21st Century Entrepreneurial Literacy

21st Century Entrepreneurial Literacy
Kathy Challis
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin


Students can become successful entrepreneurs during their middle years of development.

“According to research identified that leading programs for entrepreneurs education in the United States are Network for Teaching Entreprenueir (NFTE), Young Entrepreneurs, and the Kauffman Foundations program. Youth Venture targets students above age 12. In the United States, programs lack intervention at a younger age, but they exist worldwide.”  In the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), non-cognitive and innovative skills are assessed. Giving more opportunities for entrepreneurs to create more job markets and job positions.             Furthermore, children as young as age 4 can be taught the value of the economic and free-market system that we enjoy in the USA, Teaching children as early as 9-12 years old/3rd grade can be productive in determining their successes in school and as a future entrepreneurial or employee.

 Keywords:  21st-century,  ESSA, behaviorist, cognitive psychology, constructivism, social constructivism, experiential learning, multiple intelligence, situated learning theory, a community of practice, entrepreneurial literacy  It is contended that children need to start early as


Abstract 2

Entrepreneur: 10

Entrepreneurial mindset 11

Cultural mindset 11

Employer perspective………………………………………………………………………………………. 13

·      Initiative & Self-Reliance. 14

·      Flexibility & Adaptability. 14

·      Communication & Collaboration. 14

·      Creativity & Innovation. 14

·      Critical Thinking & Problem Solving. 14

·      Future Orientation. 15

·      Opportunity Recognition. 15

·      Comfort with Risk. 15

Entrepreneurial culture. 17

NFTE’s  Activities to Teach Entrepreneurship: 17

References. 20

Acronyms. 21

What is entrepreneurial literacy? How can entrepreneurial literacy be taught in K-12 and post-secondary educational facilities? Before the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there was growing interest in identifying and measuring critical “noncognitive” skills, such as grit, conscientiousness, goal orientation, punctuality, ethics, efficacy, and others. Entrepreneurial Literacy is at the forefront of 21st-century education preparation.  Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are essential to continued business development for the future generation of workers

. 66% of all new jobs haven’t even been invented yet, but with new technologies and innovations, our children need to be prepared to tap into the potential markets and opportunities. These are the theories that lead up to the 21st– century goals: behaviorist, cognitive psychology, constructivism, social constructivism, experiential learning, multiple intelligence, situated learning theory, a community of practice.” 

The hypothesis presented in this paper as Students can become successful entrepreneurs during their middle 9-12 years of development “A seminal 2004 study of U.S. entrepreneurs, for example, analyzed their impressions of the relative importance of the Big Five personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism – which psychologists believe are at the core of every individual’s personality.”  (Westwood 2017).

“Bill J. Bonnstetter, Chairman of Target Training International, researched more than 17,000 working adults, including “serial” entrepreneurs, and concluded that, “in contrast to ephemeral notions that entrepreneurial success comes as a result of perfect timing meeting brilliant ideas in a cosmic moment of alignment, [my] research indicates [that] entrepreneurially successful people are successful for a reason—that many of them highly display certain personal skills.” He further argued that the attributes of entrepreneurs, including goal orientation and interpersonal skills “are not inherent.” Rather, he wrote, “They can be learned and developed, especially early in life, and further honed throughout an entrepreneur’s career.” (Bonnstetter .)

The theoretical framework is the Engagement Theory. Engaged readers are intrinsically motivated, mentally active, and social.  Students that are more receptive to the entrepreneurial mindset have engagement theory qualities.  In recent years,  the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) has been working to fill this gap by developing and testing the Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI)—a tool to measure attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs associated with being an entrepreneur. (NFTE 2018)

            With life-long learning and strategic training, students can become entrepreneurial or have an entrepreneurial mindset.  I am entrepreneurial. At age 26 yrs, I started a successful business called Unlimited Software Company that later merged with BobKat Computer Consultants. I operated the company for 13 years, then sold it to relocate to Texas. I mention this experience for a reason. When I was a child my parents had odd jobs as their secondary employment source. It was normal for me to watch them start with nothing; just an idea and that week’s paycheck, and form a company. Some companies had long life while others fizzled and burned out. I can write effective business plans easily and am very creative.

