5 Tips for Fostering an Entrepreneurial Learning Environment
When teaching youth entrepreneurship, instructors should serve as mentors, guides, facilitators and champions. Entrepreneurship is not black and white. It is not 2+2=4. Many times, even as the instructor, you won’t know the answer! Here are a few tips to frame your mindset and classroom for teaching entrepreneurship:
1. Recognize that it’s okay not to know the answer all the time.
For example, you may not know if a student’s idea will work or if there is a market for their product. That’s okay! Encourage your students to do more research and to continue testing their ideas, and don’t be afraid to let the students know that you are learning right alongside them! In fact, acknowledging your own learning process is a great way to lead by and embody an entrepreneurial mindset. Modeling the entrepreneurial mindsets is one of the most effective ways to instill them in youth.
2. Be a cheerleader and champion for your students.
Many times, it will turn out that an idea won’t work and the students will have to try something different. They may be disheartened at realizing that they need to come up with a new idea and start from scratch.This is where you can really serve as a guide and encourage the students to look at the problem from a different angle and show them that this is part of the learning process. They will not lose points or be seen as having failed.
Success will come in all shapes and sizes, and it is important to know when and what to celebrate. Each student will grow at a different pace; a group may struggle for a long time to create a prototype where another group may develop one very quickly. As an instructor, it is important that you don’t compare one team to another—all milestones look different!
Remember, the goal for the students is learning a mindset and skillset that can be used later in their future, not necessarily starting a company.
3. Foster a culture of creativity and curiosity.
The single greatest influence on learners’ well-being is the climate of the classroom or learning environment. In a classroom typified by positive challenge and joy, the body releases endorphins which elevate our feelings and cause us to feel good. A positive learning environment promotes better problem-solvers and higher quality learning.
As an instructor, you should strive to foster a culture of creativity and curiosity. Create an environment that is accepting of all people and all ideas, where it is okay to try and fail. This safe space for exploration and trial and error is vital to student learning and the development of the entrepreneurial mindset.
Many times, students come up with ideas that may seem impractical. Encourage students to fully explore their ideas and then serve as a guide to help them focus their ideas. If a student has a great idea, but it is not appropriate for the learning environment, students should be directed to a new problem or issue.
4. Help students build a sense of shared responsibility and care.
Students are asked to take risks in this program—to step out, create, share and work with peers in ways they might not have done before. The relationships established with and among students will be critical for students to feel safe to take those risks. Encourage students to listen to, and consider, other people’s ideas with respect.
We recommend you develop a list of values and responsibilities with your students before you start your first VentureLab lesson, have them sign it, and display the list on the wall to create a sense of shared responsibility and care.
5. Create an environment of relaxed alertness.
One of the best gifts we can give our students is an environment of relaxed alertness. The goals of relaxed alertness include the following:
- Eliminating fear
- Creating a highly challenging learning environment
- Fostering energy and excitement
- Creating space for emotional openness
This environment will encourage students to work quickly, fail often, reevaluate, and troubleshoot—all important aspects of embracing the entrepreneurial mindset. In an atmosphere of relaxed alertness, instructors make an effort to eliminate fear while maintaining a highly challenging environment. For instance, instructors may play music when appropriate to set a relaxed tone. Bright lights may be dimmed.
VentureLab programs typically have students work in teams, drawing and writing with colorful markers on butcher paper or even windows! We prefer an open classroom/learning space that is modular so tables can easily be moved around for teamwork.
All students learn in different ways. We want to activate students’ entire brains and utilize all of the students’ senses: sight, sound, touch, movement, etc. because students learn best when concepts are reinforced with multiple sensations through art, drawing, colors, music, etc. Students don’t always need to be sitting at their tables writing neatly!
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