Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is an entrepreneur or a member of the faculty most qualified?

Posted By Cheryl D. Gracie

Jane’s department has just spent the last year putting together a program in entrepreneurship at the community college where she teaches. The first class in the program will be offered this fall. Although several members of the department put in many hours designing the curriculum and developing materials to use for the class, she doesn’t feel these faculty are best qualified to teach the class. None of them are entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs have the real world experience needed to demonstrate in practical terms just what is involved in starting and growing a business. This helps students learn for the following reasons:

Students are motivated by the stories of success (and even failures) entrepreneurs are able to share. Upon hearing these stories, the dream a student has for owning a business doesn’t seem so out of reach. Failure is viewed as merely a point on the road to success.

Students are more likely to acquire entrepreneurial attitudes, particularly attitudes towards risk, if they see this attitude modeled in the classroom by an entrepreneur who has "done it.”

Students are more likely to appreciate the need for networking and building long-term relationships with those who can help them marshal the resources they will need for their business. An entrepreneur can demonstrate to students in practical terms what it will take to build and maintain these networks of relationships.

Students are more likely to acquire skill in solving problems in new and innovative ways, which is key to being a successful entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are by nature problem solvers who are creative in their approach. They are best suited to demonstrate to students this complex (and to many of our students unfamiliar) process.

Finally, entrepreneurship isn’t much of a discipline yet. Unlike calculus, there isn’t an accepted body of knowledge or skill set that we all agree needs to be taught, let alone an accepted methodology for teaching it. As a result, we need to be flexible and adaptive in the classroom. This will allow us to identify best practices that might eventually serve as the basis for establishing a discipline in entrepreneurship. Who better than an entrepreneur to adapt classroom experience as conditions in the classroom may require?

Jane reflected.

Yes, entrepreneurs have real world experience in starting and growing a business that faculty often lack. And entrepreneurship isn’t yet an established discipline with a body of accepted knowledge and trained faculty to teach it. But does that make entrepreneurs more qualified to teach the subject of entrepreneurship than faculty who understand learning processes and who develop the curriculum and materials used for these classes?

What do you think?

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