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All the World's a Stage - Design Thinking Transforming Entrepreneurship Education

Design Thinking

Published: 23 Jan 2024

37 min read



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the benefits of an innovative entrepreneurship pedagogy that integrates notions of class-room community, constructivism, justice and equity, humour and role-playing for enhancing student satisfaction and learning outcomes.


Through the application of design thinking, the enhanced pedagogy evolved over a period of three years from 2013 till 2015 through iterative innovation in the delivery model and assessments based on student feedback through Course Experience Surveys (CES) and reflection of the course team.


The findings strongly validate the in-class integration of notions of justice and equity, constructivism, humour and role-playing in entrepreneurship pedagogy for enhancing student satisfaction and learning outcomes demanded in the new economic era. The case study also provides insights into how careful composition of the course team is critical for implementing the learning content and the process involved in this pedagogy.

Research limitations/implications

Future research with cross-cultural data is needed to investigate correlation between the personality of teaching staff and student satisfaction i.e. whether or not the findings are culturally neutral. Future research should also investigate the students’ post university experiences, and whether or not this pedagogy contributed to their effectiveness outside the university environment.

Practical implications

Entrepreneurship educators at the tertiary level should consider this distinctive pedagogical approach to address the duality of course development in meeting the needs of business start-up and graduate employability.


Design thinking methodology has received scant attention in entrepreneurship pedagogy. This case study demonstrates how design thinking can inform this field to enhance student satisfaction and learning outcomes by integrating notions of constructivism, justice, humour and role-playing – pedagogical constructs that already exist but have not yet been used effectively in the field of entrepreneurship education, particularly at the foundational level.

Key words: entrepreneurship education, design thinking, student satisfaction, graduate employability, student feedback

Article classification – Case study


The case study documented in this paper demonstrates the benefits of an enhanced pedagogy for an entrepreneurship course in an Australian university that has led to significant improvement in student experience and graduate learning outcomes desired in the new economic era (Millican, 2014). Through the application of design thinking as well as pedagogical constructs of constructivism, justice and equity, humour and role-playing - that have received attention in the entrepreneurship education literature (Lobler, 2006; Seikkula-Leino et al, 2010); the ‘Lectorial’ model for the foundational entrepreneurship course in this case study has been co-designed through iterative innovation from 2013 till 2015 by the course team and the students. The findings support the emerging thinking that entrepreneurship education encompasses both a method and a learning content; and it should be based on teacher learning and active reflection (Hytti and O’Gorman, 2004; Schwartz, 2006; and Seikkula-Leino, 2008; Jones, 2010).

In the last two decades, government, employers and students have experienced a dramatic shift in the way they perceive higher education and the role of universities. The central role of universities are now more seen to be delivering employability skills rather than intellectual enlightenment (Armstrong, 2003; Hager and Holland, 2006; Evans, 2008; Rae, 2010; Millican, 2014). In particular, there are different demands placed upon entrepreneurship education where students are expected to develop an innovative approach to problem solving, high readiness for change, self-confidence and creativity necessary to address problems associated with increasingly turbulent social and economic forces (Gibb, 2002; Henry, Hill and Leitch, 2005; Heinonen and Poikkijoki, 2006; Gilbert, 2012). Seikkula-Leino, Ruskovaara, Ikavalko, Mattila and Rytkola (2010) argue that ‘entrepreneurship education should be considered in terms of three aims: learning to understand entrepreneurship, learning to become entrepreneurial, and learning to become an entrepreneur’ (p.119).

While there is little debate about these expectations from entrepreneurship education, it is important to recognise that these graduate attributes are not an outcome of one course. They are a result of the entire programme experience where graduates are systematically and progressively developed from ground up through a well-designed curriculum. This calls for educators in foundational entrepreneurship courses to adopt learner-centred teaching skills and strategies that support the students not only to achieve a successful academic and social transition to higher education (Parker, Summerfeldt, Hogan, and Majeski, 2004), but also to develop a sense of ownership of their learning while building a community of learning early in their studies (Chory-Assad, 2002; Summers and Svinicki, 2007). Educators play a central role in realising these expectations in successful entrepreneurship education (Seikkula-Leino et al. 2010) by shaping attitudes and providing knowledge for affective learning (Kearney, 1994), enabling students to be enterprising in their approach and sending them out to industry as entrepreneurial agents (Anderson and Jack, 2008). According to Hannon (2006), Hytti and O’Gorman (2004) and Seikula-Leino et al (2010), entrepreneurship educators are now at a cross-road where several transformation processes pertaining to entrepreneurship education must come together. Entrepreneurship educators now have to be innovative in designing their curriculum in a way that addresses the dual needs of venture start-up and graduate employability.

