Transformative education: raising entrepreneurial spirit

Dolgaya A.A.1, Kovbasyuk O.V.2
1 Калининградский государственный технический университет, Россия, Калининград
2 Балтийский федеральный университет им. И. Канта, Россия, Калининград

Статья в журнале

Вопросы инновационной экономики (РИНЦ, ВАК)
опубликовать статью | оформить подписку

Том 10, Номер 2 (Апрель-июнь 2020)

Dolgaya A.A., Kovbasyuk O.V. Transformative education: raising entrepreneurial spirit // Вопросы инновационной экономики. – 2020. – Том 10. – № 2. – С. 663-672. – doi: 10.18334/vinec.10.2.100915.

Эта статья проиндексирована РИНЦ, см.

Complex tools of transformative experiential learning and research applied in the innovative master program are described in the article. In context of entrepreneurial education these tools serve to facilitate personal and professional development of students. Team entrepreneurship education method called “Big Deal” is efficient in enhancing self-activation mechanisms of business behavior. Informal agreement “Learning contract” functions as a self-goalsetting tool which facilitates transformation of students’ attitudes to learning and personal mastery. Team learning conducted in the form of self-organized groups puts forward the challenge of governance for group work productivity.

Ключевые слова: Entrepreneurial education, transformative learning, learning set, krauslab, learning contract, self-determination, horizontal teaching

JEL-классификация: L26, M21, I25, I26


Over the past 25 years Mezirow’s transformative theory of adult learning has been applied to a range of contexts such as higher education, the workplace, and the community [1–3] (Brookfiled, 1995; Cranton, 1994; Mezirow, Taylor, 2009); and has been enriched by theories of society, globalization, culture and others, to generate compelling ethical perspective on the role of education to create diverse and sustainable world.

Entrepreneurial education as transformative learning opens new epistemological spaces for educators and students to draw on constructivist, critical-social and art-based approaches what allows them to examine reflectively, critically and imaginatively their experiences. It resonates with experiential learning, dialogical and meaning-centered learning [4] (Kovbasyuk, Blessinger, 2013) revealing and strengthening personal agency while students are performing real-life projects, doing research or writing a thesis.

This chapter considers how students and professors can harness transformative pedagogy paradigm to engage in meaning-centered professional development and thus answers the following set of questions: To what extent is transformative pedagogy applicable to entrepreneurial education? Can transformative learning enhance personal and professional development of graduate students? What tools proved to be most effective to enhance self-activation mechanisms of business behaviour? What facilitates transformation of students’ attitudes to learning and personal mastery?

To illustrate the applicability and efficacy of entrepreneurial education as transformative learning/teaching and research, we draw on the real-life projects of our students along with the tools we implement to generate new education for respecting, celebrating and growing local human capital at the postsecondary level:

1. Learning as outcome of transformed experiences.

2. Tools of transformative education to raise entrepreneurial spirit.

3. Learning Flow in Kraus Lab: Findings and Challenges.

Learning as an Outcome of Transformed Experiences

An exciting influence on contemporary education that resonates strongly with critical constructivism’s humanistic emphasis is transformative learning theory [5] (Merizow, 1991), which has been applied to a range of contexts such as higher education, the workplace, and the community [2, 3] (Cranton, 1994; Mezirow, Taylor, 2009) and has been enriched by a variety of theories to generate compelling ethical perspective on the role of education to create diverse and sustainable world. Thus, transformative learning theory embraces a kaleidoscope of applications which has been created across the field of education and beyond and represents an extensive scholarship in a variety of fields.

What can we take from this extensive scholarship to shape teaching/learning practice in the field of entrepreneurial education? The following passage from the introduction to the book “Expending the Boundaries of Transformative Learning” [6] (O’Sullivan, Morrell, O’Connor, 2002) is a genuine source of the thought food we resonate with, when we reflect on our commitment to fostering students’ entrepreneurial skills development.

“Transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings and actions. It is a shift of conciseness that dramatically and permanently alters our way of being in the world. Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations, our relationships with other humans and with the world; our understanding of relations of power …, our visions of alternative approaches to living…”

We find ourselves inspired by that passage to articulate the following perspective on transformative learning for developing students’ enhanced agency. It is realizing how desirable and feasible to become entrepreneurs of own lives might be.