Engaged readers are more likely to succeed at starting a business or writing a business plan than unengaged readers. There is a strong correlation between non-critical thinking skills; accepting things at face value (low level of thought).  and the higher cognitive thinking skills, in areas such as self-control, interpersonal problem-solving, and critical reasoning. The opposite of critical thinking would be unimaginative, evidence-driven, limited, and impoverished thinking that leads to the same old expected solutions: Critical thinking doesn’t always cross over to include imaginative or resourceful thinking..(Thinking Writing,2012).

 Entrepreneurial in the teaching world. The hypothesis, “Students can become successful entrepreneurs during their middle years of development,“ is supported by the following conditions. Students as young as four years can be taught economic skills such as money management and free enterprise in their classrooms, though higher order of reasoning occurs at about 9-10  years of age, (third grade) whereas students can learn how to add to their bank account or save a portion of their earned monies for different purposes.

These middle years 9-12, can be fertile ground for inquisitive minds to germinate. Soft skills or non-cognitive skills such as being a team player, negotiating, prioritizing, problem-solving, and ethics, to name a few should be taught along with STEM classes (History, Mathematics, English, Science). We must ask ourselves, “What is entrepreneurial literacy? And How can entrepreneurial literacy be taught in K-12 and post-secondary educational facilities?” TO answer these questions we must first define theories associated with learning. The Office of Learning and Teaching (herein: OLT,2014) outlines them as follows: presents these theories of learning. “Learning theories develop hypotheses that describe how this process takes place. The scientific study of learning started in earnest at the dawn of the 20th century. The major concepts and theories of learning include behaviorist theories, cognitive psychology, constructivism, social constructivism, experiential learning, multiple intelligence, and situated learning theory and community of practice.” (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2014)


“Skinner, another influential behaviorist, proposed his variant of behaviorism called “operant conditioning”. In his view, rewarding the right parts of the more complex behavior reinforces it, and encourages its recurrence. Therefore, reinforcers control the occurrence of the desired partial behaviors. The basic idea of behaviorism is that learning consists of a change in behavior due to the acquisition, reinforcement, and application of associations between stimuli from the environment and observable responses of the individual. Behaviorists are interested in measurable changes in behavior.” (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2014)

Cognitive Psychology 

“In cognitive psychology, learning is understood as the acquisition of knowledge: the learner is an information-processor who absorbs information, undertakes cognitive operations on it, and stocks it in memory. Therefore, its preferred methods of instruction are lecturing and reading textbooks; and, at its most extreme, the learner is a passive recipient of knowledge by the teacher.) (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2014)


“Learners are therefore viewed as sense-makers, not simply recording given information but interpreting it. This view of learning led to the shift from the “knowledge-acquisition” to the “knowledge-construction” metaphor. While there are different versions of constructivism, Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner, what is found in common is the learner-centered approach whereby the teacher becomes a cognitive guide of learner’s learning and not a knowledge transmitter”. (McLoad, S. 2019)

Social learning theory 

“A well-known social learning theory has been developed by Albert Bandura, who works within both cognitive and behavioral frameworks that embrace attention, memory, and motivation. His theory of learning suggests that people learn within a social context and that learning is facilitated through concepts such as modeling, observational learning, and imitation. Bandura put forward a “reciprocal determinism” that holds the view that a person’s behavior, environment, and personal qualities all reciprocally influence each other.”  (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2010).  


