Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

If your students are anxious about their grade, or about making appropriate progress in terms of learning and mindset, this lesson plan is for you.

With this lesson plan, you will calm your students’ anxiety, and effectively prepare them for their final presentation.

One of the biggest reasons students disengage in experiential entrepreneurship classes is that different teams progress at different speeds.

  • Teams who fall behind can get discouraged when the class progresses to topics that are not yet relevant to them.
  • Teams who quickly validate an assumption can get bored if the content of the class stalls their progress.

One of the most successful remedies we’ve seen to this problem is to provide students with differentiated learning experiences, via individual team coaching sessions.

Every coaching session should be a moment where students can measure the skills they’ve built so far in order to learn what to do next.

What is a Coaching Stand-Up?

First, what they are not:

  • They are not a formal presentation where everyone in the class is presenting the same material
  • They are not a graded performance based on the progress the team has made on their startup idea.

A coaching stand-up is a graded performance based on the process the team has navigated for their startup idea.

The best way to think about Coaching Stand-ups, is to imagine your class more like a startup accelerator, where you are managing a portfolio of companies. Regardless of where they are in the process, it’s your job to help each company take the next right step for them.

With this perspective in mind, you see how Coaching Stand-Ups turn into:

A chance for you to provide individualized feedback to student teams, specific to the challenges they are facing.

Coaching Stand-Ups 101

Coaching stand-ups should happen frequently during the course. There are two options for how to run a Coaching stand-up, or you can blend the two:

  • Student teams conduct a final presentation simulation in front of their peers
  • Student teams meet w/ the instructor one-on-one (either in class or outside of class)

We found great success in conducting these Coaching Stand-Ups after students have gone through customer interviewing, problem validation, and begun their solution ideation.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each session so you can decide which best suits your class and students.

Class presentation by students

Coaching Through Simulation

Coaching students through a presentation simulation provides the following benefits:

  • A more structured format can be helpful in preparing students for the final (graded) presentation.
  • The pressure of looking good in front of peers can motivate students to put together higher quality work.
  • Creates a classroom culture where peers are providing valuable feedback to one another.

This strategy, however, does have its drawbacks. This approach can create an environment where teams are competing with one another rather than focusing on their own progress. Additionally, peers can get bored listening to other presentations and feel that the time would be better spent if they could work on their own projects.

Team Private Coaching

Alternatively, you can provide coaching by teams meeting with you, either during a class session or outside of class. Providing your students feedback using this method provides the following benefits:

  • The meetings can be more idiosyncratic, based on the needs of each team.
  • Teams are less likely to compare their progress to one another.
  • Instructors can be more candid and hands-on with each team.
  • Students appreciate the individualized instruction.
  • Teams who are not presenting can continue with their work.

We recommend conducting private coaching stand-ups for the reasons stated above.

Help Students Prepare For Coaching

In preparation for a Coaching Stand-Up session, ask your students to prepare a presentation using the guidelines below.

We strongly encourage you to give students autonomy and flexibility in how they prepare for these sessions to allow them to rise to the challenge or fail to do so, and learn how to do better in the future.

Assessing a Stand-up

Assessing a stand-up is based off the process the students are going through and how well they understand and reflect upon the process. It’s not about their progress and how far they have gone, but instead is about the questions they are raising and the reflection process. It is critical to make this clear to students ahead of time as the focus on process not progress will be new to many students.

Prior to the Coaching Stand-Up, give students the following format to follow in their presentation, whether they will be in front of the class, or just with you. These meetings should last approximately 5 minutes for each team.

Why We Call It a Stand-Up

We refer to this as a stand-up because students should stand up during the entire meeting to keep it short and efficient, much like the daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings.

Set the Context (30 seconds)

Share what the team is trying to do. What challenge is the team trying to address?

Previous Feedback & Actions Taken (1 minute)

Summarize the team’s progress to-date. Encourage teams to start with what has gone well (i.e., the positive) before discussing the things that did not go as expected. Be sure to discuss any previous feedback they received from the instructor or other students, judges, or potential customers, and what actions have been taken to address this feedback.

Discoveries (2 minutes each)

Share the discoveries of any research/experiments conducted. Each experiment should be discussed separately, using the format below:

  1. What assumptions were we making that need to be validated?
  2. What experiment did we conduct? (e.g. customer interviews, publish the landing page, solution interviews, etc.)
  3. What have we discovered? Share the main lessons learned.
  4. Why this discovery important for our team? How does it change our Business Model Canvas?

Students should also bring additional data and information to ensure they are prepared to answer questions that the instructor and/or audience might ask about their experiments and conclusions.

Question (30 seconds)

Conclude the presentation by sharing a question for the audience. The question should seek the audience’s input on the most important things that the team should work on next.

Teams should not ask the audience a question that can be answered by saying yes or no (e.g., Is this product a good idea?).

We want our students to move away from looking for a single right answer and instead have a mindset of continuously building, measuring and learning.

As such, instructors should evaluate the students on the question they pose and their reflection process. If appropriate, the audience should share their thoughts on the question posed by the team. Then ask the presenters to share their thoughts on this question. Last, so you do not influence others, share your thoughts.

If the Coaching Stand-Up is conducted in front of peers, encourage their peers to try to help the presenter by providing feedback.

General Coaching Stand-Up Tips:

Specify for your students whether all team members must present during a Coaching Stand-Up or if teams are free to choose which team members will present.

Encourage students to explain things simply and clearly so that everyone will be able to understand it. Remind them of the Albert Einstein quote: “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year old, you don’t know it yourself.”

You should document the feedback provided to each team so that changes between successive coaching stand-up sessions can be tracked. You can create a formalized feedback document to share with the students or to document the feedback for internal purposes only. A feedback template is provided in the lesson plan.

The big challenge of a stand-up is that they can take too long. This is, again, why we make students stand up during the presentations. We recommend everything is strictly timed, which will help students communicate their ideas more efficiently and help ensure you are not spending too much time talking with individual teams.

When to Run Coaching Stand-Ups

  • We found conducting stand-ups at the following points during the course are most effective:
  • Before customer interviews. Make sure their interviewing strategy is right and they are talking to the right customer.
  • During customer interviews. After the first round of customer interviews, check in to make sure students are on the right path.
  • After customer interviews. Make sure your students know how to analyze customer interviews.
  • Before running an experiment. Make sure the experiment will test what the students want to test.
  • After the first experiment. Help students understand how to analyze their results.

Reducing Student Anxiety

The type of individualized instruction you provide during a coaching stand-up reduces student anxiety. You are speaking directly to them, very clearly and succinctly, about a very specific task or skill, so students receive very clear feedback on a very specific point.

Coaching Stand-Ups are one option to provide your students clear feedback as they progress through their learning journey. This lesson plan provides you one method to accomplish the following goals:

  • Move students away from searching for a single right answer and instead focus them on asking the right questions.
  • Encourage learning. Don’t focus on the grade.
  • Give guidance and feedback to help them prepare for the final presentation (e.g., what to change and where to focus on).

teaching entrepreneurship

Lecture Less & Coach More With the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Want to create the most engaging team experiences for your students? Check out the award-winning ExEC curriculum for your Spring courses.

Or learn more about the methodology behind and exercises in our curriculum at the USASBE Conference in New Orleans in January (drinks are on us!)

Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Spring the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.

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We’ve created a detailed “How to Coach Your Students” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

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