E. Kubberoed1, S.T. Hagen2

1Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NORWAY)
2Telemark University College (NORWAY)
Entrepreneurship and innovation are regarded as two of the most important driving forces in welfare development in our times. In policy documents throughout Europe, governments increasingly see entrepreneurship education as a crucial vehicle contributing to future economic growth. This has created an incentive for nurturing the development of creative and enterprising skills through so-called new venture planning (NVP) pedagogies in higher education. According to the contemporary perspective on entrepreneurship education learning activities as NVP courses allows learners to initiate, apply knowledge, strategize and act, more than just one-dimensionally develop academic skills of observing, describing and analysing. The argument behind is that entrepreneurial skills and expertise is largely tacit and socially constructed and therefore has to rely on experiential action learning approaches. NVP courses try to simulate the actual experiences of developing a new venture by creating an educational setting where “real life” entrepreneurial learning can take place. The overarching learning goal of the NVP pedagogic practices is their ability to contribute to developing an entrepreneurial mindset in students.

In experiential action learning the “stage” belongs to the students, and the teacher role is often to work “back stage” to ensure the best supported learning environment. Such learning is therefore student-centred, and requires another approach to teaching, more towards mentoring. Mentoring has for long been recognized as an effective intervention for personal and career development, in that mentoring functions to support both the psychological development as well as the more skill based training. Consequently, mentoring may be regarded as an essential ingredient in the entrepreneurial learning process and contributes to increased learning outcomes. In this paper we employ the term “entrepreneurial mentoring” as an umbrella to explore the different mentoring roles that can be found in experiential action based entrepreneurship education in higher education institutions. The aim of this study is to map out the key aspects of mentoring functions and strategies in entrepreneurial mentoring as a starting point for developing a conceptual framework for future studies.

Departing from the above arguments and background, we build on a comparative case study to explore these different entrepreneurial mentor roles by zooming in on two successful NVP courses at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Telemark University College, respectively. For information, these programs are currently taking part in a national funded program on mentoring for entrepreneurial expertise in higher entrepreneurship education in Norway.

From our findings and analysis a model depicting four mentor roles in entrepreneurial mentoring can be derived. This model may be helpful for future empirical examination of mentoring styles in entrepreneurship and serve as a fruitful guide for those who design and implement mentoring in entrepreneurship education.