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Australia has maintained its strong commitment towards making a significant contribution to graduates’ work and industry readiness, specifically the development of the core skills and capabilities of practice (RMIT WIL Policy, 2007). More recently, following a series of high level workshops and staff consultations, RMIT declared that its 2015 strategic plan was to combine teaching, research and partnerships to create value in the global economy, support enterprise, and serve the needs of diverse communities (RMIT Strategic Plan, 2015). Evidence of application of this strategic intent into curriculum is already available in various parts of the university, particularly at the Entrepreneurship programme, through the Fastrack Innovation Program (Gilbert, 2012) and work-based learning in Social Entrepreneurship (Huq and Gilbert, 2013). The pedagogical innovation in a foundational entrepreneurship course – the case study for this paper is in support of RMIT’s strategic vision already embedded in its entrepreneurship programme.

This paper begins with a discussion of the key challenges associated with entrepreneurship education in relation to the expectations of government, employers andstudents; followed by a critical analysis of the relevant literature on justice and equity, constructivism, as well as humour and role play in the context of higher learning. It identifies a research gap in exploring and applying these pedagogical constructs in the context of entrepreneurship education. In the subsequent section the context, content and delivery module of the enhanced pedagogy that forms this case study is discussed. Key criteria addressed in transforming the entrepreneurship curriculum are presented and how design thinking was applied in developing the model is explained. The findings section reports how the new curriculum, and crucially, the mode of its delivery underpinned not only an appropriate alignment of the course content, the pedagogy and assessment items but also delivered the intended learning outcomes. The paper concludes with an in-depth discussion of the findings and our reflections, and an outline of the implications for higher education providers and future research.

Entrepreneurship Education in the New Economic Era

Over the past 20 years, the nature of the higher education sector has evolved to one of businesses within emerging national and global knowledge industries (Boden and Nedeva, 2010; p.38). Universities are increasingly held accountable for student experience, treating students as consumers, and producing work-ready and entrepreneurial graduates (Darlaston-Jones et al., 2003; Cable, 2011; Millican, 2014). Skills that are identified by employers as very important in the UK, USA and Australia are communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, initiative and enterprise, self-management, and learning and technology (Casner-Lotto and Barrington, 2006; Australian Industry Group and Deloitte, 2009; Lowden, Hall, Elliot and Lewin, 2011). In the context of these changing roles of universities, a debate has reopened as to what extent the focus on employability is in conflict with a holistic approach to learning (Giroux, 2010; Ramsden, 2011; Millican, 2014). For example, Boden and Neveda (2010) as cited in Millican (2014) claim that “employability discourses may be adversely affecting pedagogies and curricula, to the disbenefit of students, institutions, employers (and) social justice” (p.37). Nonetheless, the increasing demand for entrepreneurship education globally is well recognised (see De Faoite et al, 2003; Finkle, 2007; West et al., 2009). Entrepreneurship education programmes are now expected to achieve the following three aims: learn to understand entrepreneurship, learn to become entrepreneurial, and learn to become an entrepreneur (Ray, 2000; Seikkula-Leino et al., 2010, Gilbert, 2012; and Huq and Gilbert, 2013).

Despite this general consensus around the learning outcomes of entrepreneurship programmes, business schools are still being criticised for their ‘persistent deficiencies in certain non-technical graduate skills’ (Jackson and Chapman, 2012; p.96). Crebert (2002) and Jackson and Chapman (2012) argue that out-dated curricula, inappropriate pedagogical techniques and/or inadequate opportunities for work-integrated learning could be some of the major reasons for such deficiencies. These arguments have provided further impetus to the iterative pedagogical innovation implemented from 2013 till 2015 in a foundational entrepreneurship course at RMIT University, Australia - presented in this case study. Further compelling reasons driving this pedagogical innovation will be discussed in the context, content and module delivery section.

