Why Textbooks Don’t Work

Why Textbooks Don’t Work

It doesn’t matter what you do:

  • Switch to the newest entrepreneurship textbook
  • Quiz students to make sure they read the material before class
  • Incorporate popular industry books like Disciplined Entrepreneurship or Lean Startup

You’ll fall short of the engagement your students deserve.

Whether you compile a summary of resources from around the Web, or you use a structured experiential curriculum like ExEC . . .

whatever you do, don’t use a textbook to teach entrepreneurship! You’re short changing yourself and your students.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top 3 reasons why textbooks don’t teach entrepreneurship:

  1. Textbooks don’t teach skills.
  2. Learning by doing is more effective than reading and regurgitating.
  3. Students don’t read textbooks.

But first, remember that we are hosting a FREE virtual workshop to train you on how to engage ALL your students next semester. Head here for details and to register. This workshop will be very participatory, so please make sure your camera and microphone are working, and test your computer for Zoom here.

Textbooks Don’t Teach Skills

Students can’t learn entrepreneurship by reading about it. Entrepreneurship textbooks provide a general blanket of information about entrepreneurship, but don’t engage students in entrepreneurship. They cover 15, 16, 17 or more topics loosely related to entrepreneurship. This creates a density problem that inhibits effective learning and engagement.

Textbooks drown students in facts and figures, but don’t guide students to action.

Here is what a typical entrepreneurship textbook table of contents covers:

  • Perspective & Context
  • Ideation and Opportunity Identification/Recognition/Evaluation
  • Business Modeling and/or Business Planning
  • Funding
  • Launching a Venture
  • Growing/Scaling a Venture

Entrepreneurship textbooks are effective at overwhelming students with information. They are mostly ineffective at enabling students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set through application and practice.

Textbooks are not ineffective because of the people who write them. I know and admire many of the authors, and I know they are dynamic teachers. Textbooks are ineffective because they try to do too much; if you want to give your students a general overview of what entrepreneurship is, then a textbook is for you.

If you want your students practicing the skills of entrepreneurship, then a textbook won’t work.

Research Shows That Learning By Doing is More Effective Than Reading

What does engage students is experience that build skills. Where textbooks fail and ExEC succeeds is in delivering experiential learning, defined as:

“learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.”  (Lewis and Williams, 1994: 5)

Research shows that in a variety of disciplines, from sciences to humanities to business and especially in entrepreneurship, experiential learning leads to better student engagement and therefore outcomes.

student engagement

As David Goobler, author of Pedagogy Unbound, observes:

“We have to go beyond the idea that the perfect presentation of the relevant facts will be enough to help the majority of our students learn. Such pedagogy (whether or not we call it lecturing) will work for some students. But for most students, we need to shift our focus from what it is we say to what it is they do.”

Students Don’t Read Textbooks

What students don’t do is read textbooks; research shows that students assigned readings complete only 20-30% of them. A variety of factors contribute to students’ struggle with reading – school-life balance, lack of motivation, and more importantly, lack of comprehension. One study shows that only 46% of students in a particular course read assignments, and of those, only 55% demonstrated a basic comprehension of the reading.

Students don’t want to read. They want to do. Do you want to engage your students this fall?

Next year, no textbooks! Students don’t read the textbooks, they are not engaging, and they don’t teach the necessary skills. Whether you assemble your own collection of exercises from around the web, or you use a structured curriculum like ExEC, next year, get the most out of your students and your class by ditching the textbook and go experiential!

Try the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

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

TeachingEntrepreneurship.org’s Greatest Hits

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship. Finance is a difficult subject to teach in entrepreneurship. Our financial projection simulator is the best way to teach financial projections without overwhelming students.
  • Our Top 5 Lesson Plans. Top teaching entrepreneurship lesson plans – covering idea generation, customer interviewing, prototyping, and problem validation.
  • Entrepreneurship Syllabus. Engaging entrepreneurship syllabi are difficult to build. We surveyed 4,000+ educators, and created five engaging entrepreneurship syllabus templates

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