Experiential Learning has become an important area of scholarship in entrepreneurial education as entrepreneurial model of behaviour focuses mostly on the practically applied skills and competencies, which could be acquired and developed by students in the experiential studies. No matter how highly skillful professors are, they can hardly be able to transfer the knowledge of “how to do things” to their students’ heads [4] (Kovbasyuk, Blessinger, 2013).

It was Dewey [8] (Dewey, 1938), who suggested that we learn by doing. Current conceptualization of experiential learning builds on Dewey’s pragmatism, and focuses on education, Levin’s social psychology and group dynamics, and Piaget’s model of learning and development. Whereas experiential education focuses on the process by which teachers involve learners, experiential learning focuses on how individuals learn from their experiences, even without a teacher.

In the experiential studies we pursue, students and teachers are to transform their roles and practices in such a way that the teaching culture replaced by learning one, and students take much more responsibility for their own experiential education tracks. Experiential learning is less about instructional design, than about personally interpreted experience of each learner. Thus, in experiential learning, educational programs turn less directed by teachers and become more student-centered [4] (Kovbasyuk, Blessinger, 2013).

We explain below how different types of experience accommodate entrepreneurial learning and how this experience enhances personal and professional development of graduate students.

We would also tackle the question of what facilitates transformation of students’ attitudes to learning and personal mastery. An entrepreneurial graduate program KrausLab at the European Business School of Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University we work for will serve as illustration of such an experiential model of studies.

Tools of Transformative Learning to Raise Entrepreneurial Spirit

Students engage when they see meaning and purpose in what they are doing and that authenticity provides meaning and purpose [10] (Kearsley, Shneiderman, 1998). The process of gainful learning in KrausLab starts when students are provided with an opportunity to experience their individual areas of growth: first, they choose to study in English, which becomes means of communication and thus exploration of new meanings the words and actions may transfer to the context of the studies. Students discover competences they wish to develop and design Learning Contracts (LC) to represent individual education tracks with measurable tasks and goals to achieve during their studies and beyond. Mastering English often becomes one of such goals. Initially, they may need assistance of an adviser to create the “competence profile”, but later they expand it to the the road map, applying their individual versions of representing the competences they desire to develop. Then they take practical actions to complete the tracks of the road map. The role of an adviser decreases and remains only in providing regular feedback and feed forward to foster the habit of personal progress reflection. Reflections based on students’ experiences, which are assimilated and distilled into concepts by students and advisors together at the regular reflective sessions. Such sessions provide meaningful space for students to construct further actions, which are then tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences.

We believe that by implementing the tools, like Learning Contract (LC) into the curriculum, we facilitate students’ engagement in creating direct experiences and thus facilitate the development of their self-activation mechanisms [11] (Dolgaya, 2019). Leaning contract is not a means of liability; it is more of students’ capacity to commit to the chosen track of individual development, represented as an individual map of learning by doing in the foreseen period of education. The progress students make in taking actions to learn by doing is self evaluated and revisited each semester. Advisors can foster the process through the design of direct, observed or imagined experiences and through the framing and debriefing process by which students reflect on their experiences.

Over the five years of implementing the Learning Contract, as a tool to activate students’ self-assessment capacities, we found out that the process of LC constructing and fulfillment turns into a self-discovery journey, which enables transformation of wishes into tasks and thus activates learning by doing mode of studies.

What enhances students’ self-activation in KrausLab studies is learning context itself, as it models entrepreneurial environment, characterized by lack of conventional rules and tutorials for projects and research activities, thus creates the space of uncertainty. Students find themselves in the situation of self-initiation of their business and research projects, bearing all responsibility for the result. According to the program requirements, they are to fulfill and complete certain assignments without having formal manuals and tutorials of how to proceed to the final result. Facing a challenge to make decisions regarding what project and research to undertake, and how to proceed on its productive realization turn them into the search for information. Although advisor’s assistance may become crucial for some of them, most of the choices, such as what teams to work in, what business project to undertake, what research topic to discover, what competencies to develop are made by students. The framework of constant choice within the context of uncertainty and regular reflection put students into the self-learning helix. This type of facing and dealing with uncertainty occurs many times during the two years of studies, so students learn to manage under uncertainty and acquire the skills of appreciative inquiry.

