A Conception of Teaching

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Table 2 explains the nature of critical realism. When entrepreneurial process scholars talk about opportunities for future business development in the context of both startups and established firms, they refer to a wide range of actions see: [ 46 ].

If we look at opportunity more thoroughly from a process perspective, opportunity becomes obvious at the same time as we see it, but not before [ 47 ]. Then there remain unanswered questions: What do we actually see? Do we see the opportunity as an explicit entity, or as a process? What is the nature of the opportunity, then? If we understand opportunity as an outcome rather than a starting point of the entrepreneurial process, how does this understanding affect this process?

Critical realists claim that people do not only overcome the dichotomy between discovery—creation and behaviorism—social constructionism by defining social reality as existing the realist ontological positioning. They are also in an active position in dealing with social reality by possessing the power to either reproduce or transform preceding structures [ 38 ]. To think about the nature of opportunity more thoroughly, we see that critical realists claim that opportunity exists only in human imagination.

That is, it exists as artifact i.

Bibliographic Information

We believe that critical realism may overcome the dichotomy between realism and idealism by conflating them. As a consequence, human beings are in the position of entrepreneurs and are able to reproduce existing knowledge as artifacts as in realism , or transform, construct, or create new knowledge through their own imaginations and creativity as in idealism.

In universities, entrepreneurship education teachers tend to either adopt the discovery theory or follow their own instincts originating from their everyday observations of how entrepreneurs seem to manage their businesses. Figure 2 shows EE teachers' typical ontological conceptions at the university level. Discovery and trait theories as well as business functions dominate their understanding and, consequently, these traditional theories guide how EE teachers at universities run their EE courses.

The Administrative Conception of Teaching

As a result, EE teachers typically concentrate on how to run a business rather than how to create new business opportunities or how to create a new business. It is noteworthy that there is no ontological mismatch as such between these conceptions of entrepreneurship and education, despite applying the traditional behaviorist perspective on teaching and the traditional conception of entrepreneurship.

The Case of the TEDS-M Study

From the entrepreneurship viewpoint, this type of understanding means that the students are expected to discover existing opportunities, then use their gained business skills in developing successful businesses. From the educational perspective, students are viewed as passive and are expected to adopt the information their teachers have selected for them. At the basic education level, EE teachers typically view entrepreneurship as business-related functions and entrepreneurs as opportunity discoverers as well as persons with certain characteristics or traits.

Thus, EE teachers at schools share the traditional conceptions of entrepreneurship with university teachers. However, unlike university-teachers who base their teaching on behaviorism, school teachers tend to follow the social constructionist perspective in their teaching, with only some of the older teachers being exceptions.


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Therefore, there is a mismatch between their conceptions of entrepreneurship and education. Nevertheless, their conception of entrepreneurship is based on traditional discovery theory, which makes it difficult for them to use their advanced educational backgrounds. Both the European Commission and the Finnish National Board of Education consider promotion of entrepreneurial behavior as a general goal for European schools.


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As such, this goal is in line with social constructionism. Nevertheless, a concept that includes the term entrepreneur but is outside of business context may cause further confusion about the meaning of entrepreneurship, as teachers typically understand entrepreneurship in a business context according to discovery theory, which is not in line with social constructionism.

Teaching for Conceptual Understanding

We believe that EE teachers may ease the ontological mismatch they face in their teaching by selecting the conceptions of entrepreneurship as opportunity creation and education as social constructionism. However, by choosing the critical realist perspective, EE teachers can use some aspects from both idealism and realism. That is, one can accept some things as existing and simultaneously accept other things as human creations. In the context of EE, this means that EE teachers may base their everyday teachings on something that they take as given, and on something they create themselves, together with their students.

The entrepreneurial opportunity creation process typically starts after people feel they have found something interesting through observing their everyday realities according to realism. After this finding, the opportunity process continues iteratively through creation and recreation, potentially leading to a business venture reality is created by human actions, according to idealism. The same process often takes place outside the business context as well.

Concept Maps | Classroom Strategies | Reading Rockets

This process includes elements from both realism and idealism potentially causing ontological headaches for EE teachers. Critical realism may ease these headaches. Critical realist perspective allows us to see that entrepreneurs i. This means that they may interact with other people and that they may find interesting and utilizable sources for their opportunity-creating processes. As Figure 4 shows, the construct of opportunity includes three sub-processes future business ideating, business modeling, and business planning.

In each sub-process, the entrepreneur utilizes creative problem-solving CPS [ 50 ] for creating an outcome that becomes an input for the other two sub-processes in an iterative manner. Each sub-process has an idealist ontological foundation; however, the output of this sub-process is viewed as a realism-based input for other sub-processes. By defining entrepreneurship as an entrepreneurial process focusing on opportunity creation and education focusing on social constructionism opens up new avenues for EE teachers and students.

