The demand for including enterprise in the education system, at all levels and for all pupils is now a global phenomenon. Within this context, the use of competitions and competitive learning activities is presented as a popular and effective vehicle for learning. The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate how a realist method of enquiry – which utilises theory as the unit of analysis – can shed new light on the assumed and unintended outcomes of enterprise education competitions. The case developed here is that there are inherent flaws in assuming that competitions will ‘work’ in the ways set out in policy and guidance. Some of the most prevalent stated outcomes – that competitions will motivate and reward young people, that they will enable the development of entrepreneurial skills, and that learners will be inspired by their peers – are challenged by theory from psychology and education. The issue at stake is that the expansion of enterprise education policy into primary and secondary education increases the likelihood that more learners will be sheep dipped in competitions, and competitive activities, without a clear recognition of the potential unintended effects. In this chapter, we employ a realist-informed approach to critically evaluate the theoretical basis that underpins the use of competitions and competitive learning activities in school-based enterprise education. We believe that our findings and subsequent recommendations will provide those who promote and practice the use of competitions with a richer, more sophisticated picture of the potential flaws within such activities.
The authors are grateful to Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) for a grant to pursue the research which has informed this chapter.
Brentnall, C., Rodríguez, I.D. and Culkin, N. (2018), "Enterprise Education Competitions: A Theoretically Flawed Intervention?", Higgins, D., Jones, P. and McGowan, P. (Ed.) Creating Entrepreneurial Space: Talking Through Multi-Voices, Reflections on Emerging Debates (Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship Research, Vol. 9A), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 25-48. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2040-72462018000009A002
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