We must admit that within the work under uncertainty, students discover themselves in the personal crisis quite often, as they face such challenges as: regular self-evaluation, mandatory teamwork in research groups, and lack of formal tutorials. The first crisis usually occurs at the end of the first semester while the second semester is full of potential crisis, too. Advisors also confront the complications of individual challenges of extremely different origin, as each team is engaged in diverse context every year, with new tasks they undertake and new scenario they perform, together. As we observe individual progress of our students, we can say, that crisis they go thorough pay off well to them and often is breakthrough to get to the next level of entrepreneurial competence development. Those who gained real experience of getting through crisis appeared more resilient to it further on. We agree that such learning experience trains students’ ability to adapt to external changes in the personal and professional life and develop competencies, which combine both professional knowledge and subjective characteristics [7] (Baartman, Ruijs, 2011).

In the next section, we discuss findings and challenges of the learning flow in KrausLab.

Learning Flow: Findings and Challenges

The model of “Informal and Incidental Learning” is a suitable model to examine learner centered activities and important elements of the learning cycle [12] (Marsick, Watkins, 2001). In this model Learning begins with some kind of a trigger that is an internal or external stimulus, which fames what there is to experience. Students in Krauslab learn informally, when doing their start projects, big deals, and learning sets along with Kraus team activities. Each of the elements of the learning cycle implement some particular mission in addition to its relevance to the real life learning context.

For example, start projects serve to students’ full engagement into entrepreneurship in the very beginning of the program. Students have to serve to clients and perform certain tasks, resulted in a certain product within the two first months of the studies, when they hardly know each other and are hardly equipped by any tools or skills to perform well, in teams.

Although the program advisors shape the framework of start projects such as team formation, customer development and company selection, instructional design focus on the learners as the meaning makers and address the broad array of emotional and social opportunities and obstacles, that are likely to prompt effective learning. For example, real business entities serve as customers and they set up the expected value as a final result of each project. According to the three stage change management concept (Kurt Levin) this setting secures unusual educational concept which allows participants to get aware of all the potential challenges of entrepreneurship and get ready to elaborate the inquiry for entrepreneurial skills.

The main mission of the start project as an entrepreneurial education tool is not gaining knowledge or developing skills, but raising awareness of challenges, and hardcore of self-managed business life [11] (Dolgaya, 2019). These two first months of the studies provide numerous choices and opportunities, starting from networking, start-up initiation, project management with external teams, business events management, to name a few. On start projects accomplishment, students get into few reflection cycles to self evaluate the progress they make in raising awareness on what entrepreneurship involves from an individual and from a team. Logically, up to the end of semester students are to make their first choices and decisions upon their future professional and business interest. This period brings first crisis and pivots to most of them.

Real life experience in KrausLab proceeds in the form of Big Deal (BD) as an object for the individual professional skills development or business idea implementation in a startup mode. To illustrate, students may choose the mode of Big Deal out of 3 existing modes, depending on the individual motivation and work circumstances. Thee are: intrapreneuship, own business, or international entrepreneurship, when students engage in exchange programs with international schools and find partners for joint international projects, including business projects. In order to support students’ BDs implementation, we offer applied methods and instruments at the study sessions and modules. We believe that Big Deal represents experiential and exploratory learning in one as it provides the ground for the entrepreneurial experience, embracing both success and failure, as an additional source of competence development. According to Shepherd [13] (Shepherd, Williams, Wolfe, Patzelt, 2016), studying failures is more relevant to entrepreneurial education then success stories. We resonate with this statement and believe that learning in general should embrace the experience of failure in both group work and individual activity. As we observe, such kind of experience creates a basis for reflection, emotional pivot and evolution of risk appreciation.

Learning Set is another important entrepreneurial education tool in our program. It deals with transformative research, representing contemporary qualitative research and offering exciting novel methods for engaging in transformative personal development. Here we focus on such possibilities as story telling, art based performances, critical thinking, which draw on the epistemologies of new research paradigm that have emerged during the last years – interpretivism, criticalism and postmodernism. Students choose a topic of interest, resonating with their experiences, to examine it critically, to reinvest in the value of entrepreneurial education, and to develop professional philosophy. Learning Set (LS) involves teamwork, which creates certain challenges, yet it facilitates the development of meta-cognitive competencies, such as self-management, empathy, emotional intelligence and ability to share, which have an increasing impact on work performance and income [14] (Deng, 2010). For example, the game Delegation Poker has been produced by one of the Learning Sets as a result of their research in the filed of interaction styles between employers and employees inside big companies. The game aims at fostering delegation skills and thus has been shared with quite a number of companies and became in demand for corporate trainings and seminars. The students learned to identify the demand for certain skills and knowledge. They applied reflection and critical situation analyses methods into the research process to produce a new product for the corporate market.

