New Entrepreneurial Education as Tool to Enhance Students’ Self-Development: KrausLab Case 25

Olga Kovbasyuk, Associate Professor, European Business School, Kant Baltic Federal University, OVKovbasiuk(at)

Angelina Dolgaya, Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Management, Kant Baltic Federal University, dolgaya(at)



This chapter considers how students and professors can engage in meaning-centered professional development while creating new entrepreneurial education and thus answers the following set of questions:  What tools proved to be most effective to enhance professional and personal development when engaged in creating new education ? What facilitates transformation of students’ attitudes to learning and personal mastery?

To illustrate the applicability and efficacy of entrepreneurial education as transformative learning/teaching and research, we draw on the real-life projects of our students along with the tools we implement to generate new education for respecting, celebrating and growing local human capital at the postsecondary level.


Key words: entrepreneurial education, meaning –centered learning and teaching, self-activation, self-development


Theoretical Introduction to Entrepreneurial Education as Means of Self-Development 

An exciting influence on contemporary education that resonates strongly with critical constructivism’s humanistic emphasis is transformative learning theory (Merizov, 1991), which has been applied to a range of contexts such as higher education, the workplace, and the community (Brookfield, 1995; Cranton, 1994; Merirow and Taylor, 2009) and has been enriched by a variety of theories to generate compelling ethical perspective on the role of education to create diverse and sustainable world. Thus transformative learning theory embraces a kaleidoscope of applications which has been created across the filed of education and beyond and represents an extensive scholarship fir a variety of fields.


What can we take from this extensive scholarship to shape teaching/learning practice in the field of entrepreneurial education?

Experiential Learning has become an important area of scholarship in entrepreneurial education as entrepreneurial model of behavior focuses mostly on the practically applied skills and competencies, which could be acquired and developed by students in the experiential studies. No matter how highly skillful professors are, they can hardly be able to transfer the knowledge of “how to do things” to their students’ heads (Baartman and Ruijs, 2011).

It was Dewey (1938), who suggested that we learn by doing. Current conceptualization of experiential learning builds on Dewey’s pragmatism, and focuses on education, Levin’s social psychology and group dynamics, and Piaget’s model of learning and development. Whereas experiential education focuses on the process by which teachers involve learners, experiential learning focuses on how individuals learn from their experiences, even without a teacher.

In the experiential studies we pursue, students and teachers are to transform their roles and practices in such a way that the teaching culture is replaced for learning one, and students take much more responsibility for their own experiential education tracks. Experiential learning is less about instructional design, than about personally interpreted experience of each learner. Thus, in experiential learning, educational programs turn less directed by teachers and become more student-centered (Savicki, 2008)).

We explain below how different types of experience accommodate entrepreneurial learning and how this experience enhances personal and professional development of graduate students.

We would also tackle the question of what facilitates transformation of students’ attitudes to learning and personal mastery. An entrepreneurial graduate program KrausLab at the European Business School I. Kant Baltic Federal University we work for, will serve as illustration of such an experiential model of studies.


Tools of Entrepreneurial Learning to Foster Students’ Self- Development

Students are engaged when they see meaning and purpose in what they are doing and that authenticity provides meaning and purpose (Kearsley and Shneiderman, 1998). The process of gainful learning in KrausLab starts when students are provided with an opportunity to experience their individual areas of growth: first they discover competences to develop and then design Learning Contracts (LS) to represent individual education tracks with measurable tasks and goals to achieve during their studies and beyond. Initially, they may need assistance of an adviser to create the “competence profile”, but later they expand it to the the road map, applying their individual versions of representing the competences they desire to develop. Then they take practical actions to complete the tracks of the road map.  The role of an adviser decreases and remains only in providing regular feedback and feed forward to foster the habit of personal progress reflection.  Reflections are based on students’ experiences, which are assimilated and distilled into concepts by students and advisors together at the regular reflective sessions.  Such sessions provide meaningful space for students to construct further actions, which are then tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences.

We believe that by implementing the tools, like Learning Contract (LC) into the curriculum, we facilitate students’ engagement in creating direct experiences and thus facilitate the development of their self-activation mechanisms.  Leaning contract is not a means of liability, it is more of students’ capacity to commit to the chosen track of individual development, represented as an individual map of learning by doing in the foreseen period of education.  The progress students make in taking actions to learn by doing is self evaluated and revisited each semester. Advisors can foster the process through the design of direct, observed or imagined experiences and also through the framing and debriefing process by which students reflect on their experiences.

Over the five years of implementing the Learning Contract, as a tool to activate students’ self-assessment capacities, we found out that the process of LS constructing and fulfillment turns into   a self-discovery journey, which enables transformation of   wishes into tasks and thus activates learning by doing mode of studies.

What enhances students’ self-activation in KrausLab studies is learning context itself, as it models entrepreneurial environment, characterized by lack of conventional rules and tutorials for projects and research activities, thus creates the space of   uncertainty.  Students find themselves in the situation of self-initiation of their business and research projects, bearing all responsibility for the result.  According to the program requirements, they are to fulfill and complete certain assignments without having formal manuals and tutorials of how to proceed to the final result. Facing a challenge to make decisions regarding what project and research to undertake, and how to proceed on its productive realization turn them into the search for information. Although advisor’s assistance may become crucial for some of them, most of the choices, such as   what teams to work in, what business project to undertake, what research topic to discover, what competencies to develop are made by students. The framework of constant choice within the context of uncertainty and regular reflection put students into the self-learning helix. This type of facing and dealing with uncertainty occurs many times during the two years of studies, so students learn to manage under uncertainty and acquire the skills of appreciative inquiry.

