Boosting a Sense of Initiative and Entrepreneurship in Your Students A Learning Diary

About me

I am an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher currently teaching in a Junior High School in Veria, Greece. I've been teaching for more than 20 years in various schools, grades and contexts. I have been involved with eTwinning projects since 2012.

My school is in Veria, a town with both urban and rural aspects.

Unfortunately the school is not fully equipped in terms of ICT (less than half of the classrooms have an internet connection, projectors and/ or a laptop). Hopefully more classrooms will be equipped within the school year.

My students are 12-15 years old. Their level of English ranges between A1+ to B1+. Classroom layout is traditional. English classes are twice a week.

Course Timeline

Module 1: Engaging students through entrepreneurship education

  • Entrepreneurship education prepares resourceful and motivated individuals, skilled to achieve the goals they set out for themselves.
  • Evidence shows that people with entrepreneurial education are not afraid to take risks, demonstrate creativity and innovative thinking.
  • Entrepreneurship can be learnt and could start from an early school age.
  • Entrepreneurship can be seen as a transversal competence, which is relevant not only to employment and business but to personal development and engagement in society.

What is Entrepreneurship?

1.1 Entrepreneurial mind-set and sense of initiative

The sense of initiative and entrepreneurship is the ability to turn ideas into action through

  • creativity
  • innovation
  • risk-taking
  • ability to plan and manage projects.

In other words, entrepreneurial learning, is about nurturing open- minded, creative thinkers. It’s a mind-set which would allow pupils to approach every opportunity, goal or challenges with the same curiosity and creativity, regardless of the context, subject, and situation.

1.2 Entrepreneurial education in your school/classroom

There are three ways of promoting entrepreneurship education:

  • by fostering entrepreneurship education through one specific subject; second,
  • by adopting entrepreneurial education as a cross-curricular and transversal competence applicable to all subjects and
  • by thinking of entrepreneurial education as a method rather than an aim.

What is the state of entrepreneurial education in your country/region/school?

In Greece entrepreneurship is taught in High Schools (upper secondary level), as part of optional subjects -"school activity projects" - which rely on teachers' initiatives. As a result it is not always offered as a choice.

Most teachers (me included) feel that we lack the skills, the knowledge, the confidence or even the will to incorporate enterpreneurial education in our classroom. There is much misinformation about it: many think enterpreneurship is about setting up small "school" businesses and some even believe this has no place in schools.

1.3. Spotting opportunities

Entrepreneurship is very often associated with identifying problems, needs, and coming up with creative solutions for the benefit of others. Often, entrepreneurship minds bring the attention of others to needs and opportunities that they have not considered before by trying to look at things from various perspectives.

Sometimes we do not spot opportunities because we are not used to seeing things from a different perspective. Students should be driven to take a different perspective to things and situations; help them perceive familiar environments from a different point of view. To use creativity and imagination to join the dots, to make connections between things, to create opportunities.

Let young people take charge and make their own decisions and take responsibility for the well-being of each other, for the creation of the school culture, for the wellbeing of the whole school and the community.

Classroom activity: "What is it like to be a cat?"

1.4. Stimulating learners’ creativity and value creation

Entrepreneurial minds are restless in their will to create new or better solutions and outputs. Sometimes this means seeking and testing various ideas, and opening one’s mind to alternative ideas.

The 30 circles challenge: a short activity for fostering creativity.

My 30 circles challenge
Dominic Wyse, professor at UCL in the UK, explains that originality and value are undeniable features of creativity. Dominic defines creativity as “a person’s ability to create something that is regarded by appropriately qualified people as original and of value” . He considers that teachers are the “qualified people” that are asked to judge the creative outputs and processes of their students.

Creativity is thinking, the “what if?”. We consider that creative processes enable us to generate ideas, and that idea and possibility generation is central for enterprising students (and teachers).

Creative people don't have one idea that is the same idea a few times, they'll have lots of different, very, very different ideas and look at ways to solve problems in this sort of creative breath of thinking.

There has been a lot of talk about whether creative people are born or bred: You can be born to be more or less creative but you can certainly learn to become more creative.

We should ask children more questions like “why?”, “what if?”, “I wonder”. And that could promote their creative thinking.

The Reverse thinking method is a method for creative idea generation:

Instead of adopting the logical, normal manner of looking at a challenge you reverse it, and think about opposite ideas. For instance, if I want to find ways to lose weight, I might ask myself the question “how can I put on more kilos?”.