Another example of the ways students develop self-management skills is annual international intraprenership conferences they organize from scratch. The conferences bring international and local professionals to discuss intraprenership problems and to share the findings. The remaining task for teachers and advisers is unlearning to impose their expectations and re-learning to facilitate the development of students’ meta –cognitive skills.

Remaining Questions and Conclusion

Entrepreneurial education as means of transformative pedagogy presents both rich opportunities and many challenges. Opportunities lie in the realm of developing students’ personal and professional competences in the experiential environment. Challenges relate to to the newly emerging paradigm of entrepreneurial and management education, which still represents the status when students are being prepared to consistently play familiar situations and commonly used organizational settings [15] (Paixão, Márcio Arcanjo de Souza, 2018). Transformative pedagogy relates to role transformation both for teachers and students. Are we ready to accept it to implement in our actions?

In this regard, challenges relate to our own individual self-discovery and the way we, professors, advisors and parents, unconsciously transmit our values in teaching/learning. In fact, research bounds the situation in which it is performed and thus by what is considered acceptable as evidence. This makes it critical for educators to stay open and share with each other what we discover as fixed reality to avoid possible bias that could impede educational goals in general, and in entrepreneurial education, in general.

A major obstacle for novice transformative researchers is their restrictive belief about what constitutes legitimate research. Life is a long enculturation into the scientific method has instilled the conviction that positivism is the privileged epistemology of research, not only for the natural sciences, but also the social sciences, including educational research. Clearly there is little opportunity in such a deterministic and objectivistic model for the practitioner researcher to display evidence of his/her transformative professional growth.

We hope that the examples and tools of transformative experiential learning and research we shared in context of entrepreneurial education will serve to facilitate rethinking of whether transformative learning enhance personal and professional development of students, what tools we implement prove more productive in enhancing self-activation mechanisms of business behaviour and what facilitates transformation of students’ attitudes to learning and personal mastery.

Many questions remain behind the scene, revisiting all of those emerging in the process of exploration the new track we enter may help provide additional understanding and guidance for the utilization of transformative pedagogy in entrepreneurial education along with other approaches to cope with the rapidly changing environment in the global world, and in education specifically.


1. Brookfiled, S.(1995) The Critically Reflective Teacher. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
2. Cranton, P. (1994) Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
3. Mezirow, J and Taylor, E.W. (Eds.) (2009) Transformative Learning in Practice: Insights from Community, Workplace and Higher Education. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
4. Kovbasyuk, O. and Blessinger, P. (Eds) (2013) Meaning –Centered Education: International Perspectives and Explorations in Higher Education. New York and London: Routledge
5. Merizow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
6. O’Sullivan, E.V., Morrell, A, and O’Connor, M.A., (Eds) (2002) Expanding the Boundaries of Transformative Learning: Essays on Theory and Praxis. New York: Palgrave.
7. Baartman, L. and Ruijs, L. (2011), “Comparing students’ perceived and actual competence in higher vocational education”, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 385-398.
8. Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books.
9. Savicki, V. (2008) “Experiential and affective education for international education” In V. Savicki (Ed) Developing Intercultural Competence and Transformation. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing
10. Kearsley, G., and Shneiderman, B. (1998) “Engagement theory: A framework for technology based teaching and learning.” Educational Technology 38(5):20-23
11. Долгая А.А. Intrapreneurship as an organization management system. В сборнике: Управление инновациями: вызовы и возможности для отраслей и секторов экономики Под ред. А.В. Сербулова. Калининград, 2019. С. 83-90. (retrieve 01/03/2020)
12. Marsick, V. and Watkins, K (2001) “Informal and incidental learning” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 89:25-34
13. Shepherd, D., Williams, T., Wolfe, M., & Patzelt, H. (2016). Learning from Entrepreneurial Failure: Emotions, Cognitions, and Actions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781316416242
14. Deng, B. (2010), “Schooling and wage revisited: does higher IQ really give you higher income?”, MPRA Paper 23206, University Library of Munich.
15. Paixão, R., Márcio Arcanjo de Souza, (2018) "Impact of programs on competency, career, and income on management graduates", RAUSP Management Journal, https://

Страница обновлена: 03.04.2024 в 21:34:23