EntreLab Project for in service teacher training to entrepreneurship



Welcome to the page dedicated to the European Union Marie Curie Project called EntreLab!

It is a new model for in service teacher training to educate students to the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, which is defined as the ability to turn ideas into action.

This site is dedicated to school personnel, students and families, entrepreneurs who wish to know more on how to implement entrepreneurship education in high schools, especially in vocational education and training (VET). Join us and discover this new model for entrepreneurship education and teacher training following the capability approach!

The European post-doc scholarship Marie Curie is given to the most promising researchers and the best research ideas, and will be used to develop this new model for entrepreneurship education. The University of Helsinki will be the host institution while University Ca’ Foscari of Venice will be the partner institution. The project will be carried out at the Carlo D’Arco Technical Institute of Mantua situated in the Lombardy region by Daniele Morselli, PhD in Education. Yrjo Engestrom of CRADLE (Research Centre on Activity, Learning and Development) of the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences at the University of Helsinki, and Max Costa of the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage at Ca’ Foscari University.


  1. The importance of entrepreneurship
  2. Teacher training in entrepreneurship
  3. The European key competence of the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship
  4. The capability approach and entrepreneurship education
  5. The Change Laboratory and expansive learning
  6. EntreLab for teacher training in entrepreneurship
  7. EntreLab, the phases of the project
  8. Join us!
  9. Press release and news
  10. Related Documents

Key words:

Teacher training, entrepreneurship education, Vocational Education and Training (VET), Change Laboratory, Capability Approach


The importance of entrepreneurship

In order to promote productivity and growth, Europe needs creative and innovative entrepreneurs, as well as a resilient and flexible workforce equipped with the necessary skills and key competences. The European Commission recognizes that entrepreneurship education can help young people to be more entrepreneurial. The challenge is to develop a set of general competences that can be applied in every life field, not simply learning how to manage an enterprise. This includes all the forms of learning, instruction and education that contribute to gain an entrepreneurial spirit, competence and behaviour – with or without a commercial aim.

This type of education encompasses all the levels of education from infant school to higher education. Education and training should ensure that each European student develops entrepreneurial abilities, and undertakes at least one entrepreneurial experience. According to a recent document of the European Commission (2015) entrepreneurship education covers “all the education activities that seek to prepare people to be responsible, enterprising individuals who have the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to prepare them to achieve the goals they set for themselves to live a fulfilled life”.

In this context, it is clear that teachers and trainers play an essential role. They promote learning and multiply ideas, define the learning processes and help students reach their desired learning outcomes. Although there are several pedagogies to promote entrepreneurship, it seems that there is a gap between the teaching methods utilized now by teachers and the ones deemed as most effective. This is probably because not all teachers choose or are able to use active teaching methods. Another problem is connected to the lack of an interdisciplinary work method on concrete projects. As a consequence, teachers are not always aware of the right way to teach entrepreneurship.

Download the complete European document on entrepreneurship


Teacher training on entrepreneurship

There are three possible elements to promote entrepreneurship education at school:

1. The institute promoting the entrepreneurial spirit in learning and teaching, with school principals actively committed to promote this type of learning, the personnel with an attitude of openness and change, with educational ideas based on teaching the world of tomorrow.

2. Teachers with a sense of initiative, able to infuse in their students the entrepreneurial sparkle. They value the students’ initiative, their assumption of responsibilities and risk taking abilities, and their acceptance of failure as part of the learning process.

3. Partnerships between the educational institutions, the entrepreneurial community and the creative industry.

The role of the teacher is thus critical for the students’ entrepreneurship education. Teachers with an entrepreneurial spirit are passionate about teaching: they are a source of inspiration, have broad views and are confident about themselves. They are flexible and responsible, but, also able to think ‘out of the box’ from time to time. They listen attentively, are able to propose and exploit ideas, and work both students-oriented and action-oriented. They are good team players in group and have good networks. Entrepreneurial teachers seek to fill the gap between education and industry, and involve external aspects in teaching, focusing on real life experiences.

