S7-IC2-1 - Teach like an Entrepreneur: A Faculty Development Initiative

Panels / Special Sessions
Sarah Zappe1 , Stephanie Cutler1
1 Pennsylvania State University

Description of Session Content: In the past decade, the number of programs and courses associated with entrepreneurship in engineering colleges and universities has dramatically increased. Organizations such as VentureWell and the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) have funded many initiatives that are intended to help students launch ventures and to help faculty improve teaching of entrepreneurship. One of the key characteristics relating to these endeavors is supporting students’ acquisition of the entrepreneurial mindset (EM), a set of knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) that can be helpful for entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. One definition of EM, developed by KEEN, is that it consists of 3 characteristics, termed the 3 Cs which stand for “Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value.” [1] While other researchers and practitioners have defined entrepreneurial mindset in other ways [2, 3], a common conception of entrepreneurial mindset is that is not just applicable to the entrepreneurship context. As Bekki and colleagues argue, EM includes “…cognitive behaviors that orient an engineer toward opportunity recognition and value creation in any context, not just that of an entrepreneurial venture” [4, p. 2]. The focus of the special session is the application of EM to faculty in their role as instructors.

Consider the processes and mindset associated with being an entrepreneur. A successful entrepreneur will develop a business plan and conduct customer discovery, then iterate and pivot in the face of failure. Entrepreneurs need to be curious and creative, to demonstrate the value of their product or service, and to make connections among multiple sources of information [5]. Now consider the processes and mindset associated with teaching. Successful teachers will engage in a course planning process, periodically gather information from students on their learning and on their own teaching effectiveness, and adjust teaching strategies as appropriate. A good teacher develops instructional activities that are engaging to students, creates a valuable learning experience for students, and integrates many sources of information to provide a seamless instructional environment. The overarching goal of the special session will be to emphasize the following tenet: The practices and mindset associated with quality teaching mirror practices of entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset.

 Goals of the Session:

After participating in the session, attendees should be able to: 1) Define the entrepreneurial mindset in terms of KSAs needed to be an entrepreneur, 2) Understand how the entrepreneurial mindset might be applicable to their own instructional practices, 3) Develop a conceptual map linking the KSAs needed to be an entrepreneur and those needed to be a good teacher, 4) Reflect on and identify how they can improve their teaching by integrating skills and practices relating to entrepreneurship. The intended audience for the workshop is broad and would include any engineering faculty member who teach. Faculty who are interested in improving their teaching by considering a unique approach may be interested in attending . This session would also likely be of interest to faculty developers. No expertise in entrepreneurship is needed to attend this workshop.

 Justification of novelty: 

The use of EM to drive educational innovations is unique.  No instances of the teaching as entrepreneurship metaphor for faculty development was found in the literature. The use of this metaphor brings a new framework to how instructors can think about improving their teaching.

Session Agenda: 

The special session will incorporate a number of interactive elements, including pair and share, case studies, concept mapping, and large group discussion. Below, the session agenda provides additional details on the activities that will be included.

 (0:00-0:05) Introduction and Overview

(0:05-0:10) Reflection exercise: Participants will be asked to generate ideas on the KSAs needed to be an entrepreneur and a teacher.

(0:10-0:15) Pair and share: The participants will pair up and share their KSAs and look for similarities and differences.

(0:15-0:25) Presentation of case studies: Participants will be presented with two hypothetical case studies (one teacher and one entrepreneur).

(0:25-0:45) Small group mapping exercise: Participants will be asked to make a map of how teaching and entrepreneurship are related. These will be placed on large post-it notes.

(0:45-0:60) Large group discussion: Maps will be shared with the larger group. Large group discussion will be facilitated by the presenters.

(0:50-1:10) Individual reflection activity: Participants will be asked to consider the practices of entrepreneurs and which they have or have not used in their teaching. They will then be asked to consider what practices they would like to better integrate into their teaching.

(1:10-1:20) Sharing of reflection activity and wrap-up

As a follow-up to the session, participant contact information will be collected. Participants will receive a summary of the session, including the major take-aways and the results of the large-group discussion comparing the maps of how teaching and entrepreneurship are related. The special session serves the basis of a larger faculty development initiative being conducted at Penn State.


The authors would like to acknowledge the Kern Family Foundation, KEEN, and the Engineering Faculty Impact Collaborative (EFIC) at Arizona State University for providing support for this project.

[1] KEEN Foundation (Retrieved February 2020). Mindset + Skillset = Educational Outcomes. Retrieved from https://engineeringunleashed.com/mindset-matters.aspx.

[2] Zappe, S. E. (2018). Avoiding construct confusion: An attribute-focused approach to assessing entrepreneurial mindset. Advances in Engineering Education. 1-12.

[3] Follmer, D. J., Zappe, S. E., Kisenwether, E., & Reeves, P. M. (March, 2015). Faculty beliefs about entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial mindset. Poster presented at the annual OPEN conference of VentureWell. Washington, D. C.

[4] Bekki, J. M., Huerta, M., London, J. S., Melton, D., Vigeant, M., & Williams, J. M. (2018). Why EM? Potential benefits of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset. Advances in Engineering Education, 7(1):1-11.

[5] Rae, D. & Melton, D. E. (2016). Developing an entrepreneurial mindset in US Engineering Education: An International view of the KEEN project. Journal of Engineering Entrepreneurship. 7(3): 1-16.