You can find a selection of articles about the value of the threshold concept approach for entrepreneurship and enterprise educators here.
Enterprise and entrepreneurship: a new perspective
Published on 30/11/21 University of Newcastle
A ground-breaking study by Dr Lucy Hatt provides a new perspective of enterprise and entrepreneurship and explores how entrepreneurial thinking can be integrated within different contexts.
Today, enterprise and entrepreneurship are vital components of the higher education curriculum but the way they are defined, taught and understood vary widely.
Leadership academic, Dr Lucy Hatt, has produced a ground-breaking study that provides a new perspective of enterprise and entrepreneurship and the way in which they are taught. It identifies what is distinctive about entrepreneurship to enable the development of the education curriculum. It also explores how entrepreneurial thinking can be integrated within different contexts to broaden its appeal beyond the world of business.
Lucy, explains: “When we think of enterprise and entrepreneurship, we often think immediately of successful entrepreneurs and business founders. When we measure the impact of entrepreneurship education, we often do so by looking solely at the number of business start-ups. Whilst this indicator is important, it can mean that positive effects such as the enhanced employability of graduates and their increased value in the job market are overlooked in other contexts – academia or healthcare, for example – in which entrepreneurial thinking can also be useful.
“I wanted to explore a different approach to thinking about entrepreneurship. What’s distinctive about thinking as an entrepreneur? How is ‘entrepreneurial’ business different from business-as-usual? What ways of thinking and practising make a good entrepreneur and how do students understand what it means to think and practice like an entrepreneur? From the perspective of education institutions, when we teach enterprise and entrepreneurship, how is this different from other forms of teaching?”
As part of the study, Lucy spoke to educators, students and entrepreneurs to find out their views on enterprise and entrepreneurship. She focused on students enrolled on a programme which followed the Finnish ‘Tiimiakatemia’ (Team Academy) principles, which started in 1993 at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä, Finland and was developed in response to a demand for more entrepreneurial graduates. Students on Team Academy programmes learn in coached teams by starting and running real businesses.
Lucy used an approach called ‘the threshold concepts framework’ to identify what is distinctive about entrepreneurship. The framework offers a different approach to learning, complimenting the experiential approach adopted in the Team Academy project with a conceptual underpinning.
Lucy says: “A threshold concept is a way of thinking and practicing that, when understood, opens up a whole new perspective on a particular topic. Once identified, threshold concepts enable educators to develop education curricula around what really matters. On a practical level, understanding a threshold concept will change both what a person knows and who they are, it’s really transformational.
“My research shows that using threshold concepts in entrepreneurial thinking can serve several purposes. They give educators an opportunity to integrate entrepreneurial thinking into any discipline. For example, it may enable someone working in healthcare to create a new innovation that makes it easier for patients to live with a particular condition. Entrepreneurs are not the only people who can think and practice entrepreneurially."
It also offers a way for universities to become more entrepreneurial without having to simply add bolt-on enterprise and entrepreneurship modules to degree programmes, or rely on extra-curricular initiatives.
Lucy believes that understanding threshold concepts in entrepreneurial thinking could also help to reduce the number of business start-up failures.
She says: “About 80% of start-ups fail within the first three years of their existence. That’s a really high proportion. Perhaps the reason for this is because the companies have been established by people who aren’t necessarily suited to running a business and don’t have a good appreciation of what it means to think and practice entrepreneurially. The plumber who works for a large property development organisation might demonstrate more entrepreneurial thinking than the self-employed plumber who works for herself. The media representation of entrepreneurs can tempt some people into starting new ventures who don’t have a good understanding of what it really takes, and might put off others who could be very successful.”
About Lucy's research
The University of Bristol is using Lucy's research to inform and develop the curricula in its Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CFIE).
Lucy presented her research at the International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference (IEEC2021) this summer.
Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) funded this work which resulted in a toolkit that educators in any field can use to identify and integrate threshold concepts in entrepreneurial thinking to improve the learning experience for students.
Lucy says: “It’s fantastic that my research has sparked so much interest around the subject of enterprise and entrepreneurship and how it is taught and understood. The University of the West of England Bristol is also now conducting similar research in other countries and business sectors so it will be interesting to see the results of this. Hopefully, the threshold concept framework will help educators to integrate entrepreneurial thinking and practicing in any discipline where it might be valuable.”