They follow a flexible curriculum and promote an interdisciplinary learning based on projects, thus preferring didactic materials to books. Entrepreneurial teachers focus on processes and group interaction. Sometimes they make the class a place of debate: they solicit diverse opinions, answers and solutions, and reflections on the learning processes.

Teachers with an entrepreneurial spirit act as mentors rather than lecturer, they aid the students’ learning processes and the development of their personal competences.

  • Entrepreneurship education is more than a preparation for enterprise management. It concerns the development of entrepreneurial attitudes, skills and knowledge that in short allows a student to realize his or her ideas;

  • Teachers cannot teach entrepreneurial skills without being entrepreneurial themselves;

  • Entrepreneurial competences require active methods of engaging students to release their creativity and innovation;

  • Entrepreneurial competency and skills can be acquired or built only through hands-on, real life learning experiences;

  • Entrepreneurial skills can be taught across all subjects as well as a separate subject;

  • Entrepreneurship education should focus on ‘intrapreneurs’ as well as entrepreneurs, in light of the fact that most students will use entrepreneurial skills within companies or public institutions;

  • To give entrepreneurship education real traction, there is a need to develop learning outcomes related to entrepreneurship, and related assessment methods and quality assurance procedures for all levels of education. These should be designed to help teachers progress in the acquisition of entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and attitudes;

  • The entrepreneurship education agenda should be promoted beyond teacher education institutions to businesses and the wider community;

  • Teachers and schools will not be able to realise their ambitions without cooperation and partnerships with colleagues, businesses and other stakeholders.

Download the complete document on teacher training in entrepreneurship.


The European key competence of the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship

Competences are defined here as a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the context. Key competences are those which all individuals need for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment.

The Reference Framework sets out eight key competences: 1) Communication in the mother tongue; 2) Communication in foreign languages; 3) Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology; 4) Digital competence; 5) Learning to learn; 6) Social and civic competences; 7) Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship; 8) Cultural awareness and expression.

Among these key competences, the seventh competence is important for the future citizen to learn how to turn ideas into actions, thus adapting to an ever changing globalized world.

According to the definition, the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. This supports individuals, not only in their everyday lives at home and in society, but also in the workplace in being aware of the context of their work and being able to seize opportunities, and is a foundation for more specific skills and knowledge needed by those establishing or contributing to social or commercial activity. This should include awareness of ethical values and promote good governance.

Download the leaflet on the European key competences for lifelong learning


Entrepreneurship education using a Capability Approach

Amartya Sen, an economist studying human development, insisted on the importance of capabilities, what people are really able to make and be. Central to this approach is the concept of “agency freedom”, a key ingredient of positive social change: individuals can act to carry out changes valued as important for them. From this point of view, it is important to involve all the stakeholders to arrive at the values of individuals and their communities through democratic processes of public involvement. Instead of providing people with ready made answers, shared solutions are offered.

Through its strategy for Vocational Education and Training (VET), UNESCO explicitly recognizes the role of vocational education to tackle problems such as youth unemployment and socio economic inequalities. To do so, VET should be delivered according to a capability approach, encouraging the development of the student’s autonomy and ability to make choices, instead of just providing him/her with learning resources. Implicit to the capability approach is the moral imperative to relate to the values and experiences of the individual and his/her community, arrived at through a process of public dialogue at different levels. Capabilities can be considered as the ethical basis of entitlements in education. They include the realization of a set of opportunities without just providing mere certificates.

The capability approach is also important for entrepreneurship education, which can be defined as the individuation and exploitation of positive opportunities, and the creation of value for the individual and the entire community. In line with this approach, new dimensions of entrepreneurship are emerging beyond business. Entrepreneurs are ideas people seeking opportunities to generate value and wellbeing in society, providing unmatched need with new products or services, or carrying out an existing activity in new or more effective ways.


