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Crossing the Bridge: the application of creative thinking and action to entrepreneurial education

SIE was pleased to support 10 free places at the recent Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) best practice event hosted by Edinburgh University. The topic was ‘Crossing the Bridge: the application of creative thinking and action to entrepreneurial education’. Delegates from most of Scotland’s HEIs attended, and we were also pleased to welcome a few guests from south of the border. Delegates heard presentations from the keynote speakers that were both thought provoking and useful, as well as having the opportunity to discuss and share their own experiences during round table discussions.

Prof Andy Penaluna from Swansea Metropolitan University started the event and talked about the difference between learning ABOUT entrepreneurship and learning FOR entrepreneurship. His fascinating talk ranged from the important role of idea generation in all stages of business and the importance of using the right side of the brain to the demonstration of practical techniques involving metal coat hangers and a ‘Two Ronnies’ sketch (and no, it wasn’t the ‘fork handles’ one!). Dr Blair Winsor from Napier University then shared his experience of the optional modules he runs, attended by around 1000 students and ranging from problem solving in year 1 through innovation and creativity to new venture creation and sales & business growth in year 4.

This lead nicely into to a question for discussion by the audience groups: What will you do in terms of integrating creativity into your modules/programmes?

A wide ranging discussion followed, including a legitimate reason for taking students to the pub (overhearing people discussing their problems is a great way to teach Opportunity Recognition, though fortunately for those without the beer budget, Twitter can also be used). There was strong agreement for the need to provide a ‘toolkit full of skills for life’, recognising that graduates face a future portfolio career that may or may not include starting a business. The need to provide practical, hands-on experience that was relevant to the students, whether on business and technical courses was emphasised. A module that forced students to start a business and try to generate income, even if it was just running an event or selling some hand made products, was agreed to be an excellent way of developing resilience, an important benefit of students learning from the real life mistakes they made.

In the final presentation of the day, Dr Shima Barakat from the University of Cambridge discussed their model for the measurement self-efficacy as an indicator of future entrepreneurial intent, part of the EU CAL4INO project of which SIE is also a partner. The premise of building self efficacy is that if students are more confident in their ability, they are more likely to go and do it. It is difficult to measure, however, as many factors may affect an individual’s self efficacy. Nevertheless, it is a valuable measurement tool that allows comparison of different types of training.

All of the presenters also discussed the challenges of formally assessing enterprise courses, a topic that engaged the audience in a lively discussion. There was no simple answer, however, although Andy Penaluna has contributed to new QAA guidelines on enterprise that provide some examples.

There is no doubt that the event was a great success, and SIE looks forward to further stimulating and informative events to Scotland in the future.