“The essence of this criticism was that the information-processing constructivism saw cognition and learning as processes occurring within the mind in isolation from the surroundings and interact with it. Knowledge was considered as self-sufficient and independent of the contexts in which it finds itself. In the new view, cognition and learning are understood as interactions between the individual and a situation; knowledge is considered as situated and is a product of the activity, context, and culture in which it is formed and utilized. This gave way to a new metaphor for learning as “participation” and “social negotiation”. (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2010)

Experiential learning  

“Carl Rogers is an influential proponent of these theories, suggesting that experiential learning is “self-initiated learning” as people have a natural inclination to learn; and that they learn when they are fully involved in the learning process. Rogers put forward the following insight: (1) “learning can only be facilitated: we cannot teach another person directly”, (2) “learners become more rigid under threat”, (3) “significant learning occurs in an environment where threat to the learner is reduced to a minimum”, (4) “learning is most likely to occur and to last when it is self-initiated.” ((The Office of Learning and Teaching 2010) 

Multiple intelligences 

Gardner argues that every person’s level of intelligence consists of many distinct “intelligence”. This intelligence includes (1) logical-mathematical, (2) linguistic, (3) spatial, (4) musical, (5) bodily-kinesthetic, (6) interpersonal, and (7) intrapersonal.” (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2010)

Situated learning theory and community of practice

“They are developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. Situated learning theory recognizes that there is no learning which is not situated, and emphasizes the relational and negotiated character of knowledge and learning as well as the engaged nature of learning activity for the individuals involved.” (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2014) 

21st-century learning or skills 

“The current discussion about 21st-century skills leads classrooms and other learning environments to encourage the development of core subject knowledge as well as new media literacies, critical and systems thinking, interpersonal and self-directional skills. One main learning method that supports the learning of such skills and knowledge is group learning or thematic projects, which involves an inquiry-based collaborative work that addresses real-world issues and questions.” (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2014)


            Dr. Robert Hisrich at Kent State University described an entrepreneur as “someone who demonstrates initiative and creative thinking [and] can organize social and economic mechanisms to turn resources and situations to practical account and accepts risk and failure” (Hisrich, R.D.1990)

Entrepreneurial mindset

            An entrepreneurial mindset refers to a specific state of mind that steers human conduct toward entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. Individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets are often drawn to opportunities, innovation, and new value creation (Lexicon, n.d.). “Furthermore, an entrepreneurial mindset is a set of skills that enable people to identify and make the most of opportunities, overcome and learn from setbacks, and succeed in a variety of settings. Research shows that an entrepreneurial mindset is valued by employers, boosts educational attainment and performance, and is crucial for creating new businesses.” (NFTE white paper 2018)


Cultural mindset

This study defines culture as the behaviors beliefs, mindset, and values within specific community groups. An entrepreneurial culture is the principles, values, and mindset within [the] framework of the entrepreneur’s business practices. The definition of an entrepreneurial culture aligns with Ernst & Young’s definition (2015, p. 6): “Entrepreneurial culture is not just about starting a startup. It is about culture, mindset, values, principles, etc.,” and it stems from the entrepreneurial mindset.” (Aigerim Mukhambetova, Asa Maria Camnert and Ariane Williams) [A Design Approach to Teaching an Entrepreneurial Mindset]

A collaborative approach can help build communication and team-building skills, encourage students to accept each other, and approach, validate, and engage with the material more effectively (Johnson et al., 1981; Steiner and Posch, 2006).

Teachers in particular understand and accept that 66% of all new jobs will be created/ invented by 2045, and society will need entrepreneurs to see it through. (Dept. of Labor Job Statistics, 2019) and therefore the  Entrepreneurial mindset is formed. An entrepreneurial mindset refers to a specific state of mind that steers human conduct toward entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. Individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets are often drawn to opportunities, innovation, and new value creation (Lexicon, n.d.). “Furthermore, an entrepreneurial mindset is a set of skills that enable people to identify and make the most of opportunities, overcome and learn from setbacks, and succeed in a variety of settings. Research shows that an entrepreneurial mindset is valued by employers, boosts educational attainment and performance, and is crucial for creating new businesses.” (Mukhambetova Camnert, et al.2019)