The Change Laboratory and the cycle of expansive learning.

It is a new type of workshop for the transformation of practices and innovation through collective involvement and participation. The goal of the workshops will be to trigger cycles of expansive learning.

The basic equipment to arrange a Change Laboratory workshop is a 3×3 set of writing surfaces (for example flipcharts) on which to brainstorm work activity, plus video recording of the meetings for later analysis. The participants sit in front of the flipcharts while a person appointed as writer jots down their thoughts. The flipcharts are used both vertically and a horizontally.

The horizontal line represents the different degrees of abstraction. On the left hand chart mirror materials promoting discussion such as videos, charts, interviews are shown. These are the lowest level of abstraction. On the right hand chart there is the model/vision – the highest level of abstraction – representing the model of work activity, the basic idea and its developments. On the middle chart there is for ideas and tools at an intermediate level of abstraction.

The vertical dimension represents the necessary historical analysis of the activity system/s, which encompass the past, present and future. The different pages of the flipcharts show the outcomes of the previous meetings. During the meetings one can observe the discussion moving across the time line; for instance, the participants could move from the discussion of the salient problem in the present to the past to trace the roots of the problem. From the past they could understand the basic contradiction and envision a new idea of activity system which would be progressively enhanced and turned into a model to be realized in practice.

The expansive learning actions are:

  1. Questioning, criticizing parts of the present practice
  2. Analysing the problem to find the explanatory mechanisms
  3. Modelling the new explanatory relationship in a visible form
  4. Examining the model. The new model is challenged
  5. Implementing the model in the practice with its applications and enhancements
  6. Reflecting on the model
  7. Stabilizing and extending the new practice.

Regarding mirror materials, they are used to trigger discussion within the group, and are gathered by the researcher through observant participation in the field. They can be videos, interviews, documents or charts illustrating not only regular work activity but also issues. Mirror materials are used to stimulate involvement, analysis, and collaborative design efforts among the participants. The participants should look at themselves ‘in the mirror’ and reflect on the work activity they are part of. The mirrors are also intended to help the participants see the problem from another point of view. The researcher gathers as many materials as possible during field research, and makes a hypothesis on the possible problems within and between activity systems. In order to trigger discussion, during the workshops the researcher shows a selection of materials based on the hypotheses s/he has made.


EntreLab for teacher training in entrepreneurship

A new model for in service teacher training for entrepreneurship education is emerging. Teachers can learn how to structure learning environments promoting a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship. The aim is not only to connect school with industry, but implement the didactics in line with a capability approach to be mobilized inside and outside the school environment. These may include the encouragement of the students’ personal initiative and autonomy, the ability to make choices, and the possibility for students to participate in decisions about their curriculum.

The aim of EntreLab is to promote the expansive learning phases to mobilize the agency of teachers, their ability to exert power. Teachers learn about the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship by becoming themselves entrepreneurial in their teaching activity.

Duration 10 weekly meetings 2 hours’ long plus follow-up; the overall duration will be2-3 months. The workshops are preceded by the researcher’s observant participation in the classes to gather the mirror materials useful for the workshops.
Participants Roughly 15-20 for each meeting of which

  • 15 teachers (technical, scientific, humanistic subjects)
  • a student or young entrepreneur (possibly former student of the school)
  • School principal
  • Representative of industry
Aim Triggering discussion, involvement and participation.

Generating a cycle of expansive learning to mobilize the teachers’ agency, having the teachers being entrepreneurial and taking the lead in the workshops.

Raising the awareness and importance of entrepreneurship.

Introducing entrepreneurship education through didactics (workgroups, project work, workshops, work experience, inviting entrepreneurs, company visits), pedagogies (teaching for autonomy, initiative, responsibility, ability to make choices, connecting school and work, learning how to take risks, etc).

