrepreneurship.

The Startup Weekend is an event that takes place on the weekend. Teams of young entrepreneurs from various backgrounds are invited to think up business ideas. At the end of 3 days, the most creative and innovative ideas can benefit from support essential to their realization. The prizes may vary from one organizer to another. The latest edition of the Startup Weekend [French], held in Trois-Rivières, provided students entrepreneurs with the opportunity to strengthen their self confidence, to work as a team toward a common goal and to give them the urge to undertake a project and see it through.

The PEEC offers an interesting approach [French] for the implementation of an entrepreneurship simulation activity. Similarly, this real life story [in French] entitled “Une simulation de gestion pour jeunes entrepreneurs en formation (A simulation of management for young entrepreneurs in training)” testifies to the judicious use which may be made of this pedagogical approach.

Activities integrating the 4 principles of entrepreneurial pedagogy

Here are a few examples of activities for each of the 4 principles of entrepreneurial pedagogy. These activities will be illustrated by the stories published on Profweb and college teacher practices. These activities may make use of digital technology: you will find a few examples that integrate well into a pedagogical approach with entrepreneurial aims.

Examples of Activities for Each of the 4 Principles of Entrepreneurial Pedagogy
Principles of entrepreneurial pedagogy Examples with digital technology
Empowering activity Use video capsules (YouTube) so that the student can acquire new knowledge autonomously
Use virtual learning environments (Moodle, LEA) so that students actively participate in the learning process and take responsibility for their own learning
Reflexive activity Ask students to use a mind map to structure their thoughts (Cmaptool, Mindmeister, Mindup, Xmind)
Use a template such as Business Model Generation or a business plan to develop a business concept
Create discussion forums to follow the construction of learning and the manner in which this learning structures the student’s thoughts (Facebook, Twitter et autres réseaux sociaux )
Request students produce a written summary or video that will allow them to reflect on their learning and then report on it
Cooperative activity Resort to group learning activities
Opt for digital applications that allow groups to collaborate remotely Asana, Trello, GoogleDrive, Office 365, Skype or VIA
Experiential activity Select concrete experiences and propose activities that would simulate the tasks carried out in their profession or in the business world
Use applications or software  that will be useful for their profession or in business (accounting software for example)
Carry out simulations using relevant tools or technologies
Propose internships, participation in a mini entreprise or on site visites

Entrepreneurial pedagogy provides avenues and operational principles for active learning pedagogy that is centered on the student. Several pedagogical approaches are consistent with entrepreneurial pedagogy, which targets the development of the student’s transversal competencies. This teaching design may require that teachers transform their role and review the educational sequence of their course.

We hope the examples of teaching practices and the resources proposed in this report will have served to inspire the teacher who wishes to develop a teaching model with an entrepreneurial focus. The use of the technology will be useful to:

  • Create learning environments
  • Enable students to organize their work
  • Exchange through collaborative tools
  • Promote the learning of the tools that can be found in the work place and thus focus on authentic learning situations

Useful references

Entrepreneurial pedagogy

  • Kearney P. (1999). Enterprising ways to teach and learn, North Hobart Tasmania, Australia: Pty KLtd, Enterprise Design Associates.
  • Pepin, M. (2015). «Apprendre à s’entreprendre en milieu scolaire: Une étude de cas collaborative à l’école primaire» (thèse de doctorat, Université Laval, Canada).
  • Surlemont, B., & Kearney, P. (2009). Pédagogie et esprit d’entreprendre. Bruxelles: de Boeck.


About the author

Mélissa Philippe

The holder of a Masters Degree in Educational Technology from University Laval, she has worked in the past as a humanitarian project manager. During this experience, she has had to face various issues related to the creation of employment and economic and social value. Joining an organization that promotes entrepreneurship education such as the PEEC allows her to work nearer to a solution to these problems that affect, in one way or another, all countries.

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