The common thought that learning by experience is most effective when it comes to teaching entrepreneurship at university has been challenged in a new study.

An analysis of more than 500 graduates found no significant difference between business schools that offered traditional courses and those that emphasise a ‘learning-by-doing’ approach to entrepreneurship education.

The research challenges the ongoing trend across higher education institutes (HEIs) of focussing on experiential learning, and suggests that universities need to reconsider their approach if they are to increase entrepreneurship among their students.

Ms Inna Kozlinska, research associate at Aston Business School and author of the study, said: “Entrepreneurship education is seen as a major force capable of generating long-term socio-economic changes through developing entrepreneurial, creative, flexible and wise individuals. There is an ongoing shift towards experiential learning in business schools, yet there is little empirical evidence to suggest this approach has better impact than traditional learning.

“This study has shown, contrary to our expectations that ‘learning-by-doing’ approaches do not necessarily lead to better outcomes for students, and were even found to have adverse effects in some instances.
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The study highlights another crucial issue that has not been widely researched up until now: how new entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and attitude relate to further achievements in the professional life of graduates. Contrary to expectations, the attitude of graduates was found to have the most positive effect on employability and entrepreneurial activity. The influence of newly acquired knowledge and skills on graduates was not significant.

Ms Kozlinska added: “The findings surrounding the attitudes of successful graduates tend to characterise entrepreneurs: a high level of creativity and self-confidence, strong passion towards entrepreneurship, and tolerance to failure.”

Source: Entrepreneurial experiences ‘no better than textbooks,’ says study