about 6 months ago
Addressing the lack of relevance and authenticity of the learning environment in the secondary education system in terms of preparing high school students for the future work space is essential. Supporting young generations to learn how to become adaptable to future needs, and the economy’s perspective as anticipated by the employers should become a greater focus point of any education system. Over the past year, inspired by the students’ interest in participating in activities and programs tailored to their interests, a small group of teachers has developed an entrepreneurial thinking program for high school students.
Ontario Ministry of Education’s deep focus on the development of specialized skills and trades showed an increase interest in students’ employability for the jobs of tomorrow and enabled the right environment for developing and implementing this kind of program. The program allows high school students to gain transferable employment experience while exploring potential future career paths but also allowing them to practice professional and ethical behaviour, problem solving, creativity and critical thinking skills. The program offers students and teachers an experiential learning methodology that applies key features of Design Thinking (problem finding and solving) to the learning process and connects learning to the community context. The offering empowers students to choose issues in their school and home communities that matter to them as the basis for inquiry projects. It also supports change in teaching practice needed to support real world learning across the curriculum, yet it is very efficient and flexible in the demands it places on teachers.
Working with mentors and community organizations, having the opportunity to work on projects of their own interest helps students develop their imagination, innovation and empathy, creating an environment where every student learns in the manner they are most ready to be successful. The entrepreneurial education environment in the classroom leads to intense engagement and collaboration among students. Students are encouraged to explore issues they are passionate about, empowering them to innovate and collaborate. The element of choice is vital in students’ success, and opens up the opportunity to develop their own interest and therefore the engagement and deeper learning abilities. At the same time, encouraging and supporting teachers to adopt a different mindset when it comes to teaching and learning practices is also very important to student success.
The Entrepreneurial Thinking program’s real world learning process is modelled on design thinking methodologies in the workplace, where problem solving is collaborative, interdisciplinary, and continuous. A key benefit of the program is that students discover where their own strengths and interests are, and how to leverage these to advance real world learning projects in a peer-to-peer learning environment. The program is adaptable to the skills and comfort level of each participant and the highly flexible approach supports modular additions in response to specific teacher and student needs. Also, the core technologies are accessible to use to support student teams, as well as for ongoing collaboration between students and teachers. At the same time, the program offers opportunities for teachers to explore new technologies that enhance the problem finding and solving process, such as ideation and mind mapping apps. Teachers connect on a deeper level with their students, while introducing these tools directly to their classroom to enhance learning across the curriculum, boosting student engagement and peer to peer learning and supporting inquiry based projects.
By cultivating entrepreneurial mindsets into the schools, students are gaining a better understanding of their own learning, connecting learning with real life experiences through experiential learning opportunities. Also, by shifting the focus from a teacher-centered teaching and learning method to a student-centered approach, students are in charge of their own learning, creating meaningful experiences and connections.
By Anamaria Dragoi