Critical Evaluation of Assessment Practice in Enterprise Education

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

In this day and age, there is a need for students to gain entrepreneurial skills which may help them meet workforce and economic needs. This need has been documented by several researchers. The role of the student has changed over the years from independence and self sufficiency to interdependence. This change is putting learning institutions under pressure to produce graduates who have not only the knowledge, but also the skills needed in identification of opportunities, understanding market forces, commercializing new products and advocating for them. This means that there is a growing need for institutions to create assessment practices that will help their students be successful in this highly competitive world. This critical paper focuses on assessment practice in enterprise education.

Many scholars have written articles and papers about the need to have deeper assessment practice research to aid in the creation of assessment strategies that are student oriented and which are up to the required standards. The paper entitled "Assessment Practice in Enterprise Education" is authored by Dr. Luke Pittaway [1] . It analyses the present debates about assessment practice in Higher Education. The paper gives some in depth information about educational research on assessment in education and to what extent this research impacts on entrepreneurship education.

The approach of the article is based on exploring several outcomes and highlighting the roles they play in helping in the comprehension for the various reasons why people engage in enterprise education. Thereafter, the paper applies the different outcomes to assessment practice. This application of outcomes is done by reporting a number of focus groups. The end results based on different focus groups are presented according to outcomes in different potential entrepreneurships and small businesses. The following is a critical evaluation of the paper.

Article Summary

Pittaway identified different research themes in the area of enterprise education. The author looked at systematic literature review to identify these themes. Some of the themes that the author found to dominate this area are:

Factors affecting the propensity of students to become entrepreneurs

Changes in student efficacy brought about by education

Institutional policies and


The author criticized the systematic literature review of not giving much attention to the issue of assessment practice in enterprise education. According to him, "coded citation data developed inductively from abstracts did not highlight the subject as of major concern to the research community". He goes on to say that the research done on enterprise education focuses too much on the design and implementation of programs rather than assessment practice efficacy.

However, as much as the author recognizes the limitations of these research outcomes, he also admits that there is hardly any research that has been done on the area of assessment practice in various entrepreneurship journals. According to him, this could be the reason why current research on assessment criteria on enterprise education has very little to offer. Pittaway argues that this oversight is unfortunate since he sees assessment as being very important in academic practice. He says that assessment determines the quality of higher education teaching and learning. He agrees with those who say that properly designed assessment tools make help make clear expectations. He also says that they are important in the establishment of reasonable workload and creation of opportunities for students to monitor themselves, practice, rehearse and get feedback.

According to Pittaway, the UK government agencies such as the Quality assurance Agency and the Higher Education Academy, that are responsible for ensuring that education quality is maintained, normally put a lot of emphasis of assessment practice. They normally focus on assessment practice so as to ensure that evaluation is effective. Focusing on assessment practice also enables the agencies to protect educational standards. They also use it as a means of learning as well as student feedback.

Pittaway observes that although assessment practice is hugely important, it has been abandoned in many learning institutions and it is taught as a subject in enterprise education. He addresses this oversight by evaluating various arguments and views given in research on several assessment practices. He also gives some of the established entrepreneurial outcomes in enterprise related education. The outcomes that he focuses on are those that have been developed by the UK National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship. At the end of the paper, Pittaway draws together some of the categories of assessment and explains how they can be used to improve enterprise education.

Central Themes: Debates and Discussions

Pittaway states that as a subject, assessment is quite broad and it includes several forms of assessment practice in higher education. He lists these assessment practice forms as:

Institutional assessment

Teacher assessment

Student assessment

He focuses on student assessment, which he says has elicited concern mainly due to increasing pressure from academic agencies and government bodies which are looking to influence, enhance and measure performance of institutions. Nonetheless, he considers assessment practice as a very important aspect of educational practice for its integral role in assessing the link between the actual achievement of students and the desired or expected educational outcomes. He goes on to say that the link between assessment and educational outcomes is very close. He says that the system of assessment used has the potential to drive student behavior and in the long run, affect their learning experience.