This method for generating ideas is easier and generally more fun. It lowers fear of saying the wrong thing (as you are talking about bad examples) and stimulate wider dialogue. It also allow us to look at things from a different perspective.

Creative exercise: Take a cloth hanger, or any other simple object (a newspaper or a paperclip), and ask your students:

“Can you think of as many different uses of this object as possible?”

OR:

What can't you do with a coat hanger?

Quantity is important not quality in this case.

How do I (and the school system in general) discourage the creativity of my students?

  • spoon feeding them with knowledge

Module 2: Enabling students to take the future in their hands

The first set of competences in the EntreComp framework:

  1. Creativity
  2. Spotting opportunities
  3. Vision
  4. Valuing ideas
  5. Ethical and sustainable thinking

WEBINAR: Lucy Griffiths, Island Friends: Engaging the Youngest Learners

The ‘Enterprise Eggs®’ are seven key elements of an enterprising mind-set that are suitable for children in their early years.

2.1 Look(ing) into the future

Innovation starts with a vision!
What teachers need to make sure, is to provoke curiosity about the future, and ask questions in order to develop students’ strategic thinking. Be sure to have always clear, and simple questions to guide your students through the process of visualising ideas. (Imagine that…How does it works? What are the steps to achieve this? What if? )

Sharing visions and looking through the eyes of others is a powerful way of broadening one’s mind and imagination. That is why visualisation techniques are suitable for activities with the whole class or in groups.

2.2 Seeing the value of ideas

Innovative minds are nurtured into appreciating the importance of an idea. They see potential and find ways to realise it. We can help our students to find the right balance between imagination and applicability of ideas by teaching them how to evaluate their ideas.

Evaluating ideas:

The "four coloured glasses" activity

reminds me of...

Six Thinking Hats

One activity which is very useful for bringing awareness to all aspects of an idea, and the various opportunities it may bring, is mind mapping (also called mental map). Mind mapping is a way of capturing your thoughts

  • by presenting them in a visual form
  • identifying strategies and patterns, steps in achieving a certain aim.
  • allows you to consider several aspects of an idea, a project, a topic.

Mind mapping could be facilitated by many different digital tools but sometimes just using a pen and putting all ideas on paper would work just fine.

Mind mapping helps students to put ideas in context and evaluate their relevance to the world that surrounds them. Mind maps can be presented in different ways: spider's web, fish skeleton, network scheme, etc.

2.3 Ethical and sustainable thinking

Entrepreneurs are open-minded, creative and see things from various perspectives.

However, entrepreneurial minds are not just dreamers distanced from the world that surrounds them. They are able (or should be) to assess the consequences that their ideas and actions have on other people, on society, on the environment. Enterprising teachers and students should therefore work on analysing their ideas in ethical and sustainable terms, adapt ideas according to the situation or social needs, or take ethical and sustainable principles as a trigger for new ideas.

Entrepreneurs should have a profit but also the people and the planet in mind. the impact on the environment and working conditions of labourers as well as the profitable price.

Ethical behaviour

Solving real –life dilemmas in class is a good way to introduce your students to ethical thinking. The topics could be inspired by situations that children and young people can closely relate to.

Example of a real-life dilemma: ‘Lea has been offered something she really wants. Unfortunately, it's terribly unfair to a lot of other people and she knows it. Should she allow herself to benefit from an unfair situation?’

Real-life dilemmas help students to see the different nuances of the meaning of acting responsibly, which is a relevant competence not only related to entrepreneurship. You can explore many other scenarios at the Daily Dilemma Archive.

Sustainable thinking

What entrepreneurs should always have in mind is that what they do today will have an impact on theirs and everyone’s tomorrow. This entails thinking what consequences an action might have on the community, environment, economy and society as a whole.

Fair trade is a good example of a topic, which you can tackle in the classroom. By learning more about fair trade, students in both primary and secondary education can learn more about the relationships between farmers, businesses and consumers and how we can produce food in a sustainable way.

2.4 Ideas and opportunities

The 5 competences of the first area for the EntreComp Framework

Module 3: Making good use of resources

To develop entrepreneurial projects and the mind-set, one needs to work on the ability to obtain and manage the resources needed to make an idea or opportunity become a reality. This entails

  • self-awareness,
  • motivation,
  • financial literacy and
  • the ability to mobilize others and resources.

