In discussing higher education, perhaps not enough attention is paid to the actual work in the classroom, the teaching itself and improving that. The term ‘teacherpreneurism’ has been used to denote a certain approach and style of teaching. The word obviously combines ‘teacher’ and ‘entrepreneur’. A common dictionary definition refers to “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. (Berry et. al. 2013, p. 17). The authors describe the qualities of the entrepreneur as one who take risks in decision making about what to do and how it is going to be done.
Self-reliant, optimistic people
They are self-reliant, optimistic people who launch initiatives, generate ideas, mobilize others and work “outside the lines”. They also accept full responsibility for the results. (Berry, 2001.) The entrepreneur is normally seen in the context of the business world. Bringing new ideas that do change the way we live. The authors believe that teachers bring these qualities and behaviours to their everyday practice. However in defining the teacherpreneur, the focus is not on developing new sources of income but instead “it is about promoting and spreading a new culture of collective innovation and creativity” (Berry et. al. 2013 p.19) in education which the authors feel is lacking. Highly skilled teachers who are underutilised, need to establish that culture.
However, the teacherpreneur is conceptualized in a different way. The question is asked
“What if accomplished educators’ jobs could be restructured, enabling us to use and spread our expertise in innovative ways while also keeping one foot in the classroom?” – (Vilson, 2011, cited in Berry et. al. 2013, p.17)
The teacher/entrepreneur fusion
So there is a significant difference in this understanding of the teacher/entrepreneur fusion compared with the idea of the ‘outlier’, rule ignoring entrepreneur, an understanding rooted in ongoing practice. Hess (2006) makes the point however, that the work of education entrepreneurism requires both seasoned and experience combined with, energy and fresh perspectives on the other.p.6 But unlike education entrepreneurs so in vogue today, teacherpreneurs still work with students on a regular basis, always using their ongoing experiences with students of all ages as they “design and develop as well as mobilize and transform systems of teaching and learning”. (p19)
A significant difference with teacherpreneurs, is that they do not primarily market their ideas for profit, but act as expert practitioners who, as part of their paid employment, share their ideas and approaches. They may be known as mentors, teacher educators, action researchers, policy developers and community organizers, but whatever the name, the vision for this teacherpreneurial group is to “empower expert teachers who can elevate the entire profession by making sure that colleagues, policymakers, and the public know what works best for students.”(Berry p.7).
Berry, B., Byrd, A. & Wieder, A. (2013). Making Teachers - and Teaching – Visible. In Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead but Don't Leave, John Wiley & Sons. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/vu/detail.action?docID=1245642.
Hess, F.M., (Ed.) (2006). Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge.
Associate Professor Tom O’Connor is the Associate Program Director, Postgraduate Studies (Melbourne) and Manager, Special Projects in the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor.