Friday, November 17, 2017

Start-ups in Schools

Anderson Hinz and Matus (2017) report positive results from teaching students to be entrepreneurs at twenty-one Australian schools. The schools in NSW and Victoria have been providing entrepreneurial learning, where teams of students work on real world problems, to come up with a product or service.

For several years I have been mentoring teams of Canberra university students in the Innovation ACT competition and more recently tutoring computer science and engineering students in the ANU TechLauncher program. The students learn how to work in a team, talk to prospective clients, make a presentation and budget resources. This is normally thought of as something for later year university students to undertake. It is interesting that this same approach has been applied to school learning.

The report identifies four elements:

  1. "The collaboration
  2. Voluntary networked learning
  3. Students as active contributors - every network learning workshop for and with students and teachers
  4. Adaptive - principles, rather than a fixed program, guided school actions and decisions"
The part I have found most interesting is the re-framing of the student-teacher relationship. Students work with their team and draw on resources, one of which is the teacher. In ANU Techlauncher, we encourage teams to also learn from each other, supported by an assessment scheme which involves students providing feedback to each other and then assessing the quality of that feedback.

The report includes a section on "Scaling the learning", however, the resources which such an activity needs has perhaps been underestimated. Even a well resourced university, such as the ANU, has difficulty finding sufficient tutors, mentors and projects for students. Teaching in this filed requires skills which are not currently part of educational curriculum. I have tried to fill some of this gap with my book "Digital Teaching In Higher Education: Designing E-learning for International Students of Technology, Innovation and the Environment". 

One of the benefits of entrepreneurial learning not covered in the report is the ability to connect to the wider community. Students need problems to solve and mentors to help them do this. Also there are resources in the various "start-up" business centers, established by local government, universities and business organizations. In Canberra there is now a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem around the Canberra Innovation Center


Anderson, Michelle., Hinz, Bronwyn., and Matus, Hannah. (2017, November). The Paradigm Shifters: Entrepreneurial Learning in Schools, Research Report No. 04/2017, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University. URL

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