Teachmeet: It's not just about ideas. It's about making ideas happen

16th March

3.1 Self-awareness and self-efficacy

People with entrepreneurial mindset believe that they are able to succeed at tasks. They have a clear perception of their personality, strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, and emotions which is the first step in creating what they want and shaping the future.

Students not believing in their abilities get disappointed when facing failure, they are afraid of dealing with challenging situations. Teachers should foster self-belief habits of children. Students’ beliefs about their own ability to succeed are essential to setting and achieving goals.

It is important for teachers to engage students in activities in which they feel they can achieve success, but set high expectations for their performance. High expectations help students understand that they are able to be successful. If they say I can´t, add an important word: „yet“.

The Assessment for Learning (AfL) method.

This method can be described as a process that uses assessment in a way that allows teachers to understand how and if learners are learning, and adjust their teaching strategies to the learning achievements of students.

It allows students to understand how much they have learned, and to adjust their learning strategies.

In this process, assessment is not used to evaluate learners’ performance per se. Rather, the aim of this assessment is the one to provide feedback to both teachers and learners so that both parties can reflect on their teaching/learning and improve it. (Formative not summative assessment)

3.2 Motivation and perseverance

Successful people love what they do and that means a lot of passion and persistence to keep creating value despite setbacks.

Resilience is not one specific thing, but a combination of skills and attributes that help to solve problems, cope with challenges, adapt and bounce back when things don´t go as planned. Resilient people learn from their mistakes, they look at their failures and mistakes and as opportunities for growth.

Cultivate a Growth Minset

I haven't learnt enough, YET.

Don't praise your students'

  • talent
  • intelligence
  • result

because next time they will not go for challenges - they will be afraid to fail

Instead praise their

  • focus
  • struggle for improvement
Genius Hour is an inquiry –based learning project in which students work on their individual projects focused on their passion.

3.3 Mobilizing resources

It is important to foster resourcefulness in our students. Entrepreneurial minds make the best out of a situation, because they have the ability to obtain and organise resources that are necessary to carry out their aim. Entrepreneurial minds have an idea of what is needed and what is available and they make the most out of it. Furthermore, if they are faced with limited resources they know how to cope with this situation. One way of dealing with that is the use resources in an unconventional way or just adapt the idea to the resources available. This is also where creativity would help.

Many teachers work in school environments with limited resources. A teacher would still try to use the most of resources in order to give the best opportunities for their students.

The Creative Glasses Challenge

Students are given a sheet of rubber-like material, from which they need to create “creative” glasses in groups of four. These “creative” glasses will enable them to see things from a different perspective. However, in this case, the process is more relevant than the output. Students are given 20 minutes to create their glasses. They are free to leave the classroom and use the resources at hand. PROBLEM: There are no scissors given nor at sight, but if they find any, of course they can use them.

This activity helps students by highlighting the importance of coping with limited resources and good time management. Sometimes we complicate ourselves by going to the farthest and the solution to the problem is closer that we realise. In her activity with students, Paz had a bag full of scissors but she did not mention that. That is why students started looking for other ways of making the glasses not considering the fact that they could ask for scissors.

3.4 Financial and Economic literacy

Entrepreneurial minds are able to take informed and educated decisions regarding money management. Financial and economic literacy is an important factor for the practical implementation of a project. This competence touches upon a variety of skills: the ability to

  • understand economic and financial concepts
  • manage and develop budgets
  • find and manage funding
  • plan for the financial sustainability of a project

Teachers should try to make it relevant for their students by introducing activities and scenarios that students can relate to. Viewing the concepts through their everyday life - saving money for a bike, creating a budget planning for the reconstruction of the school playground, etc.

Financial literacy is a fundamental skill that everyone should learn. To be able to manage your finances and to budget applies to every path of life.

3.5 Mobilizing others

When trying to pursue a project we cannot rely only on our efforts and resources. We have to inspire and enthuse others to join our team/work in order to get the support we need to achieve outcomes.

We may need

  • financial support
  • different perspectives
  • experience
  • resources
  • networks

What we need in this case is excellent communication and negotiations skills as well as strong leadership skills. Entrepreneurial minds are able to share their vision with others in a way that is clear and engaging. This entails having the ability to communicate clearly what you want to achieve, showing passion and energy about your goals and ideas. To sell your idea.

Give your students the chance to voice their ideas and most importantly – defend them so that they can win the approval and participation of others.

3.6 Resources overview

Module 4: Achieving goals by putting plans into action

WEBINAR: How to introduce entrepreneurial learning into your classroom

4.1 Taking the initiative

Enterprising people don't wait for someone else to tell them what to do. They take the initiative to find and solve problems and to meet and create challenges.