Pittaway focuses on debates and arguments which revolve around political and educational concerns. One of these educational concerns is based on how assessment practices impact on the learning process. This concern seeks to understand how and to what extent assessment can be able to help learning to occur. Many institutions in the country have put in place assessment methods that have a clear alignment with expected learning outcomes as well as the knowledge and skills that students are taught.

Pittaway sees the lack of a clear alignment between learning outcomes, learning opportunities and appropriate assessment practices as a major problem (Pittaway, 7). He says that this alignment has not been as well thought through as it should be. Another problem that Pittaway points out in the existing assessment tasks is the lack of a deep process. He says that the existing assessment practices encourage surface learning at the expense of deep learning which normally has the potential to enable a student gain entrepreneurial skills that he can use later in life. He says that "many of our assessment processes encourage surface learning directing students to play the system rather than encouraging deep learning".

Principles for Effective Assessment Practice

Pittaway gives the following principles for efficient assessment practice in enterprise education:

The assessment practice should be reliable, valid and consistent

The amount of assessment should be appropriate

The purpose or reason for assessment should be clearly defined

the criteria used in assessment should be explicit, understandable and transparent

all forms of assessment tools need to be based on proper understanding of student learning processes

assessment must accommodate the differences exhibited by individual students

assessment practices should give room for students to receive feedback

assessment must enable student and teachers to reflect on their learning and practice

finally, the assessment method used in an institution needs to be an integral part of course design

Reliability, value and consistence are some of the qualities that any academic assessment program should have. The assessment practice should be reliable in that it should be applicable to wide range of course areas. A valuable assessment practice means that it is able to enhance the entrepreneurial capabilities of learners. The assessment task needs to be appropriate to a learner's environment. The enterprise assessment should be related to what the student has learnt in his entrepreneurial education and it should also reflect the kind of entrepreneurial practices that are used in a certain region.

Many educators do not clearly define their assessment purposes. This is what leads to ambiguous assessments which end up not helping the students at all. To avoid such a situation, there is need to clearly define learning outcomes in entrepreneurship assessment practices. Educators need to think deeply about the assessment tools to use in enterprise education. This will make understanding of assessment criteria very easy and understandable. When educators understand the student's learning processes, then it is also easy to create assessment practices that are value added.

In designing efficient assessment practices, there is need to understand a student's unique needs. There is no point in designing assessment programs which do not reflect the needs of each and every student. When the individual needs of learners are considered in the design of assessment in entrepreneurial education and assessment, then assessment efficiency is possible. An efficient assessment practice should give a student the opportunity to receive feedback. Feedback is important as it enables the student to personally gauge how well he understands concepts and how effectively he can apply the skills that he has been taught. Feedback should be given in a way that encourages improvement in learning outcomes.

Reflection is an important aspect of effective learning. In designing entrepreneurial assessment practices and strategies, educators need to think about creating them in away that will promote reflection. When students and their teachers reflect on their learning practices, they are likely to appreciate their learning outcomes and improve their entrepreneurial skills. Including practical and well thought out assessment strategy in the overall course design is very important. It ensures that the assessment method and criteria used is in line with the required learning standards.

The idea that assessment practices need to be wholesome is a welcome one. It is high time that educators recognized the importance of effective assessment in creating a generation of entrepreneurial individuals. They should therefore think really carefully about the assessment practices that will bring out the best int heir students in terms of entrepreneurial capabilities. Teachers and other education policy makers should not work in isolation with students and other stakeholders when designing assessment strategies that are applicable to a wide range of courses.

Pittaway says that given the diversity and potential complexity of enterprise education assessment practice, there is need for more consideration for the subject from a practice and research perspective. He goes on to say that educators need to think more carefully about the problems and issues that are normally associated with assessment. These issues include the intended learning outcomes in entrepreneurial studies as well as how this can be linked together in designing effective educational designs (18).

This is a strong point that Pittaway makes. Educators need to evolve from theory assessment to skill based assessment in entrepreneurial assessments. They should think deeply about the results they intend to see after teaching entrepreneurial skills to their students before they create any assessment tools. When they are sure about the intended learning outcomes, they can then design effective assessment tasks that are student oriented. Although this is the ideal assessment practice, it is not as easy to achieve as Pittaway points out (p. 18).

