ISBE Director November Blog


Developing entrepreneurial capacity: A shared responsibility?

Developing entrepreneurial capacity is a key policy objective in many countries. The idea is that entrepreneurial attitudes, knowledge and skills can be learned, and that these, in turn, will lead to the creation of entrepreneurial mind-sets and an entrepreneurial culture, which will benefit both individuals and society. The higher education sector plays an important role in this policy objective, with universities delivering on their third missionby building entrepreneurial capacity through entrepreneurship education (EE). But how exactly do they do this? Let us first take a look at an important concept from the education literature.

The concept of ‘constructive alignment’ proposed by Biggs[1]posits that both learning activities and assessment of students needs to be set up in a way that supports  the desired learning outcomes. Simply put, in order for students to achieve the particular learning outcomes of a course of study, these outcomes must also be present in the final assessment, as well as in course activities. Students are not necessarily focused on whatwe wantthem to learn, but they are focused on howthey will be evaluated. If the learning objective of a course is that students should learn to be active, work in groups, and apply theoretical skills in practical settings, then what will happen if students end up doing if they only are evaluated in a summative individual written exam? Students will likely concentrate on memorizing material for the final written exam and, thereby, engage less in activities that are not directly related to that exam. Empirical tests on Biggs’ constructive alignment in course design show that students in more ‘constructively aligned courses’ are more likely to adopt deep learning approaches and less likely to use surface learning approaches[2].

A review of the literature highlights a number of important issues with regard to the teaching, assessment and impact of entrepreneurship education. For example, a study of EE assessment methods in the UK and US showed that business plans and business reports counted for 20% of assessment methods, followed by presentations, in-class assessments, and traditional tests/exams. Peer assessments and interviews were among the least used methods[3]. Educational practice in EE continues to be dominated by the ‘about’ form, and different forms are using assessments in different ways.There is a dearth of studies that explore assessment practice in EE, and there is scant focus on assessment practice in disciplines beyond the Business School. The study called for more innovative assessment practices in EE, with a greater use of reflective assessment practices specific to the entrepreneurial context. The study suggested that future research should explore other stakeholders in the assessment process, and seek to understand how external assessors affect student learning. This is also echoed in another study suggesting that we should explore the impact of university- based EE on stakeholders other than students and graduates, i.e.  university faculty, donors/investors and communities[4].

The issue of impact measurement is also the topic in a recent study[6]. It  argues for awareness in how we measure impact in EE research. In quantitative impact studies, the aim is typically to say something about causality; accordingly, it is important to apply a strong experimental design. Nevertheless, the study found thatonly 3% of EE impact studies apply the gold standard of experiments (randomized controlled experiments), while 9% are quasi-experiments. This means that only 12% of 145 impact studies on EE used a design that was appropriate for addressing causality. The remainder (88%) are pre-experimental designs that are of less scientific value when aiming to say something about impact. This has serious implications for the field of EE research and for the accumulated knowledge that we – as entrepreneurship scholars and educators – believe we have.

In conclusion, while universities may adopt different approaches to developing entrepreneurial capacity, the provision of EE programmes continues to be among the most popular. However, if universities are relying on EE to successfully deliver on their third mission, then they need to aim for at least some degree of alignment. Undoubtedly, this responsibility falls to the entrepreneurship educator, who is tasked with creating the right learning environment to support the right learning outcomes; adopting the most appropriate pedagogies; employing the most relevant assessment methods, and ultimately ensuring impact. This is a quite a lot of responsibility for a single educator, so perhaps it is time for such responsibility to be shared amongst other key stakeholders, such as employers, policy-makers and support agencies, all of whom share a common goal: to develop entrepreneurial graduates.


[1]Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment, Higher Education, Vol 32 (3) 347-364.

[2]Wang, X., Su, Y., Cheung, S., Wong, E.& Kwong, T. (2013). An exploration of Biggs’ constructive alignment in   course design and its impact on students’ learning approaches, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol.38 (4): 477-491.

[3]Pittaway, L. & Edwards, C. (2012). Assessment: examining practice in entrepreneurship education, Education + Training, Vol.5 (8/9):778-800.

[4]Nabi, G., Linan,F., Fayolle,A., Krueger, N. & Wamsley, A. (2017) The Impact of Entrepreneurship Education in Higher Education: A Systematic Review and Research Agenda, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Vol.16 (2) 277-299.

[5]Kamovich, U. & Foss, L. (2017) “In search of alignment: A review of impact studies in entrepreneurship  education”, Education Research International,

[6]Longva, K.K. and Foss, L. (2018) “Measuring impact through experimental design in entrepreneurship education: A literature review and future research agenda”, Industry and Higher Education, 32 (6) 1-17.


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