The challenges of assessing entrepreneurship courses: An exploration of the constructive alignment of authentic learning, instruction and assessment in the entrepreneurial context

Stephanie Macht, John Robinson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Despite the economic importance of entrepreneurship, it is unclear how it can be taught (Fiet, 2000; Raffo et al., 2000) and particularly how it can be assessed (Falkäng and Alberti, 2000). The question of how students prefer to be taught entrepreneurship forms the basis of an ongoing BMAF sponsored research, preliminary findings of which suggest that students prefer experiential learning over theoretical, book-based learning – i.e. they want to experience the business start-up first-hand during their studies. The data further shows that the traditional lecture-seminar delivery seems unsuitable for entrepreneurship education, which implies that traditional assessment strategies, such as essays or exams, might also be unsuitable (Bloxham and Boyd, 2007). Since authentic assessment “reflect[s] the ways in which knowledge and skills are used in real world contexts” (MacLellan, 2001, p. 308), an authentic approach to assessment, which closely mirrors the real-life entrepreneurial situation (Savery and Duffy, 1996), seems most compatible with entrepreneurship students’ preference for experiential learning. This corresponds to the core elements of Biggs’ (1996) ‘Constructive Alignment’ framework, which argues that students learn best if they perceive ‘Instruction’, ‘Learning’ and ‘Assessment’ (ILA) to be compatible, i.e. if they are all considered authentic. Research design and methods of data collection and analysis or method of inquiry: This study explores the applicability of Biggs’ (1996)constructive alignment theory to the context of entrepreneurship education at university level. As part of the research carried out for an awarded BMAF grant, semi structured interviews are conducted with fifteen entrepreneurship students. In two interview rounds (at the beginning of each semester of their final year, i.e. October 2009 and February 2010), students are asked open questions, exploring their perceptions of entrepreneurship teaching and assessment. Considering that – according to the constructive alignment theory – students learn best if they themselves consider ILA to be aligned, researching authenticity from a student perspective is crucial as student and teacher perceptions often diverge (Gulikers et al., 2004). Main findings: An interesting emerging finding relates to the motivation of students: whilst all students emphasise the importance of experiential learning and continuous formative feedback from lecturers and entrepreneurs, students who study entrepreneurship because they want to set up a business in the future tend to be less focused on summative assessment; they value all authentic tasks and experiences, even if they do not directly form part of the summative assessment. On the other hand, students who choose entrepreneurship out of alternative reasons (e.g. because it sounded interesting) tend to be heavily focused on the summative assessment; they criticise that experiential learning is time-consuming and tend to disregard learning that is not directly and explicitly relevant to the summative assessment. On a theoretical level, the need for authentic learning emerged strongly from the data and the second-round interviews will explore the remaining constructive alignment concepts (i.e. assessment and instruction) in more detail. Discussion of implications: Since this study draws upon the constructive alignment framework, it will identify which aspects of the framework are applicable to the entrepreneurship education context; in addition, inapplicable aspects will be amended or expanded in order to make the framework more suitable. Empirically, the study adds to the currently limited knowledge of entrepreneurship education with particular focus on understanding the students’ perspective on how entrepreneurship can be taught and assessed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2010
EventBMAF Annual Conference - Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Duration: 20 Apr 2010 → …


ConferenceBMAF Annual Conference
Period20/04/10 → …


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