The author says that diversity in itself has brought many other assessment problems, especially those that are associated with effective assessment practice. He says that the subject has not been dwelt with seriously and in enough depth by researchers, and therefore, educators cannot achieve what they want. Pittaway also observes that although there is a high rate of lack of innovative assessment, the lack of innovative delivery is very minimal.

Pittaway also focuses on the philosophical diversity regarding the role of assessment practice in enterprise education. This he says is demonstrated in literature and enterprise educators' output. He says that there are considerations in the presentation of enterprise education assessment practices. He says that formative assessment enables students to identify their areas of weakness and helps in improving learning. Summative assessment is normally used to evaluate where or how far the students have come in terms of their performance.

Pittaway observes that there exists some kind of tension between these two kinds of assessment views. He points out that researchers normally identify more with summative methods of assessment. These methods are normally entrenched in many educational institutions where external accreditation systems and diagnostic forms are common. However, he says that although these tensions are a reality, they can be resolved by combining elements of the two views of enterprise assessment practices (18).

He goes further to point out another form of tension in educational philosophy circles: cold observer vs. social observer assessment. In the past few years, self and peer assessment in higher education has grown in popularity (19). This makes it possible for those people who are themselves engaging in learning to assess the kind of learning that has already occurred. However, Pittaway argues that the difference in the cold observer and social observer assessment methods is very minimal and it should not impact very much on learning outcomes.

Pittaway also addresses the issue of entrepreneurial learning outcomes in terms of how educators understand the relevance of enterprise education and assessment. He says that educators need to understand how enterprising people and entreprenuers learn so as to be able to make appropirate decisions regarding the "forms of education activity that can promote such learning" (p.9). He also looks at how entrepreneurial learning research can offer insight on how best to go about the creation of effective assessment strategies. He says that research based on enterprise learning gives educators a chance to identify those learning outcomes that are desired in educational activities. He lists a number of features of entrepreneurial learning that he gets from various researchers' work:

the learning should be action oriented

entrepreneurs learn through experience

entrepreneurs learn through reflection and doing

they normally learn through experimenting, copying, opportunity taking, making mistakes and problem solving.

Pittaway also highlights the different areas which educators can use to create enterprise education and assessment that impacts on learning. He goes on to say that these areas have the ability to impact changes in empathy, behavior, motivations, values, competencies, ability to manage relationships and venture creation knowledge (p.10). By highlighting these eight areas of change, Pittaway shows the complexity that comes with enter education assessment.

Supporting Theories

Although there has been a spurred increase in the development of entrepreneurship education, there has been minimal research done to examine student learning outcomes and their impact on learners' attitudes, career goals and professional competencies [2] . Duval-Coutil, Reed-Rhoads and Haghighi (2010) share Pittaway's sentiments when they state that enterprice assessment has been hugely ignored as a subject. Another researcher, Shartrand (2008) says that entrepreneurial assessment programs are:

"Case studies addressing the process of gaining administrative approval and student interest, describing content knowledge that is covered, pedagogical approaches utilized, challenges of implementation, and, in some cases, assessment plans" (p.8)

Many reasons have been given for the lack of valid assessment instrument documentations and data. The main reason is that the call to include entrepreneurship into mainstream academic programs is relatively new in many learning institutions (Shartrand and Weilerstein, 2008). There are barriers that may make implementation of assessment practice in enterprise education too difficult. One of these obstacles is based on the reality that there may be need for interdisciplinary collaboration, a move that may not be too popular among faculty members (Yorke, 1998). Another obstacle has to do with lack of consistency in various academic programs (Duval-Couetil, Reed-Rhoads and Haghighi, 2010). This makes it hard to create assessment strategies that are valid for a wide range of academic contexts.

Several studies assess the complexity of assessment practice in enterprise education. Falkang and Alberti (2000) looked at the different emphases that has been put on entreneurship courses. They grouped the courses into two different categories:

Those that focus on the explanation of entrepreneurship and its role in the economy.