Materials Videos and interviews gathered by the research during field research, documents (for example from the European Union) on entrepreneurship.

A selected group of 15 teachers will participate in ten weekly two-hours meetings to discuss – in a appropriate environment – how to implement entrepreneurship in the specific class/es and subjects. In order to generate a clash of opinions necessary to consider an issue from multiple points of view, diverse stakeholders will be involved: student, representatives of industry, a young entrepreneur and the school principal. The total number of participants should be no more than 20.

In order to trigger a cycle of expansive learning the participants will discuss the obstacles that prevent students from being entrepreneurial. The mirror materials gathered by the researcher will help the participants to gain awareness about the issues of the class – eg why the students are not entrepreneurial. The mirror material will be gathered by the researcher through in field observations in the classes involved in the research. The materials will be interviews with key people (students and parents, teachers, school principal, entrepreneurs, work tutors), videos of lessons, and documents on entrepreneurship education.

The mirror materials and the different points of view of the participants will trigger and involve discussion and generate a model for entrepreneurship education suitable for the classes involved in the project. This model will be enhanced, and then implemented in the class with the necessary adjustments. Through follow up meetings the participants will reflect on the new practice to stabilize it, and implement it in other classes and the overall school.

EntreLab project, time line

The project is divided into nine phases, one of which is run by the EntreLab workshops.

Phase Action
1 Selection of the school/institute participating in the research
2 Request of the ethical authorizations. The school principal and the school council agree on the research. Preparation of the consent forms, the participants can discontinue their participation at any moment with no consequences.
3 The research project is presented and negotiated with the teachers.
4 Launch event, the initiative is presented to the students and their parents. Following a capability approach, collective discussion is carried out on how to implement the project in the school.
5 Selection of the class(es) and teachers who wish to participate in the project. Two classes can be involved with a maximum number of 15 teachers.
6 The researcher conducts the observant participation in the class(es) for a month collecting the mirror materials suitable for the workshops. Mirror materials can include: documents, interviews with students, teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, school principal; and videos on the didactics used in the class by the teachers.
7 EntreLab meetings: weekly two hour long workshops for two months plus follow up. The participants (teachers, the school principal, the researcher, social partners and representatives of the business world) discuss how to implement entrepreneurship education in the classes involved in the project.

Dialectics is obtained through the use of mirror materials gathered by the researcher in the classes plus documents on entrepreneurship.

A cycle of expansive learning takes place: the participants design a model for entrepreneurship education and put it into practice.

8 Participant observation in the classes, interviews and questionnaires with students and teachers to gather the evidence of the students’ changed behaviour, which should be more proactive and entrepreneurial.
9 Final seminar to discuss the outcomes of the experience, and how to roll it out to the all classes of the school. The participants are students, teachers, the school principal, the local enterprises and the social partners (unions, Chamber of Commerce, etc).

Join us !

To teachers, school personnel, school principals, students and parents around Europe.

Try this experimental methodology for in service teacher training for entrepreneurship education in your institute. The researchers at Helsinki University and Ca’ Foscari University are at your service. Please complete the form below, and we will contact you.

Contact us or write your request in the form that you find at this address  ( click here )

Visit also innovation and entrepreneurship group at CISRE Ca’Foscari (only Italian)


Press release and news


Related documents

A selection of interesting European documents on entrepreneurship education and vocational education.

Entrepreneurship Education in Vocational Education (2009)


Guidelines to organize initiatives on entrepreneurship education (only in Italian, 2013)


Entrepreneurship Education, a Guide for Teachers (2014)


Entrepreneurship Education, a Road to Success (2015)


Entrepreneurship Education at school in Europe (2012)


Guidance Supporting Europe’s Aspiring Entrepreneurs (CEDEFOP, 2011)


Creative Learning and Innovative Teaching


Le competenze chiave per l’apprendimento permanente: il senso d’iniziativa e d’imprenditorialità