Methods in entrepreneurship education research: a review and integrative framework
Per Blenker, Stine Trolle Elmholdt, Signe Hedeboe Frederiksen,
Steffen Korsgaard and Kathleen Wagner iCARE and Department of Business Administration, Aarhus University,
Purpose – Research in entrepreneurship education faces substantial tensions and methodological challenges. Building on a review of extant empirical studies in the field, the purpose of this paper is to develop an integrative methodological framework for studying entrepreneurship education. Central questions are: What forms of entrepreneurship education research exist? Which data sources, research methods and approaches are used in this research? What are the methodological strengths and weaknesses of entrepreneurship education research? How can entrepreneurship education research be improved methodologically?
Design/methodology/approach – The paper combines a literature review with a conceptual discussion. The review identifies 88 journal articles reporting empirical studies of entrepreneurship education published between 2002 and 2012. The literature is coded according to method used, type of study, data collection and analysis techniques. From the analysis of the reviewed literature, a conceptual discussion of the advantages and drawbacks of various methods is undertaken, and an integrated approach to entrepreneurship education research is proposed.
Findings – Research in entrepreneurship education is fragmented both conceptually and methodologically. Findings suggest that the methods applied in entrepreneurship education research cluster in two groups: first, quantitative studies of the extent and effect of entrepreneurship education; and second, qualitative single case studies of different courses and programmes. Benefits and drawbacks haunt both clusters. Quantitative studies bring objectivity, comparability and generalizability, but show limited appreciation of the heterogeneity of the education they seek to measure. Qualitative single case studies are ripe with contextually sensitive descriptions and best pedagogical practices, but suffer from limited comparability and generalizability as well as severe biases of teacher-researcher conflation.
Originality/value – The suggested methodological framework builds on a systematic review of the research methods applied in extant entrepreneurship education research. It integrates qualitative and quantitative techniques, the use of research teams consisting of insiders (teachers studying their own teaching) and outsiders (research collaborators studying the education) as well as multiple types of data. To gain both in-depth and analytically generalizable studies of entrepreneurship courses and programmes, the suggested framework integrates the empirical sensitivity of qualitative techniques and diverse research positions, with the rigour of quantitative measures. The authors argue that studies of entrepreneurship education benefit from this integration. Furthermore, the authors describe a variety of helpful methods, explore the potential relation between insiders and outsiders in the research process and discuss how different types of data can be combined. The integrated framework
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Education þ Training
Vol. 56 No. 8/9, 2014 pp. 697-715 r Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0040-0912
This research was supported by a generous grant from the Danish Strategic Research Council and carried out within the PACE project (www.badm.au.dk/PACE) and the work of Kathleen
Wagner was supported by a research grant from the Danish Enterprise and Construction
Agency and the European Social Fund.
The dataset used for the review and additional information on the method applied is available at: http://badm.au.dk/research/research-groups/icare/pace/data/ 697
Methods in entrepreneurship education research urges researchers to extend investments in methodological efforts and to enhance the in-depth understanding of the dynamics and challenges of teaching entrepreneurship.
Keywords Education, Entrepreneurship, Methodology, Enterprise education, Research methods
Paper type Research paper
Entrepreneurship courses and programmes appear to be a mainstay of modern higher education institutions, and they are increasingly attracting interest and intervention from policy makers and higher education management (Gibb and Hannon, 2006;
OECD, 2009). Entrepreneurship is important for the process of value creation, job creation and general economic development. This understanding has more or less fully translated into the expectation that higher education institutions teach entrepreneurship and turn out an increasing number of graduates with a broad set of enterprising competencies, and the skills and ambitions to become entrepreneurs (OECD, 2009).
Entrepreneurship education has thus transcended the boundaries of business schools and is now taught across faculties, to students with all kinds of educational backgrounds.
This evolution has increased the need for research into entrepreneurship education (Pittaway and Cope, 2007). How is entrepreneurship education done, who does it, who are the students, why are the institutions and teachers teaching it, why are the students taking the courses and perhaps most importantly what are the consequences (Blenker et al., 2011)?
However, researching entrepreneurship education is not a straightforward matter.
Indeed, such research finds itself in muddled waters, facing substantial tensions and potential sources of methodological challenges and biases (Pittaway and Cope, 2007).
There are lingering issues of legitimacy: Can we teach entrepreneurship at all (Haase and Lautenschla¨ger, 2011)? Can business school or university faculty teach, when they are more familiar with research and theory than entrepreneurship as practice (Blenker and Christensen, 2010; Gibb, 2002; Hindle, 2007)? Such questions naturally extend to the legitimacy of researching this phenomenon.