Students’ eyes glaze over when they read the syllabus.
How we can engage students and start teaching them entrepreneurship skills from the moment they walk into our classes?
Jay Markiewicz from Virginia Commonwealth University developed a novel way to start your semester that almost guarantees students will WANT to come back!
Step 1: Problem Definition and Customer Discovery
It’s the first day of class. We want to be anti-boring.
We want to put students in the middle of an engaging experience right away.
And even better, we want the engagement to be instructive.
By asking the question below, the moment is instantly relevant because students are experiencing it in real time. Students begin by using Post-it notes to answer this question
What are the challenges and concerns students face on day one of a new course?
Surprised and intrigued by the question, your students write down their answers on Post-It notes you’ve left on their desks before class started.
Then you tell your students to text their friends and ask them the same question.
Surprised again (this time by being instructed to text during class) your classroom will fill with discussion and energy as students get replies.
Just like that, within the first 5 minutes of your course, your students are practicing the real-world entrepreneurial skill of problem discovery…and loving it.
In small teams of 3-4, students take a moment to meet each other and then collaborate by discussing with each other the challenges/concerns they wrote on their post-it notes.
In this step, students start identifying problems, and progress into customer discovery, all in the first moments of class!
Step 2: Data Analysis
In this step, teams use their Post-it notes to group similar answers, ranking their top concerns/challenges.
Each team writes their top 2-3 answers on the board to start a list of all of the concerns/challenges students identified.
You can now engage the class in a discussion on the priority “problems” that students have on day one.
Here are some example answers you may see as the top priority”
- “Getting to know each other. Avoiding day one awkwardness.”
- “Getting interested in the course. Knowing what I’ll be learning throughout the course.”
In this step, students start analyzing customer discovery data – and you’re not even halfway through your first class!
Step 3: Solution Generation
Now we engage students even deeper, and have a little fun along the way!
They practiced problem definition, customer discovery, and data analysis. The next skill is generating solutions to the problem they just identified.
Ask students to write answers on the Post-it notes to the following question:
If you were me, what solutions would you design for these problems?
Students don’t need to text friends this time. Instead, have them form NEW teams of 3-4 students and go through the same steps as above – meet each other, identify the most common solutions, then debrief with answers grouped on the board or wall.
Step 4: Reflection
The last step of this amazing kickoff experience, included in the lesson plan below, are to have students reflect on the question, “How was this activity instructive to us about entrepreneurship?”
This is where students identify, in their own words, the entrepreneurial process – complete with their own ah-hah moments. It’s a really fun way for students to discover the key principles of entrepreneurship….all on the first day of the class!
Click below to….
Get the Full “What’s Your Day 1 Problem?” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “What is Your Day 1 Problem?” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.
All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!
Want More Exercises Like This?
ExEC is a structured collection of experiential exercises that teach students entrepreneurial skills regardless of their relationship to entrepreneurship.
As an less expensive alternative to a textbook, ExEC provides students lifetime access to a wide range of entrepreneurial tools, and provides instructors:
We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!
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