PhD research project

A Design Science Approach to effective entrepreneurship education.

(B.Derre, M.Weggeman, J.Keizer, A.Bobelyn) PhD research: 12/2015 – 11/2019

Topicality of the research
The last decade we saw an increasing emphasis on the importance of entrepreneurship to the sustainable economic growth and development of a nation (Entrepreneurship Unit Directorate General for Enterprise and industry., 2012). In 2012 the European Commission (EC) conceptualized entrepreneurship as ‘a key competence’ in order to meet these important economic challenges that Europe faces (European Commission (EC°, 2012). It was one of the strategic pillars of the ‘Europe 2020 strategy’ to embed the importance of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in education.
We have seen a substantial rise in the number of formal educational programs (curricula) in Europe in the past 5 years ( (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016)).
Entrepreneurship education (EE) was defined by the EC (2012) as: ‘developing the skills and mindset to be able to turn creative ideas into action. This is a key competence for all learners, supporting personal development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employability. It is relevant across the lifelong learning process, in all disciplines of learning’. The Eurydice Report (2016) states that this definition indicates a dual focus. The primary focus of EE is developing the necessary skills, attitudes and knowledge that lead to entrepreneurial behaviour. Becoming self-employed or setting up their own businesses will increase the number of start-ups necessary for a sustainable economic growth. However, entrepreneurship is not exclusively related to business creation. Turning creative ideas into action can also take place within existing organizations. EE will also have an impact on ‘intrapreneurial behavior’. This ignited an increasing interest in entrepreneurial education and an accumulative demand for it, and it highlighted the importance of curricula to deliver this in an effective and efficient manner.
Our expectation is that effective entrepreneurial education can stimulate entrepreneurial orientation and the resulting entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial behaviour.
Theoretical background
Researchers seem to agree that a body of knowledge or common framework in entrepreneurship education is lacking (Gielnik, Frese, Kahara-Kawuki, & Wasswa Katono, 2015; Heinonen & Poikkijoki, 2006; Gorman, Hanlon, & King, 1997; Naia, Baptista, Januario, & Trigo , 2014). This makes it difficult to formulate best practices for entrepreneurship educators. Nevertheless,
The focus shifts from supporting nascent entrepreneurs in setting up a business to empowering the entrepreneurial orientation by developing the necessary attitudes, skills and knowledge. (Neck & Greene, 2011; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016). The Eurydice Report (2016) concluded that: ‘while the majority of (EU) countries report integrating entrepreneurship education in their curricula, they do not often recommend any particular teaching/learning methods to be used and consequently leave them with great autonomy in this area’. Naia et al (2014) published a critical overview of the recent literature on EE. They concluded that limited attention is paid to knowledge that can provide general insights and tools for educators. Such knowledge is needed to support course developers and teachers in picking and choosing among effective pedagogical approach methods to select those that best suit their particular contexts.
The identification of useful and effective approaches and methods requires studies in which educational interventions are designed, implemented, and tested under real-life conditions.
The research and theoretical questions
The following questions are guiding in this study:
– From existing literature: How are entrepreneurship education (EE) curricula for higher education students, outside business administration, organized (objectives, principles, tools, methods, interventions, embedding in formal programs, balance between entreprepreneurship and intrapreneurship) and how are these programs evaluated?
– From empirical evidence: What design guidelines can effectively help educators to design EE curricula that stimulate entrepreneurial orientation and the resulting entrepreneurial behaviour within the group of higher education students from disciplines outside business administration?
The proposed methodology
The emphasis in our study is on designing entrepreneurial education for student’s higher education for all disciplines outside business administration. Fayolle (2007) states that there are 3 important reasons why expansion towards non-business students makes sense: non-business students account for the majority of all students. they possess domain specific knowledge that is important in recognition of business opportunities, and they have a lack of awareness of the potential for business start-up as a career choice.
This study will use the design science research (DSR) approach (Denyer, D., Tranfield, D., & Van Aken, J. 2008; McKenney et al 2012; Cremers, 2012). This approach develops general design propositions. These propositions are described as: ‘a chunk of general knowledge, linking an intervention or artefact with an expected outcome’ (Van Aken, 2011). These propositions are not specific solutions for a specific situation, but a solution for a type of educational field problems.
Just as in the research of Van Burg (2010) a design science research process that focuses on the ‘interplay between emergent and deliberate design’ will be used. The practice‐based and research‐based principles are synthesized in a protocol (set of design principles) that is tested and grounded in practices. The development of the protocol contains a ‘creative leap’. Pragmatic validity will be used to test, revise and refine the preliminary protocol. It provides us with a criterion for truth..The propitions will be tested in 2 ways. First, the protocol will be tested as a concept by potential users and experts (alfa testing). Second, gamma testing will be used to ground the protocol. The gamma testing is a longitudinal multiple case quantitative research methodology with the student as the unit of analysis for each case. The defined outcome of the designed curriculum is measured. The outcome can be used to give feedback on the designed EE curriculum and the design propositions.
The expected contributions
This study makes two noteworthy contributions. First, by studying the antecedents and consequences of entrepreneurial behavior, we contribute to the body of knowledge of EE by identifying the possible root causes of entrepreneurial behaviour. Second, in order to develop curricula that are effective in realizing these pedagogical goals, there will be more emphasis on ‘expander’ and ‘builder’ studies in entrepreneurship education (Naia et al, 2014; Colquitt & Zapata-Phelan, 2007).This study explicitly contributes to developing knowledge that educational practitioners can use to design effective entrepreneurial education. This ‘practice-grounded’ knowledge will answer both the ‘know why’ as the ‘know how’ question of effective entrepreneurial education.
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Colquitt, J., & Zapata-Phelan, C. (2007). Trends in theory-building and theory-testing: a five-decade study of the Academy of Management Journal. Academy of Management Journal, 1281-1303.
Cremers, P. H. (2012). Onderwijskundig ontwerponderzoek: onbekend maakt onbemind. Onderwijsinnovatie., 25-27.
Denyer, D., Tranfield, D., & Van Aken, J. (2008). Developing design Propositions through research synthesis. Organization Studies, 249-269.
Entrepreneurship Unit Directorate General for Enterprise and industry. (2012). Effects and impact of entrepreneurship programmes in higher education. Brussels: European Union.
European Commission (EC°. (2012). Rethinking Education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcome. Strasbourg.: European Commission.
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European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice. (2016). Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
European Union Parliament. (2001). Lisbon European Council 23 and 24 March Presidency Conclusions. Opgehaald van European Union Parliament Website:
Fayolle, A. (2007). Handbook of Research in Entrepreneurship Education Volume 2. . Cornwell: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited .
Gielnik, M., Frese, M., Kahara-Kawuki, A., & Wasswa Katono, I. (2015). Action and Action-Regulation in Entrepreneurship: evaluating a student training for promoting entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Learning and Education., 69-94.
Gorman, G., Hanlon, D., & King, W. (1997). Some research perspectives on entrepreneurship education, enterprise education and education for small business management: a ten year literature review. International Small Business Journal, 56-77.
McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting Educational Design Research. Abingdon: Routledge.
Naia, A., Baptista, R., Januario, C., & Trigo , V. (2014). Entrepreneurship education literature in the 2000S. Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, 118-142.
Neck, H., & Greene, P. (2011). Etrepreneurship Education: Known Worlds and New Frontiers. Journal of Small Business Management., 55-70.
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Van Burg , E. (2010). Creating spin-off: designing entrepreneurship conductive universities. . Eindhoven : Eindhoven University Press.