Theoretical Framing of the Study

Class-Room Community/Cooperative Learning and Constructivism

The entrepreneurship educators have the opportunity to reflect in their pedagogy the understanding that entrepreneurship involves different roles and requires a variety of attributes, qualities, skills and knowledge that must be learnt in the context of a learning community. Extant research has demonstrated that students report significantly higher motivation in courses that involve cooperative learning or when students experience themselves to be part of a learning community in their class-rooms than in a traditional lecture (Johnson and Johnson, 2003; Rovai and Lucking, 2003; Summers and Svinicki, 2007). According to Johnson & Johnson (1998, p. 18) class-rooms that focus on building (1) a learning community, (2) positive relationships among heterogeneous students, and (3) positive relationships between classmates and lonely, isolated, alienated, at-risk students; produce learning outcomes that tend to be positive as they engender a process of acceptance, mutual liking, respect and trust (Hoffman, Richmond, Morrow and Salomone, 2002).Building a learning community is essential when the educators aim to create a learning environment as invigorating, interactive, immersive and informative as the outside world for students to constructively (Boyer 1990; Weimer 2002) develop their own meanings of entrepreneurship. Through developing a class-room community educators facilitate and inspire students to take responsibility for their own learning, be self-directed and life-long learners during their formal educational experience and use these skills throughout their professional and personal lives.

The following section presents a review of literature on pedagogical constructs that provide support to the application of justice and equity, humour and role playing in the class-room towards building a learning community essential to foster constructivism and affective learning. This case study builds on these arguments and demonstrates how these pedagogical constructs that have not yet been used effectively in the field of entrepreneurship education, can particularly facilitate application of design thinking in developing a pedagogy that enhance student satisfaction and learning outcomes.

Fairness, Justice, Equity and Affective Learning

The relationships among instructor behaviours, student motivation and student learning have been examined extensively by instructional communication scholars (e.g., Gorham and Millette, 1997; and Frymier and Houser, 2000). These studies suggest a potential link between perceptions of fairness and student motivation and affective learning in the class-room. Affective learning drives students to learn more about the course contents and to use what they learn after finishing the course. As such, affective learning in foundational courses may influence behaviour in the subsequent years of higher education and beyond, making it an important student outcome to consider (Kearney, 1994; Chory-Assad, 2002).

The extension of organisational justice theory and equity theory to the instructional context provide further insight into the functioning of the student-teacher relationship, and student learning. Just as perceptions of fairness in organisations impact employee job satisfaction, it is expected that students’ perception of justice in the class-room will affect their learning. According to Frymier and Houser (2000), students’ perceptions of the lecturers’ use of referential skills (the ability to convey information clearly and unambiguously) and ego supportive skills (the ability to make others feel good about themselves) are related to higher student motivation and affective learning experience. This pedagogy has attempted to build the association between class-room justice, fairness and equity and affective learning experience for students by drawing on three justice components, namely distributive justice (Laventhal, 1976), procedural justice (Cropanzano and Greenberg, 1997) and interactional justice (Brockner and Siegel, 1996) provided by instructional communication research and the organisational justice related theory and research.

Use of Humour in Facilitating Constructivist Learning

Research suggests that humour through the use of anecdotes and jokes, and humorous comments related to instructional content encourages students to challenge any one way of seeing things and in turn, this correlates positively with students’ cognitive understanding (Opplinger, 2003; Garner, 2006; Wanzer, Frymier, and Irwin, 2010). Donahue (1999) has found that appropriate humour fosters mutual respect and encourages involvement. These findings are supported by Glenn (2002) and Garner (2006) who observed that humour can break down structural hierarchies and reduce anxiety and stress levels, resulting in fostering a trusting and positive constructivist environment between the lecturer and the student. However, conscious use of humour in class-room is challenging. It is possible, when the teacher has the personality to use humour effectively to engage and encourage a cohort from diverse cultural, ethnic and linguistic background.

Role Play as a Learning Method

Role play as an instructional technique has received varying levels of attention over the past four decades in higher education. Role playing is an experiential method that presents a dynamic environment to participants; and enables them to compare and contrast various social and political perspectives to a professional context without venturing into the work environment (Armstrong, 2003). Duveen and Solomon (1994) found that a key strength of role-play is its ability to encourage ‘students [to] take an active part in their own construction of knowledge’ (p.580).

