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Activating Entrepreneurial Mindsets in Neurodivergent Students Through the UDL Engagement–Regulation–Persistence Framework

Tamara Stenn (Landmark College, USA)
Dorothy A. Osterholt (Landmark College, USA)

The Age of Entrepreneurship Education Research: Evolution and Future

ISBN: 978-1-83753-057-1, eISBN: 978-1-83753-056-4

Publication date: 20 April 2023


Neurodiversity can be considered a cognitive disability that marginalizes people who experience and interpret the world differently. An estimated 19% of all US college students have disclosed a disability (NCES, 2021). Typical forms of neurodiversity are attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and dyslexia. There is a growing belief that entrepreneurship is well suited for neurodivergent individuals because they can specifically design and control their environments resulting in a better fit and more positive outcomes (Austin & Pisano, 2017). There is also the belief that neurodivergent people’s unique perspectives and “superpowers” lead to new innovative ways of thinking and doing business. These superpowers can allow neurodivergent people to hyper focus and outperform others (Austin & Pisano, 2017).

However, real challenges counter these positive outcomes. For example, while those with ADHD are often drawn to being entrepreneurs because they can quickly initiate, improvise, and seek novelty – their ability to engage in reflection, thoroughness, and efficiency is strained. Thus, ADHD helps and hinders entrepreneurs (Hunt & Verhuel, 2017). The same holds true for other types of neurodiversity.

Entrepreneurship education becomes more nuanced as it matures and grows. An example is the “learn by doing” method of teaching entrepreneurship. Grounded in self-determination and planned behavior theories, “learn by doing” highlights the importance of autonomy, competence, and relatedness when engaging in entrepreneurship endeavors. Heutagogy (self-guided learning) and andragogy (applied learning) approaches have an effective impact on this type of entrepreneurship pedagogy. However, these open-ended approaches present barriers for neurodivergent learners who need more structure with projects broken down into small steps.

This chapter presents a case study view of how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) frameworks support “learn by doing” approaches to build a neurodivergent-friendly entrepreneurship mindset on campus. It includes a combination of approaches that support executive function (EF) mastery, assessment, and self-development, including multimodal ways of teaching (visual, audio, and kinesthetic), self-regulation, and social interactions. Here, the authors demonstrate how neurodivergent students learn to anticipate, manage, and benefit from their differences using the UDL engagement–regulation–persistence Framework. The lessons shared in this chapter can help entrepreneurship educators see ways various teaching methods can benefits all learners and how the addition of various programs can be more inclusive for neurodivergent students.



Stenn, T. and Osterholt, D.A. (2023), "Activating Entrepreneurial Mindsets in Neurodivergent Students Through the UDL Engagement–Regulation–Persistence Framework", Corbett, A.C., Marino, L.D. and Alsos, G.A. (Ed.) The Age of Entrepreneurship Education Research: Evolution and Future (Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth, Vol. 23), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 137-159.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 Tamara Stenn and Dorothy A. Osterholt