Fostering Early Entrepreneurial Competencies: An Action Research Approach

Fostering Early Entrepreneurial Competencies: An Action Research Approach

Michela Floris (University of Cagliari, Italy) and Angela Dettori (University of Cagliari, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1847-2.ch011
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This chapter contributes to the debate around whether acquiring entrepreneurial competencies is the main driver of the promotion and development of an entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of initiative. To do this, this chapter investigates the effects of early entrepreneurship education in non-cognitive entrepreneurial skills, such as creativity, innovation, risk taking, and other relevant soft skills. Specifically, this chapter examines the preliminary results of action research carried out on primary school students. The findings of this research reveal interesting insights and shed light on new teaching methods and perspectives that create a funny learning environment enriched by a cooperative climate and proactive behaviors in children.
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Entrepreneurial competencies are increasingly garnering attention for being essential to the promotion and development of an entrepreneurial instinct, a sense of initiative, and an ability to identify opportunities. Nowadays, the need for entrepreneurial competencies is heightened due to the economic crisis, which demands entrepreneurial skills for the creation of social and economic value (Rae, 2010) and to spur entrepreneurial activities (Kautonen et al., 2015; Rauch & Hulsink, 2015) capable of involving an individual’s life (Gibb, 2002).

Recognizing the relevance of the broad definition of “entrepreneurship,” European policymakers support the use of entrepreneurship education from childhood and into adolescence with a focus on the development of early non-cognitive entrepreneurial skills such as creativity, innovation, risk taking, teamwork, ethical behavior, and diversity management (European Commission, 2006; European Commission/EACEA and Eurydice, 2016; Bacigalupo et al., 2016; Bakotić & Kružić, 2010; Bosma & Levie, 2009). In fact, childhood and adolescence are considered to be the most effective stages at which to introduce entrepreneurial competencies (Filion, 1994; Gasse, 1985). In other words, primary schools represent the most suitable place to disseminate and reinforce entrepreneurial competencies through entrepreneurship education (Brinckmann, 2008).

However, there remain doubts as to whether entrepreneurship can be taught, and there is confusion surrounding pedagogical approaches to and the methodologies and content of entrepreneurship education (Tan & Ng, 2006; Zupan, Cankar & Cankar, 2018). Recently, Jones (2019) have conceived a signature pedagogy for entrepreneurial education as a process of transformational learning, able to ensure learners to acquire concepts and ideas through their personal experience. In this view, teachers face an interesting challenge: they must become mentors (Surlemont, 2007) in order to create the creative and funny learning environments (Newmann, 1991) that are essential to the development of creative and proactive behavior in children (Pepin, 2012) and often, they do not possess adequate professional competences (Tul, Leskosek & Kovac, 2019).

Inspired by this fascinating challenge, this chapter sets out the preliminary results of an action research that is currently ongoing. This action research is particularly suited to an educational setting because it seeks to understand the effects of educational approaches and attempts at educational change in a specific school environment (Mills, 2000). This study introduces entrepreneurial competencies to children attending primary school, and its results contribute to the existing literature by suggesting new ways to face this challenge with a simple, pragmatic, and inclusive approach based on the education through entrepreneurship philosophy (Hannon, 2005). This philosophy recommends active and responsible participation in decision making (Moberg, 2014), collaboration, and the creation of a stimulating educational context (Cunha & Heckman, 2007). This chapter further emphasizes the relevant practical implications of this philosophy by prompting teachers to operate with continuous references to unusual and creative incentives in order to impart entrepreneurial competencies across all subjects.

The chapter is organized into three main sections. The first part presents an overview of the literature background from the research areas in which this chapter is grounded, namely: entrepreneurial competencies, entrepreneurship education, and early entrepreneurship education contexts. The second part describes the action research method in general terms and introduces the preliminary results of the authors’ ongoing project in primary schools. The third part discusses the relevance of the authors’ findings, suggests avenues for further research, and highlights the academic and practical implications of the findings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Achievement: The ability to operate with the aim of pursuing defined goals.

Entrepreneurship Education: Imparting of the pillar of entrepreneurship.

Endurance: The propensity to continue and invest efforts to obtain the defined goals notwithstanding emerging difficulties.

Entrepreneurial Competence: A set of skills and ability that individuals possess and/or can acquire and improve to become proactive and to show the initiative spirit.

Self-Efficacy: The capacity to evaluate personal attitudes and abilities in order to believe in him/her-self.

Action Research: A research method particularly useful in educational settings to evaluate the effects of teaching and learning.

Creativity: The ability to create something new.

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