“For example, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) defines the following as key: core subjects (e.g. English, math, geography, history, civics) and 21st-century themes (global awareness, civic literacy, health literacy, environmental literacy, financial, business and entrepreneurial literacy); learning and innovation skills (creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration); information, media and technology skills (e.g. ICT literacy, media literacy); and life and career skills (flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills,” (The Office of Learning and Teaching 2014)  

Non-cognitive skills can be taught an example is the “Year Up program, which provides low-income youth with internships and training, has demonstrated that young people can learn noncognitive skills like time management, teamwork, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, and that these attributes, in turn, positively impact their experiences in the labor market.”  (NFTE white paper, 2017)

“If the job of [a] school is to prepare students for college and career, then it is essential for educators to teach entrepreneurship. According to Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y Research & Management Consulting Firm, one in three employers seek entrepreneurial experience in its hires” (Dawson, 2017)

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) notes that “An extensive body of literature suggest[s] that entrepreneurial skills such as creative problem solving and collaboration are important for academic success.” In other words, even for students who never want to launch a startup, entrepreneurial education is beneficial. When students hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, they prepare for college, career, and 21st-century success.

The Problem we have in hiring youthful entrepreneurs are as follows:

• Youth are not prepared to seize the opportunities of the 21st century.
• New businesses account for nearly all net new job creation and almost 20% of gross job creation. [Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 2015]
• Entrepreneurs age 20-34 have been on the decline, down from 34.3% of all new entrepreneurs in the 1997 Kauffman Index to 25% in the 2016 index.
• 71 million youth are unemployed. [International Labour Organization]
• 1 in 3 U.S. employers seeks entrepreneurial experience in its hires. Millennial Branding]
(Aigerim Mukhambetova, Asa Camnert, et al.)

The Solution = Mindset: Success starts here. Teaching entrepreneurship changes mindset. The following are a list of non-cognitive skills that are used every day by entrepreneurs. Our Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI) measures eight core domains that we have identified, through our own research and that of others, as critical to becoming entrepreneurial.

The power to take ownership of a project without input or guidance and work through obstacles independently.

The ability and willingness to change actions and plans to overcome present and future challenges.

The ability to clearly express ideas to an intended audience, including persuading others to work towards a common goal.

The ability to think of ideas and create solutions to problems without clearly defined structures.

The capacity to apply higher-level, process-oriented thinking, consider an issue from a range of possible perspectives and use that reasoning to make decisions.

An optimistic disposition with a focus on obtaining the skills and knowledge required to transition into a career.

The practice of seeing and experiencing problems as opportunities to create solutions.

The capacity to move forward with a decision despite inevitable uncertainty and challenges.(NFTE-EY Research Brief, 2019)  “Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are now required to build into their accountability systems at least one additional measure of school quality and student performance, beyond traditional academic outcomes.” (NFTE-whitepaper 2017).


“To help more students, in the U.S. and around the globe, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, policymakers, funders, and education leaders should consider the following strategies:

 • Incorporate entrepreneurship into mainstream education. A focus on entrepreneurial skills should not be unique to career and technical education or business education programs. Teaching these skills can and should be built into mainstream classrooms and curricula. There are currently a number of efforts in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere to make entrepreneurship education mandatory for young people. It will be important to evaluate the implementation and impact of these initiatives and apply lessons learned to the development of new entrepreneurship education efforts around the world

• Redefine entrepreneurship as a fundamental part of the learning process. The evidence is clear: Entrepreneurial skills are valuable in many spheres. Entrepreneurship is not just about owning a business, but about developing a suite of practical skills that can help people set and achieve goals, overcome and learn from setbacks, and maximize opportunities, throughout their lives

 • Bring entrepreneurs into the classroom. One way to help students learn entrepreneurial skills is to expose them to experienced, successful entrepreneurs. Policymakers should support mentoring programs and innovative partnerships that bring entrepreneurs into the classroom.