Use of role play in entrepreneurship education is not so evident although Shepherd (2004), Anderson and Jack (2008), and Collins et al (2006) have supported its use to help students learn about the practical aspects of entrepreneurship. Shepherd (2004) recommends the use of role play as an aspect of entrepreneurship pedagogy to manage the emotions of learning from failure. Anderson and Jack (2008) suggest that as entrepreneurship educators we should demonstrate that ‘to be entrepreneurial requires individuals to be professionals, technicians, artisans and artists (p.269). A challenge associated with role play compared to traditional forms of instruction is it is very time consuming to design, implement and evaluate (Alden, 1999). Many teachers are reluctant to use role-play as the outcomes can be unpredictable (Brown, 1994).

In light of the demands on entrepreneurship education in the new economic era as well as the pedagogical constructs that can facilitate achievement of these expectations discussed above, it could be argued that entrepreneurship education at the tertiary level calls for a differentiated pedagogical approach to address the duality of course development to meet the needs of business start-up and graduate employability. To this end, entrepreneurship courses should address both the learning content and the learning process to shape attitudes, provide knowledge for affective learning, and enable students to be entrepreneurs as well as be enterprising in their approach to the industry they may choose to go to.

The Context, the Content and Module Delivery

The case study draws on the transformation in pedagogy and curriculum of a foundational course on entrepreneurship namely the Entrepreneurial Process following the introduction of the common architecture for the Bachelor of Business Degree introduced in RMIT University, Australia in 2012. This is a first year course and a pre-requisite to most other entrepreneurship courses in the entrepreneurship specialist major under the Bachelor of Business Programme. The Entrepreneurial Process introduces students to the underlying concepts and principles that explain entrepreneurship and focuses on developing an entrepreneurial mindset. Although this course is taught to primarily Entrepreneurship and Management students as a core course for both the specialist majors, it also attracts students from diverse programmes such as, Engineering, Multimedia Design, Property, Construction and Project Management, Fashion Design, and Development Studies who do this course as an elective. This diversity presents some challenges as the course still has to support the first year students with their academic and social transition into the programme. The research and report writing skills, presentation skills, team building skills and emotional intelligence developed by the students on completion of this course are expected to prepare them well to undertake higher level courses in the programme. In addition, the course has to meet different learning outcomes for students in terms of learning to be entrepreneurial as well as learning to become an entrepreneur.

Feedback and qualitative comments from students in the Course Experience Survey in 2012 (CES) enabled the course team to identify three critical areas of focus.

First, the course attracts students from a wide variety of programmes and this produced a cohort with significantly different skill, knowledge and interest levels. Therefore, teaching foundational theory to a diverse group of students was a particular challenge because of the differences in their expectations and learning styles. The need to engage students in a constructivist learning environment was reflected in the feedback.

Second, this course sits in the Bachelor of Business Entrepreneurship programme as a first year second semester course, entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring successful academic and social transition of first year students mostly fresh from high school. The students require discipline specific foundational knowledge, skills and attributes that will enable them to meet the expectations of higher level courses in the programme.

Third, a number of critical graduate attributes such as, research/analytical skills, report writing skills, presentation skills, team building skills and emotional intelligence emerged as important learning outcomes of the course.

Key Criteria Addressed

A three-pronged strategy was adopted in the pedagogical innovation that would ensure distinctiveness, coherence and clarity of purpose in the curriculum as well as address the three key issues identified in the student feedback. The innovations focused on the three criteria below:

Academic skills transition – Adoption of a research oriented and a constructivist approach to engage students in higher cognitive level processes; and encourage them to raise their own questions, generate their own hypotheses and derive their own conclusions.

Social skills transition – cultivating self-directed and collaborative learningbydesigning in-class activities that required students to work both individually and in groups on experiential activities, consider diverse perspectives and construct their own meanings of knowledge.

Development of a dynamic delivery model and redesigning of assessments to enhance class-room justice, fairness and equity and affective learning experience through explicitly mapping assessments against learning outcomes.

