How to create a true entrepreneurial experience for your students
In the video above Doan explains his exercise for getting comfortable thinking creatively!
If you want your students to get truly excited about your class from the first day, or refresh your own experience as a teacher, read on!
This exercise will get your students feeling:
- The creative energy that comes with brainstorming a new business model
- The anxiety of making a sales pitch
- The exhilaration of making their first sale
- The inspiration that comes from seeing they too can build a profitable business
In this exercise, we explore the question: How can we provide students a true entrepreneurial experience within a classroom context? In other words, how can we make it real?
“The scandal of education is that every time you teach something, you deprive a [student] of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.”
– Seymour Papert
This article is a collaboration with Dr. Doan Winkel, the John J. Kahl, Sr. Chair in Entrepreneurship and Director of the Edward M. Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship at John Carroll University (and co-founder of TeachingEntrepreneurship.org). He developed this exercise so his students with had a powerful learning experience about entrepreneurship during the first moments of his course.
Doan developed this exercise to provide his students with the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship on the very first day of my entrepreneurship course. Students are placed in a situation that reflects many of the pressures, constraints, and reward incentives of new business creation in a compressed 30 minute time frame.
Doan’s complete lesson plan is available to download below, but here’s a quick overview.
Step 1: The Set Up
Scout out a location with plenty of shops and foot traffic. You’ll want this location to be nearby so students don’t lose too much time traveling. Doan gets students off campus so it feels more “real”, but some educators may be able to conduct the exercise on campus depending on the density of stores and foot traffic.
This location is where the class will meet on the first day. Once you decide on a location, be sure to get the word out to students regarding when and where to meet soon after registration begins. Send a selfie at the meeting spot, Google Maps coordinates, and anything else to help students find you on the first day of class. Email students reminders multiple times, including the day before classes start, to make sure you inform students as they add and drop courses. In case anyone does not get the message, put a notice in your classroom reminding students that the first meeting was offsite and to wait in the classroom until everyone returns – about 45 minutes.
You will be grouping students into teams of four, so get enough cash in $1 bills so that every team can start with $10.
Be sure to confirm with your institution that you are allowed to give students cash to use in the exercise
If your institution does not allow you to provide the cash, also let students know they need to bring 2 or 3 $1 bills with them the first day of class (depending on team size you will use).
Step 2: Class-time
Meet your students at the chosen location, team them up in groups of 4 as they arrive, and hand 10 $1 bills to each group.
Step 3: Announce the challenge
Teams have 30 minutes to make as much money as they can, legally. Whichever team makes the most profit, keeps all the money from all the groups.
Winner takes all!
Don’t provide any other specific guidance. Students will want to ask questions. Don’t answer them – walk away after reminding them to meet you back in the classroom in 35 minutes.
Step 4: Debrief
As teams arrive in the classroom, note on the board the profit made by each group and collect their money. Determine the winning team and disperse the winnings.
Start a debrief about the experience, starting with the winning team.
Questions to address can include:
- How did they arrive at decisions? Negotiate? Pivot their business idea?
- Did students work individually or as a team? Why?
- How did the ambiguity feel?
- How did it feel using someone else’s capital?
- How did they identify a market need?
- How did they identify and connect with customers?
See the complete lesson plan below for more ideas and topics to cover.
Hopefully many will feel excited and motivated by the learning experience and competition. This will provide the following benefits:
- Get students excited about class from day 1
- Get your students feeling the emotions of entrepreneurship: excitement, anxiety, confidence, inspiration
- Re-energize yourself with a more experiential class
- Build familiarity and bonding amongst students.
- Identify students who need more support with this teaching style.
By having students go through this exercise early in the course schedule, you can draw on their experiences when developing ideas throughout the term.
In addition, the exercise
- creates a unique experience for students on the first day of class,
- sets the tone for things to come, and
- gets everyone (including you!) out into the world for some real learning in real time
Get the “Making It Real” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Making It Real” exercise to walk you, and your students through the process, step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
Companies aren’t built in classrooms. They’re built in often ambiguous and rapidly evolving markets with limited resources while imposing tremendous pressures on founders. Let your students discover what strengths they bring to a team of entrepreneurs.
Teaching Entrepreneurship Digital Conference is Coming!
If you want to learn and practice exercises to better engage your students and learn how to assess experiential learning, join us on May 10th. Jim Hart, Julienne Shields, and our very own Justin Wilcox will use our unique digital conference format to guide you through experimenting with the tools and exercises they introduce to:
- Enable your students to work on big ideas
- Engage your students in entrepreneurial skills and mindset
- Help your students with problem validation.
At this conference, you won’t learn by listening, you’ll learn by doing!
Get More Exercises
For more in our continuing series of free classroom resources, subscribe below.