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5 entrepreneurial skills today’s students need

Ann McMullan
November 23rd, 2015

As teaching changes to become less “sage on the stage” and more “guide on the side,” students must also adapt to a new learning culture by becoming more entrepreneurially-minded.

entrepreneur-student-skillsSince the 2005 publication of his highly impactful book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Friedman has been teaching his readers and listeners to think differently about our world and how we interact with each other. Friedman consistently talks about new skill sets that are required for anyone who wants to not only survive but truly thrive in the hyper-connected world that is life in the 21st century.

One group that has taken on this challenge is Metiri Group, based in Marina Del Rey, California. Cheryl Lemke, CEO and Co-Founder of Metiri Group, is leading the way on expanding the concepts of 21st Century Skills. Metiri Group, through their collaborative project with North Central Regional Education Laboratory, enGauge 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age, (Metiri & NCREL, 2003), helped to define the term “21st Century Skills” in the context that it is now widely known.

Today Metiri Group, as the beneficiary of a Small Business Innovation Research Grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in January 2015, is focusing on the importance of developing entrepreneurial skills within the context of teaching and learning for all students, with the goal of embedding these skill sets as learning components of core curriculum instruction. Lemke and Metiri Group based their concepts on research involving cognitive science that supports entrepreneurial behavior.

To identify their entrepreneurial skills, Metiri Group mined emergent literature on entrepreneurship in business. A key source was a five-year study by Dr. Amy Wilkinson, a Stanford researcher, who identified a set of entrepreneurial skills common to the 200 entrepreneurs she interviewed (Wilkinson, 2015). Another key business resource was “The Entrepreneur Equation” (Roth, 2012), which provided a frank discussion of the skills entrepreneurs will need and a reality check for future entrepreneurs as to the challenges they can expect.

Metiri Group sought to link the entrepreneurial skills identified by the business sector to corresponding skills for teaching and learning, based on key education research. Writings on growth mindset (Dweck, 2006), authentic learning (Newmann, 1996), critical thinking (Halpern, 2002), cognitive and social engagement (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004), and creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, (1997); Nijstad & Paulus, (2003); and Sternberg, Kaufman, & Pretz, (2002) all factored into Metiri Group’s strategies for developing students’ entrepreneurial skills via classroom instruction and learning activities.

At the core of Metiri Group’s work is the belief that the skills that are necessary to be a successful entrepreneur are the same skills that all students require in order to be voracious, engaged learners. Metiri Group identifies five competencies that are essential to building entrepreneurial skills in all students:

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1.Self-Direction: The importance of instructional practices which create student-centered learning experiences, rather than relying solely on teacher-delivered content, is gaining a great deal of traction in the education community. The realities of a world in which workforce processes are no longer strictly directed in a top-down management structure necessitate the importance of everyone having the skill sets needed to drive their own learning. Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset, referenced above, (Dweck, 2006) as well as Barry Zimmerman’s collaborative work on self-regulation (Zimmermann, et al., 2006) come into play here. Metiri Group identifies self-directed learners as those who have the skills necessary to set their own learning goals, institute plans to accomplish those goals, analyze and solve problems, own and manage their own learning and improvement, while working within a growth mindset (Lemke, 2015). Teachers who provide students with feedback and praise for their effort – perhaps even giving a grade for effort rather than just the end result – help to build self-direction skills in their students.

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