The reasoning for adopting this strategy was to drive pedagogical innovation where the focus would be on the learning ‘process’, rather than solely the ‘content’. In this process, students would be considered as active participants rather than an audience and the teacher as a ‘learning facilitator’ rather than exclusive content expert. The pedagogy would have a stronger focus on an experiential learning process that is based on both “competition” and “cooperation” and enable students to develop life-long learning skills and the confidence to apply them in their study and work-life (Conrad, Johnson and Gupta 2007; Stefani 2009).

Application of Design Thinking in the context of Entrepreneurship Education Curriculum

Design thinking is fundamentally concerned with human needs. Proponents of design thinking such as Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO highlight that it is not a ‘linear, milestone-based process’. Rather, it is an interaction of three spaces, ‘inspiration, ideation and implementation’ (2008, p. 88). Brown argues that design tools developed and used by designers can be effectively utilised in other disciplines such as business and education to overcome the ‘we know the solution’ approach. The use of empathy and engagement in designing and delivering experiences that are different from the rest is a critical aspect of the co-design process. This approach engages end-users and other key players in the service value chain and sees concept iteration starting in the concrete and analytical mind set by looking at what does not work, then diverging into the abstract by starting to reframe the problem, analysing what the reframing tells you, then synthesis through defining options; culminating in convergence around interpretations that can subsequently be made real. This iterative cycling translates into five imperatives: “make me care”, “show me something new”, “tell me what’s missing”, “what can be changed”, “make it tangible”.

The design thinking approach to designing and delivering entrepreneurship courses was trialled in 2007 at RMIT in a ground-breaking subject called the Fastrack Innovation Program (Gilbert, 2012). Subsequently, it also underpinned the development of a Social Entrepreneurship subject where problem-based learning was matched to design thinking tools such as rapid prototyping, proof of concept via co-design, service-blueprinting and role plays in enhancing student’s capacity to think analytically, intuitively and divergently (Huq and Gilbert, 2013).

Evolution of the Enhanced Pedagogy through Design Thinking

The evolution of the enhanced pedagogy for ‘Entrepreneurial Process’ occurred over a period of three years from 2013 till 2015 through design-driven innovation in the delivery model and assessments. The process began in Semester 1, 2013 with integration of lecture and the tutorial into one three-hour session or class with the new delivery model called a ‘Lectorial’. This shift from a traditional delivery model for undergraduate courses was critical for developing a constructivist orientated learning environment. The assessment tasks included quizzes, student presentations, class participation and case study analysis. Although the lectures became more interactive as students were encouraged to ask questions and offer their own perspectives to the learning content; the construction of student learning tasks such as presentations, tended to be repetitive and did not facilitate an engaging or dynamic environment.

In Semester 2, 2013 following further co-design between academic staff, students and industry partners the student presentations evolved to a debate structure. The debates were based on the weekly lecture topics and required the students to (a) work in a team and (b) analyse the lecture contents with research informed arguments for a dynamic debate format. In addition, the cohort in each class was encouraged to comment on the perspectives of the debating teams on which they were graded. This approach was effective to a point, however after two semesters i.e., until Semester 1, 2014 it was found that the debate groups did not prepare adequately, and the arguments lacked depth with few divergent perspectives.

The academic team returned to the three spaces of design thinking, inspiration-ideation-implementation in Semester 2, 2014 and introduced a unique assessment task to replace the debates and further drive the constructivist and collaborative learning opportunities available within the lectorial environment. This approach revolves around the creation of a Q&A style panel where students (6 to 8) are given characters relevant to a scenario or context of entrepreneurship, or in some cases they can create their own. These characters are diverse and creative. The students assess a predetermined hypothetical entrepreneurial opportunity by role-playing those characters. One of the lecturers acts as a facilitator in the discussion ensuring that the narrative stays on track with the course learning outcomes. The class is encouraged to engage with the discussion through face-to-face questions or comments via a twitter feed, which is projected on the screen. The students are assessed on two levels, a) as a member of the panel, by the quality of their research and ability to adapt to a dynamic environment constantly evolving through divergent perspectives offered by other students in the panel and the audience; and b) as part of the audience, through the quality of their questions to the panel either face to face or through the twitter feed. This approach overall has been highly successful with not only very positive learning outcomes, but also a great deal of laughter and engagement from the students as supported in the findings section.

