Is an entrepreneur or a member of the
faculty most qualified?
Jane’s department has just spent the last year putting
together a program in entrepreneurship at the community college where she
teaches. The first class in the program will be offered this fall. Although
several members of the department put in many hours designing the curriculum
and developing materials to use for the class, she doesn’t feel these faculty are
best qualified to teach the class. None of them are entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs have the real world experience needed to demonstrate
in practical terms just what is involved in starting and growing a business. This
helps students learn for the following reasons:
Students are motivated by the stories of
success (and even failures) entrepreneurs are able to share. Upon hearing these
stories, the dream a student has for owning a business doesn’t seem so out of
reach. Failure is viewed as merely a point on the road to success.
Students are more likely to acquire entrepreneurial
attitudes, particularly attitudes towards risk, if they see this attitude
modeled in the classroom by an entrepreneur who has "done it.”
Students are more likely to appreciate the
need for networking and building long-term relationships with those who can
help them marshal the resources they will need for their business. An
entrepreneur can demonstrate to students in practical terms what it will take
to build and maintain these networks of relationships.
Students are more likely to acquire skill
in solving problems in new and innovative ways, which is key to being a successful
entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are by nature problem solvers who are creative in
their approach. They are best suited to demonstrate to students this complex
(and to many of our students unfamiliar) process.
Finally, entrepreneurship isn’t much of a discipline
yet. Unlike calculus, there isn’t an accepted body of knowledge or skill set
that we all agree needs to be taught, let alone an accepted methodology for
teaching it. As a result, we need to be flexible and adaptive in the classroom.
This will allow us to identify best practices that might eventually serve as
the basis for establishing a discipline in entrepreneurship. Who better than an
entrepreneur to adapt classroom experience as conditions in the classroom may
Yes, entrepreneurs have real world experience in
starting and growing a business that faculty often lack. And entrepreneurship
isn’t yet an established discipline with a body of accepted knowledge and trained
faculty to teach it. But does that make entrepreneurs more qualified to teach the
subject of entrepreneurship than faculty who understand learning processes and who
develop the curriculum and materials used for these classes?
What do you think?