An appropriate conception of teaching science: A view from studies of science learning

The EE teachers and students will be capable for creating opportunities rather than just finding them. Furthermore, EE teachers may apply this kind of process both in business context and outside of it, even in the educational context. In addition, this process is applicable at every educational level because it is up to the EE teacher and participating students to decide into which direction they order each sub-process.

Table 3 illustrates our proposal, which is based on the idea of seeing EE as an integration of entrepreneurship and education. Both of these EE elements can be based on critical realism. Further, we believe that seeing entrepreneurship through a process perspective will help EE teachers to overcome the confusion of comprehending how to exploit entrepreneurship in business, education, or any other non-business context.


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  • We also believe that this approach is valid at all levels of education and also outside business and economics studies. Our proposal is applicable for any activity students want to create for the benefit of themselves, their friends, their acquaintances, their customers, or their end-users. We use the term activity in any non-business context in a manner similar to the use of the term business to describe business opportunity, business modeling, and business planning.

    As shown in Figure 4 , we base our suggestion on the construct of opportunity consisting of three sub-processes: ideating an initial idea for future business, business modeling, and business planning. Even though these three sub-processes are typically seen as pure business-focused processes, we now apply these into the educational context and label them as follows: ideating an initial idea for a new activity, activity modeling, and activity planning. See Table 3 for details.

    Our processual approach to EE starts after people have imagined and reached new thoughts during their everyday lives. Only some of these thoughts are worth further elaborating. As shown in Table 3 , people will go through every sub-process by utilizing the CPS method i. This method helps people in the position of an entrepreneur or student or even an EE teacher to generate a lot of possible answers to interesting questions, to create expected and unexpected combinations between them, and to then select the most desirable combination to be used as an input for further CPS actions in the next sub-process.

    If all combinations in clustering are felt to be unsatisfactory, people may start the sub-process again.

    Concept Maps

    Alternatively, they may go back a previous sub-process to create a different output. How do I get in contact with them? What is the value proposition? What is our own commitment? After creating a great amount of possible and impossible answers based on divergent thinking, people try to find new, unexpected, innovative combinations between ideas clustering to proceed with the most promising one.

    Any change may open up new avenues during the modeling process. The outcome of modeling represents a conceptual description of a desired model of future business or other activity and the input for the following sub-process. According to our interpretation of EE literature, EE teachers have treated business planning as the key content of EE at least at the secondary and tertiary levels of the education system.

    At the same time, some scholars in the field of entrepreneurship have questioned its importance e. We started with analyzing literature on entrepreneurship and education. The analyzed literature included scientific journal articles, project reports, and official documents at the European and national levels discussing EE. We concluded from this literature review that there is an ontological mismatch between entrepreneurship and education because the development of education is ahead of entrepreneurship in the paradigm shift from realism to idealism. According to our results, EE teachers in basic education at the primary and secondary levels have a strong pedagogical education and tend to base their pedagogical thinking on social constructionism.

    At the same time, however, they tend to follow a traditional view of entrepreneurship that is the opposite of their pedagogical thinking. Conversely, university teachers, with backgrounds in, for example, business school or technology, all too often tend to base their pedagogical thinking on behavioristic pedagogy. At the same time, they tend to emphasize managerial competencies, business functions, etc. These empirical observations confirm our conclusions in the conceptual reasoning that there might be an ontological mismatch between entrepreneurship and education.

    To ease the EE ontological headache, we have used the critical realist perspective in entrepreneurship and education as well as in their integration i. The critical realist perspective bridges, on the one hand, realism-based discovery theory and idealism-based creation theory, and on the other, realism-based behaviorism and idealism-based social constructionism. Combining the critical realist perspective with the processual view on entrepreneurship enables acceptance that reality exists as a source for the opportunity creation process, and simultaneously, that reality is a creative outcome of human actions.

    Based on critical realism, we suggest a practical model for EE teachers to use as content for their EE. We believe EE students will be able to utilize the model in both a business and non-business context when they wish to create new activities. In the business context, this may mean better abilities to create their own business startups or to create new business activities in established firms. In the non-business context, students may use the model to create activities in different types of organizations, including their schools.

    In this chapter, our aim was to address the calls for theoretical and conceptual studies in entrepreneurship education focusing on ontological issues. Entrepreneurship education can be seen as an integration of entrepreneurship and education, and we argue that the ontologies of both of these EE components influence EE.

    Therefore, we have first juxtaposed the theoretical paradigm shifts in entrepreneurship and education from the ontological viewpoint. We have taken a first cut at building a practical model to ease the ontological headaches of EE actors with respect to the concept of entrepreneurship and the educational methods for teaching it. Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.

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