We all grow by challenging ourselves. Inspire your students to get outside of their comfort zone. It creates opportunities to fail and go back and try again.

There are three ways adults can kill the enthusiastic exploration of the curious child: fear, disapproval and absence of the caring supportive adult.

4.2 Planning and management

Entrepreneurial minds should be able to identify concrete and achievable steps and action points. Hence, planning and management skills are crucial.

Planning entails

  • defining goals,
  • developing a roadmap of how these should be achieved,
  • assigning priorities
  • considering financial aspects
  • making choices of how exactly to achieve our aims
  • identifying possibilities and different ways to proceed
  • recognising how much progress they have made
  • evaluating whether they would need to make changes on the way

In other words, planning means putting your vision in practical context and translating your ideas in concrete steps. Planning could refer to one particular project, a long-term process or one’s life in general.

4.3 Coping with uncertainty, ambiguity and risk

We live in a dynamic, constantly changing society and we need to adapt continuously to changes and challenges. Every day we are faced with ambiguity and this makes the process of making decisions complicated. Our students cannot be isolated from risk and uncertainty. We can prepare them to deal with that by fostering their ability to adapt and take a calculated risk. We should educate flexible learners.

Students can be exposed to uncertain, ambiguous activities where things change, deadlines shifts and there are no clear instructions on what shall be done next. Being exposed to such situations allows them to to

  • discover by experience
  • develop strategies to cope and learn
  • be ready for opportunity
  • flexibly adapt to changing environments
  • develop creative solutions
  • overcome non-predictable challenges.

The best way to develop a tolerance for ambiguity is to make mistakes early and to accept that failure is good. Give your students a chance to practice failing in the classroom so that they can deal with failure easier later on in the real world.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

The CV of failures:

This technique can help students and adults to understand that failure is part of our lives by making them reflect on what they tried but have not succeeded in their learning or career path.

Challenge your students to think and write down everything they have tried but have not managed to succeeded during a project/school year, etc. Facilitate a discussion between them and help them reflect on lessons learnt.

"Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective."

4.4 Working with others

An entrepreneurial mind is able to not only collaborate with others, but also ignite further group work. A common misperception is that entrepreneurial minds are self-cantered. Quite the contrary, entrepreneurial people manage to leave their ego aside and recognise the importance of group collaboration and the potential that each member of the group has for contributing to the group results. Entrepreneurial minds recognise their own strengths and limitations and they can evaluate how they can contribute to team work. Entrepreneurial minds see the potential other teammates have and appreciate diversity of skills and knowledge.

Project Based Learning (PBL) with the teacher as facilitator enables collaboration and group work.

You have to activate students and give them roles, so that everyone feels part of the team. The risk of just putting students together in a group is that work may be distributed unevenly – one may take the lead, while others put minimal effort.

One role could be the organiser who is responsible for the exercise, another could be a material keeper, time keeper, the presenter. This enables interaction between the students and the feeling of being responsible for the group results.

Are you facilitating group work in your classroom?

4.5 Learning through experience

Entrepreneurial people are resilient and do not step back when faced with challenges. They enjoy challenges and see them as opportunities to learn from. They learn by doing, and probably by reflection on their own action.

Reflective practice inquiry: someone who reflects on his or her practice is first of all looking back on his or her actions. Moreover, this person is considering all the aspects that surrounded that situations (example: emotions, circumstances, responses, reactions) and uses that information and analysis to improve his or her knowledge. As a consequence, this person is learning through the experience and through a re-elaboration of his or her actions.

Reflective teaching means looking at what you do in the classroom, thinking about why you do it, and thinking about if it works - a process of self-observation and self-evaluation.

In learning through experience we also include learning from others.

Interview an entrepreneur: an active approach to learning from practical experience. Students select somebody who has successfully implemented a business idea and interview them, using certain guidelines.

The selfie entrepreneur blog where students interview an entrepreneur, take a selfie, and share the image and selfie through the blog. It helped students to understand that entrepreneurs are not just famous and distant heros, but everyday people.

Learning from others is not only looking up at those who are extremely successful. We do not always learn by looking up, but often by looking around.

4.6 Into action overview

4.7 P2P Learning Activity

Learning diaries for inspiration

I. Indemans' Diary
M. Sougiadaki's blog
A. Kougiourouki's Diary

Credits:

Created with images by Wokandapix - "thanks word letters"

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