A rapidly changing world requires us to change in unexpected and different ways. One of those changes taking place is the increasing need for skills that are the foundation for the entrepreneurial mindset. It is with this rapid change in mind that the need for non-quantifiable skills becomes incredibly important. Not only in the context of business but the fundamental skills associated with entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset are now recognised as lifewide skills. “Lifewide” skills is a fairly new term to describe skills that you will use in different parts of your life.
Lifewide learning, by design, recognises that individuals inhabit multiple spaces at any given time:
- mental, physical, and spiritual health & wellbeing
This concept sees and responds to the whole person when thinking and designing learning.
What Skills Are We Talking About?
The entrepreneurial mindset is recognised as a lifewide skill because of the roughly 9 foundational skills that it builds:
- Ability to innovate
- Tolerance to risk-taking
- Tolerance of failure
- Plan & reach objectives
These are all skills that are useful in both individual entrepreneurial pursuits, such as starting a company, but they are also skills that will help someone succeed as an employee, a teacher, a volunteer, a parent, or as a student, etc. But these skills can be difficult to assess objectively and with different skill levels (such as beginner vs expert).
I want to present a resource for those who are teaching these skills, or want to teach, and assess these types of skills in their own classes.
- Analytical thinking and innovation
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Complex problem-solving
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Creativity, originality, and initiative
- Leadership and social influence
- Technology use, monitoring and control
- Technology design and programming
- Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility
- Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
Just like the previous list of entrepreneurial mindset skills, this list includes various softer, more difficult to quantify skills. It can be objectively difficult to determine how you are going to assess such ‘soft’ skills as creativity in problem-solving or initiative.
The EU has also been thinking about this for a long time since they identified that soft skills related to the entrepreneurial mindset will be important moving forward. This realisation motivated them to create an assessment framework for anyone teaching these skills.
Entrepreneurship is a Core Competence
In 2017, Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture further emphasized that entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset should become a part of the education system when they published the Entrepreneurship Education Guidelines, from their previous report in 2009. The definition that the Ministry provided was:
“Entrepreneurship means observing possibilities and grasping them, as well as the ability to transform ideas into actions that produce financial, cultural, social or societal value. …They include creativity, the ability to innovate, risk management, and responsibility, as well as the ability to plan, specify goals, and direct operations to reach objectives.”
With all these different organisations responsible for education and the future of working life and economic development recognising that these skills will be key, how do we begin to effectively and accurately assess them in a repeatable and objective way?
So, How Do You Assess Soft Skills?
How do you assess someone’s ability to be creative or take initiative? It is important that we foster these skills and we are able to assess them and help to develop them in students. This is where “EntreComp: the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework” can give guidance to teachers on assessment of soft skills.
“EntreComp is a framework of 15 entrepreneurship competences, broken down further into threads that describe what the particular competence really means in practical terms. These are clearly defined through learning outcomes – what a learner knows, understands and can do. The learning outcomes are mapped across 8 different levels of progression, from beginner to expert.”
The EntreComp framework, launched in 2016, provides a comprehensive breakdown of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes individuals will need to develop in order to be entrepreneurial in action and mindset “to create financial, cultural or social value for others.” Its overview is visualised as a flower made up of 5 parts:
- a definition of entrepreneurship
- 3 competence areas
- 5 competences per area
- threads in each competence
- and 8 progression levels (2 in each of foundation, intermediate, advanced, and expert)
In all, this framework has 442 learning outcomes that are measurable. It is also possible to do a self-assessment online with the Yoop tool. The self-assessment was developed by a consortium of Finnish higher education institutions and is available in English, Finnish, and Swedish.
This is a comprehensive view at what entrepreneurship and an entrepreneurial mindset looks like from the skill level. It also allows us to better understand how individuals can learn and practice these skills on a daily or weekly basis in all areas of their lives.
Using The Framework in Education
Within formal education, the framework allows teachers and lecturers to tailor entrepreneurial learning outcomes in specific contexts. It also allows for the development of new or existing teaching and learning activities to develop entrepreneurial competences and to develop assessment of entrepreneurial learning.
As entrepreneurial learning is now identified as a core competence by the Finnish Ministry of Education, it needs to start to be incorporated into all education programmes and degrees. Even those where it does not currently exist, or does not have a legacy of being included. This can be difficult for those who are responsible for the assessing of such skills. Therefore, this framework is a great support for the changes that might need to be implemented.
Case VillageOPTICIAN at Metropolia UAS
If I were teaching more entrepreneurship or leadership, I would be using this tool even more. I think that this is a really good tool.
-Kajsa Sten, Lecturer, Degree program in optometry
18 Months ago Kajsa Sten, Lecturer at the Degree program in optometry, set up an innovation project course that has 8-10 students make up the core team of VillageOPTICIAN (KyläOPTIKKO in Finnish). VillageOPTICIAN is a store in HyMy Village that offers all optician services such as eye exams, eye-glass repairs, frames, and lenses. The core team’s job is to act as a team of entrepreneurs and to run the shop. The students are allocated dedicated roles that they need to fulfill for the duration of the innovation project each semester. Each semester a new core team is selected through a voluntary application process.
During the semester, the students are responsible for different aspects of the running of the shop. This includes marketing, client relations, supplier relations, etc.
Kajsa has so far used the EntreComp framework for student assessments 5 times in this project. She uses it in a self-assessment capacity asking the students at the end of their experience to go through the main 15 competencies and reflect in four parts. In their final report of their innovation studies, the students are required to use a learning journal to:
- open and explain the main features of each competence
- reflect on how they have been able to use or try each competence as part of their VillageOPTICIAN studies
- reflect on how these competences will show up as a future eyecare professional
- reflect on the different levels of depth (or progression) of these competences – what level are you at now and how you could reach a deeper level of competence?
In preparation for this final assignment, she has learned to focus on three aspects:
- introducing the assignment and framework live to answer initial questions (email has been tried but it is not as effective)
- navigating the framework with specific page numbers that they should use and in what way.
- reminding the students that the level of analysis will affect their final grade is a good way to stimulate reflection depth.
Using the comprehensive EntreComp framework in this way allows for a great guide in reflection and having the students reflect on their own learning is a time-tested method of assessment. This method, with these soft skills, is valuable to both the teacher and the student to see what has been learned and what may have been missed. Allowing the teacher to adjust the learning in future iterations of the course or program to promote continual improvement.
Pamela Spokes works as a Service Designer in Metropolia’s RDI team. Originally from Canada, Pamela has years of experience in university admin focusing on international recruitment, marketing, and the international student/staff experience. With a Bachelor’s from Canada, a Master’s degree from Sweden, an MBA in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea UAS, and her AmO from Haaga-Helia UAS, she is interested in purposefully designed experiences that are centred around the user.
Don’t be surprised if she knocks on your door to talk about learning co-creation methods through intensive learning experiences.
Mccallum, E., Weicht, R., Mcmullan, L. and Price, A., EntreComp into Action – Get inspired, make it happen: A user guide to the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework, Bacigalupo, M. and O`keeffe, W. editor(s), EUR 29105 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2018, ISBN 978-92-79-79360-8, doi:10.2760/574864, JRC109128.