We must admit, that within the work under uncertainty, students discover themselves in the personal crisis quite often, as they face such challenges as: regular self-evaluation, mandatory teamwork in research groups, and lack of formal tutorials. The first crisis usually occurs at the end of the first semester while the second semester is full of potential crisis, too. Advisors also confront the complications of individual challenges of extremely different origin, as each team is engaged in diverse context every year, with new tasks they undertake and new scenario they perform, together.  As we observe individual progress of our students, we can say, that crises they go thorough pay off well to them and often is breakthrough to get to the next level of entrepreneurial competence development. Those who gained real experience of getting through crisis appeared more resilient to it further on. We agree that such learning experience trains students’ ability to adapt to external changes in the personal and professional life and develop competencies which combine both professional knowledge and subjective characteristics (Baartman and Ruijs, 2011).


Findings and Challenges

The model of “Informal and Incidental Learning” is a suitable model to examine learner centered activities and important elements of the learning cycle (Marsick and Watkins, 2001). In this model Learning begins with some kind of a trigger, that is an internal or external stimulus, that fames what there is to experience. Students in Krauslab learn informally, when doing their start projects, big deals, and learning sets along with Kraus team activities. Each of the elements of the learning cycle implement some particular mission in addition to its relevance to the real life learning context.

For example, start projects serve to students’ full engagement into entrepreneurship in the very beginning of the program. Students have to serve to clients and perform certain tasks, resulted in a certain product within the two first months of the studies, when they hardly know each other and are hardly equipped by any tools or skills to perform well, in teams.

Although the program advisors shape the framework of start projects such as team formation, customer development and company selection, instructional design focus on the learners as the meaning makers and address the broad array of emotional and social opportunities and obstacles, that are likely to prompt effective learning. For example, real business entities serve as customers and they set up the expected value as a final result of each project. According to the three stage change management concept (Kurt Levin) this setting secures unusual educational concept which allows participants to get aware of all the potential challenges of entrepreneurship and get ready to elaborate the inquiry for entrepreneurial skills.

The main mission of the start project as an entrepreneurial education tool is not gaining knowledge or developing skills, but raising awareness of challenges, and hardcore of self-managed business life. These two first months of the studies provide   numerous choices and   opportunities, starting from networking, start-up initiation, project management with external teams, business events management, to name a few. On start projects accomplishment, students get into few reflection cycles to self evaluate the progress they make in raising awareness on what entrepreneurship involves from an individual and from a team.  Logically, up to the end of semester students are to make their first choices and decisions upon their future professional and business interest. This period brings first crisis and pivots to most of them.

Real life experience in KrausLab proceeds in the form of Big Deal (BD) as an object for the individual professional skills development or business idea implementation in a startup mode. To illustrate, students may choose the mode of Big Deal out of 3 existing modes, depending on the individual motivation and work circumstances.  Thee are:  intrapreneuship, own business, or international entrepreneurship, when students engage in exchange programs with international schools and find partners for joint international projects, including business projects. In order to support students’ BDs implementation, we offer applied methods and instruments at the study sessions and modules. We believe that Big Deal represents experiential and exploratory learning in one as it provides the ground for the entrepreneurial experience, embracing both success and failure, as an additional source of competence development. According to Shepherd (Shepherd at al., 2016), studying failures is more relevant to entrepreneurial education then success stories. We resonate with this statement and believe that learning in general should embrace the experience of failure in both group work and individual activity. As we observe, such kind of experience creates a basis for reflection, emotional pivot and evolution of risk appreciation.

Learning Set is another important entrepreneurial education tool in our program. It deals with transformative research, representing contemporary qualitative research and offering exciting novel methods for engaging in transformative personal development. Here we focus on such possibilities as story telling, art based performances, critical thinking, which draws on the epistemologies. of new research paradigm that have emerged during the last years – interpretivism, criticalism and postmodernism. Students choose a topic of interest, resonating with their experiences, to examine it critically, to reinvest in the value of entrepreneurial education, and to develop professional philosophy.  Learning set (LS) involves teamwork, which creates certain challenges, yet it facilitates the development of non-cognitive competencies, such as self-management, empathy, emotional intelligence and ability to share, which have an increasing impact on work performance and income (Deng, 2010).


Remaining Questions and Conclusion

Entrepreneurial education as means of self-development presents both rich opportunities and many challenges.  Opportunities lie in the realm of developing students’   personal and professional competences in the experiential environment. Challenges relate to to the newly emerging paradigm of entrepreneurial and management education, which still represents the status when students are being prepared to consistently play familiar situations and commonly used organizational settings (Paixao, et al., 2018).  Self-development relates to both teachers and students. Are we ready to accept it to implement in our actions?

In this regard, challenges relate to our own individual self-discovery and the way we, professors, advisors and parents unconsciously transmit our values in teaching/learning.  In fact, research is bound by the situation in which it is performed and thus by what is considered acceptable as evidence. This makes it critical for educators to stay open and share with each other what we discover as fixed reality   to avoid possible bias that could impede educational goals in general, and in entrepreneurial education, in general.

We hope that the examples and tools of experiential learning and research we shared in context of entrepreneurial education will serve to facilitate rethinking of whether it  enhances personal and professional development of students, what tools we implement prove more productive in enhancing self-activation mechanisms of business behavior and what facilitates transformation of students’ attitudes to learning and personal mastery.

Many questions remain behind the scene, revisiting all of those emerging in the process of exploration the new track we enter may help provide additional understanding and guidance for the utilization of transformative pedagogy in entrepreneurial education along with other approaches to cope with the rapidly changing environment in the global world, and in education specifically.



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Published by the Triple Helix Association  –  ISSN 2281-4515


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