Data Collection

Data for this case study was obtained from the Course Experience Surveys (CES) for the Entrepreneurial Process course from Semester 1 2013 until Semester 1 2015. The CES is administered by RMIT University survey services center through an on-line survey. Students complete the survey anonymously outside of the class-room in their own time. CES data has approval from the Business College Human Ethics Advisory Network (BCHEAN) of RMIT University and can be used for research into teaching and learning practice. The CES forms comprise of standard questions pertaining to Good Teaching Scale (GTS) of academics as well as Overall Satisfaction Index (OSI) for the course. In addition, the form has provision for the students to provide qualitative feedback/comments about their experience in the course. Since 2012, the CES forms also allow academics to choose up to 8 additional questions relating to various aspects of the course, i.e., course contents, delivery model, feedback, assessments, course team, learning outcomes etc. that they wish to seek student feedback on. Since the introduction of the ‘Lectorial’ model in Semester 1 2013 the course team carefully chose additional questions for students to comment on the design-driven innovation to the curriculum underpinned by pedagogical constructs discussed earlier. The findings are based on both course statistics and content analysis of the qualitative feedback from students.

Student Evaluation of the Lectorial Model for Entrepreneurial Process

Students’ Overall Responses and Comments

Graph 1 represents the propensity to comment by the students about their experience of the course. The comments were divided into two broad categories: a) course experience, reflecting how the students felt about the course and whether or not it met with their expectations; and b) course improvements, i.e., comments from the students’ perspective as to how the course could be improved.

Graph 1 represents the propensity to comment by the students about their experience of the course

The number of comments over the five semesters increased by 82%, from 106 comments to 193 comments. The increased propensity to comment suggests that over the period the student cohort felt comfortable in expressing their perceptions of the course (McMillan and Chavis 1986; Osterman 2000) which was positively influenced by the perception of fairness in the learning environment (Boyer 1990; Weimer 2002) as supported by the following comment:

S5 “...I love the passion of the teachers. It makes it more real, and a lot more fun. It makes me personally feel like I am not just a student who is less important, but rather an equal with the teachers and it makes me feel more confident to speak up...”

GTS (Good Teaching Scale) and OSI (Overall Satisfaction Index)

Graph 2 represents the Good Teaching Scale (GTS) and the Overall Satisfaction Index (OSI).

The increase from 79% to 92% OSI reflects an overwhelming support to the different delivery style, and pedagogy that was introduced as a result of the iterative design process and the emerging ability of students to actively engage with the course team in the co-creation of their own learning experiences, as evident in the following comments:

S4 “...I think that the relationship between the teaching staff helped all the students to feel welcome and equal...”

S5 “...Love how this course is highly interactive and if you have any questions or are unsure about anything you can ask at any time and you will get an answer that you can understand...”

Perceptions of Justice and Equality within the Course

Table 1 presents the students’ comments that reflect their perception of the three components of justice, Distributive (Leventhal, 1976), Procedural (Cropanzano and Greenberg, 1997) and Interactional (Bruckner and Siegel, 1996) experienced in the course.

Frequency and percentage distribution of the students’ course experience  pertaining to justice and equity experiences in the course

Table 1: Frequency and percentage distribution of the students’ course experience pertaining to justice and equity experiences in the course

The observations made by the students support the importance placed on an open and transparent relationship (Gorham & Millette, 1997; Frymier and Houser, 2000). Of specific importance is the nature of the relationship between the student and the course team, whereby the students placed great importance on an equal and trusting relationship (Bruckner and Siegel, 1996).

Illustrative comments follow:

S1 “... (TS3) engaged with the students, in a manner which was not strictly curriculum-based, makes you feel as though your class is simply a conversation with an intelligent person - as it should be!...”

S2 “...The course team is so incredibly motivating and the casual relationship that is encouraged helps induce an argumentative learning environment in which I thrive...”

The Use of Humour and Role Play as Teaching Tools

Table 2 presents the number of observations made by the students pertaining to the use of humour and role playing as conduits in delivering the course content. 68 out of 72 comments (95%) by the students supported the use of humour (Glenn, 2002; and Gardner, 2006) and role play (Shepherd, 2004; Collins et al, 2006; and Anderson and Jack, 2008) as means by which a learning environment can be created that reduces student anxiety and stress; promotes engagement and is supportive, experiential and entertaining. The relatively small percentage (5%) of negative student responses highlighted the need for humour to be proportionate and appropriate (Garner, 2006; Stebbins 1980).

Frequency and percentage distribution of the students’ course experience

Table 2: Frequency and percentage distribution of the students’ course experience

pertaining to the use of humour and role play in the course

Illustrative comments follow:

S3 “... This course is the pinnacle of learning…..different, interesting, funny, and engaging…”

S4 “...I really like the assessments in this course, especially the Q&A sessions which are extremely funny and yet insightful as we fuse concepts from class into a real life scenario. I think that this way of learning is better for us as a student, because we are encouraged to interact with the reality and speak up in the class by sharing our suggestions with everybody as if it was happening for real...”

S4 “...I am not looking forward to going back to a dry lecture environment after this experience...”

Constructivism and Class-Room Community

Table 3 summarizes the commentary offered by students in relation to the iterative innovations in course assessments to foster a constructivist and collaborative learning environment.

Frequency and Distribution of the students’ responses to the course assessments

Table 3: Frequency and Distribution of the students’ responses to the course assessments

Illustrative comments follow:

S1 “...This course was great for building people skills - appropriate to entrepreneurship...’

S2 “...I love the weekly debates in this class. Using this learning environment to engage in and develop communication skills is a priceless experience and I wish that more of my classes did the same...”

S5 “...I particularly enjoyed the Q&A segment of the course. It is a new way of learning entrepreneurial skills I have not come across in my many years here at RMIT. Including twitter capability has made it much more enjoyable and easier to include the audience than a standard questions segment at the end :) ...”

The above comments highlight the positive learning outcomes achieved by the students and that they felt part of a greater learning community (Osterman, 2000; Summers and Svinicki, 2007). In addition the students highlighted that the uniqueness of the lectorial model and the assessments added to the positive learning experience (Johnson and Johnson, 2003; Rovai and Lucking, 2003). The overall student experience of the pedagogy can be summed up by a student’s comment below:

S5“…..Entrepreneurial Process delivers what I believe should be at the core of every course. It challenges the thinking of students, the assessments are practical and have real world implications, the textbook is something I can keep referring back to as my career progresses, and the assessments are not so heavily weighted that they become stressful. Also there was a good balance of group and individual assignments”.

Conclusions and further Research

This case study presents an enhanced pedagogy for a foundational entrepreneurship course at RMIT University based on notions of justice and equity, constructivism, humour, and role play through the application of design thinking. The results demonstrate that the pedagogical constructs used in developing the lectorial model significantly influenced students’ learning experience and outcomes (Osterman 2000; Johnson and Johnson, 2003; Rovai and Lucking, 2003; Summers and Svinicki, 2007).

It is reasonable to conclude that student experience and learning outcomes will be significantly enhanced in entrepreneurship education via the integration of a design-driven pedagogy delivered in an open and constructivist environment where humour is adapted as a social ice breaker and role play as an experiential learning tool. In reflection, this research recommends the following:

An interactive pedagogy that embraces students in the co-creation of their own learning experiences together with the course team should be adopted as a dominant means to communicating academic content

The course team should comprise a mixture of academic and industry based staff, with a wide but relevant experience base

Humour should be adopted as a means to break down barriers between the teaching staff and the student cohort

The course team should make conscious effort in including team members who have the personality to combine humour with academic contents

The traditional academic hierarchical barriers between the student and the staff be replaced by a less formal communication protocol. This could be as simple as calling lecturers ‘facilitators’, lectures ‘conversations’, and tutorials ‘consultations’.

A limitation of this study is that no consideration was afforded to the personality of the teaching staff and it’s correlation to the student experience across the student profile, i.e. whether or not the recommendations above are culturally neutral. Further, the study did not consider the students’ post university experiences, and whether or not this pedagogy increased their competiveness and effectiveness outside the university environment. As the developed pedagogy has been successfully implemented only in Entrepreneurial Process, comparative research is recommended in other disciplines to determine if these recommendations translate outside this course.


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