• Build entrepreneurial skills into accountability systems. As policymakers rethink the skills that schools and systems will be held accountable for imparting, the entrepreneurial mindset should be part of the conversation, with the understanding that specific Entrepreneurship is not just about owning a business, but about developing a suite of practical skills that can help people set and achieve goals, overcome and learn from setbacks, and maximize opportunities, throughout their lives. performance benchmarks should only be considered based on further research and evaluation of methods for teaching and measuring entrepreneurial mindset

. • Invest in relevant and rigorous research.. More research is needed to crystalize the links between entrepreneurial mindset and other important outcomes—and to identify the most effective practices and tools for helping students develop entrepreneurial skills.” 

  • Individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets are often drawn to opportunities, innovation, and new value creation (Lexicon, n.d.). For this analysis, an entrepreneurial mindset is defined according to the Entrepreneurial Mindset Index by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and consists of the following traits:

• Opportunity recognition

• Comfort with risk

• Creativity and innovation

• Future orientation

• Flexibility and adaptability

• Initiative and self-reliance

• Critical thinking and problem solving

• Communication and collaboration

Entrepreneurial culture.

This study defines culture as the behaviors that cultivate innovative thinking outside of the box.

NFTE’s  Activities to Teach Entrepreneurship:

1. Turn class participation in speaking events.

Instead of standard class discussions, give students a chance to practice public speaking. Teachers can make this shift by integrating Ignite Talks or pop-up debates. These work in any subject area. With these activities, kids feel positive pressure as they speak to an audience. Entrepreneurs do this when pitching to investors or speaking to customers.

 2. Introduce project-based learning (PBL).

When entrepreneurs launch a startup, they often begin by attempting to solve a narrowly defined problem. For example, companies like Uber and Lyft solve a transportation problem by facilitating immediate access to reliable car rides, so that people can travel more cheaply and conveniently. Teachers can launch a PBL initiative that empowers students to define real-world problems and create solutions for those problems.

Buck Institute for Education (BIE), an organization that supports PBL in schools, describes this process as a way for students to “gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” ( Encouraging Future Innovation, n.d.)

3. Integrate high-quality, nonfiction texts into the curriculum.

By bringing in relevant, contemporary material to the classroom, teachers can engage students with the issues they care about. Students can research a cause that matters to them.

For example, let’s imagine that your students read five articles throughout the semester about environmental issues. Next, ask students to vote on the issue that feels most important to them. Go further by helping students reach out to experts in the field. Lastly, help students organize a fundraising or volunteering activity that helps students to make an impact in this area outside of the classroom.

 4. Work with authentic tools and platforms.

With the proliferation of 1:1 device, there is a flood of communication and classroom tools geared towards students. But these tools, which often have a narrow use case confined to the classroom, shelter students from the authentic digital world.

“Free sites like WordPress, SoundCloud, YouTube, GoFundMe, and Instagram, however, are used by entrepreneurs to establish platforms and grow audiences. By using these same tools in a lesson or project, students can practice the same methods that modern entrepreneurs use to share their work with the world. Of course, mind your district policies and consider student age when using these tools

Not many students will launch a startup from their classroom. But with the right mindset and a few well-chosen strategies, teachers can help students develop the skills they need to succeed in our increasingly entrepreneurial world. Rooted in Social Cognitive Career Theory, the Entrepreneurship Education Project data initiative is the largest, most comprehensive study of students across the globe.












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Buck Institute for Education (BIE)

Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI)

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) 

By Kat Challis

Kathy Ann (Hughes) Challis Married in 1977 to Robert Challis-from Bethany, OK - still together 42 years later.
Two daughters ages 41y and 37y and six beautiful grandchildren.
Live in Alvarado, TX. I love GOD and live life to its fullest. I am blessed beyond measure.
I have family pets that give me a sense of devotion. Writing this blog has
been an adventure of internal growth and I hope of interest to you.

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