Those that have an experiential inclination in training students in skills needed in entrepreneurship businesses

In the first category of courses, students are far removed form the subject under discussion. However in the second category, the courses normally highlight the different methods that are required in assessing learning in different environments. It can be said then that the first category of assessment measures how effective certain courses are in terms of satisfaction, student interest, pedagogical approaches and knowledge acquisition. The second approach can be said to be more practical when viewed from an entrepreneurship assessment point as it considers the development of new ventures, impact on economy and professional outcomes.

Like Pittaway, researchers Duval-Coutil, Reed-Rhoads and Haghighi have also categorized assessment in entrepreneurship education. Their categories are; course level evaluations, focused instrumental evaluations and broader program evaluations [3] . Course level evaluations are those that measure the student's reaction to a specific course. Focused instruments are those that seek to gauge certain aspects related to entrepreneurship. Broader program evaluations are designed in a way that they can assess a wide area of outcomes such as economic impact, knowledge, satisfaction and career choice.

To a great extent, Duval-Coutil, Reed-Rhoads and Haghighi (2010) are on agreement with Pittaway on the complexity of developing assessment practices in entrepreneurial outcomes. The researchers argue that the existence of barriers in the existing academic system have made it almost impossible for institutions to create assessment practices that reflect the objectives of multiple courses.

According to Shartrand and Weilerstein (2008) the assessment objectives for enterprise education should guide and encourage affective approaches to learning. The assessment practice should also measure the expected outcomes in a reliable and valid way. Entrepreneurial assessment practices should also define and protect academic standards (Palomba and Banta, 1999). When the assessment is seen to protect academic standards, then it will not be met with as much controversy at it presently attracts.

Gibbs (2002) says that some of the problems encountered in enterprise assessment are ambiguity in the assessment and several disagreements centered around the desired learning outcomes. Pittaway also has a similar observation and he says that the educators in enterprise need to find appropriate ways to enhance clear learning outcomes, especially at the stage of enterprise course development (Pittaway, 8).

There are some assessment methods used presently in schools are normally student and skill based. These kinds of assessment strategies are suitable for enterprise education as they are able to meet the requirements of academic rigor (Shartrand and Weilerstein, 2008). It is true that the relationship between different assessment practices and learning and teaching quality has not been looked at very seriously. However, stakeholders in institutions of higher learning need to realize that assessment requirements and criteria play a big role in determining student learning effectiveness (Falkang and Alberti, 2000).

There is need to carefully design assessment practices in a way that it impacts powerfully on the quality of their education (Heywood, 2009). More research is needed in the area of assessment practices in enterprise education so as to create innovative assessment strategies that are up to the required standards (Palomba and Banta, 1999). These innovative assessment strategies for enterprise education should also enhance student learning, which should be reflected in assessment outcomes.

When this subject is given the required attention by researchers, it will be easy for students and teachers alike to understand its importance in today's highly increasingly entrepreneurial world (Falkang and Alberti, 2000). Students and staff will be able to treat it as an integral component of the learning process as opposed to treating it as a final adjunct to learning. This will enable the educators to recognize and make use of multiple assessment tools which must be designed to enhance study habits that will eventually add value to the student's life (Shartrand and Weilerstein, 2008).

The assessment practices that an institution decides to use should offer a clear cohesion between expected learning outcomes, the knowledge and skills that are being assessed and what the students are actually taught (what they learn) (Duval-Couetil, Reed-Rhoads and Haghighi, 2010). These assessment tasks should not just assess the capability of learners to recall some information that they were recently taught, they should also be designed in a way that they can effectively assess the capacity of students to synthesize and analyze new concepts and information.


Pittaway's article has focused much on the assessment practices used in enterprise education programs and how this area has been researched. Although assessment is a very important part of enterprise education, there are very few institutions that have given much attention to the subject, as Pittaway points out. There seems to be lack of experience of creating or getting alternative or different forms of assessment to fit into a certain academic area. There is need for more research into the area of assessment practices in enterprise education. This will help in the generation of innovative ideas on how educators in entrepreneurship can come up with assessment practices that can provide a link between student achievement and general academic requirements.

Pittaway does describe the complexity and diversity of assessment practice tools and strategies that have been identified by some enterprise educators. He concludes by saying that there should be more emphasis from a research and practice perspective. This is the only way that he says institutions will be able to create assessment practices that are relevant in this day and age. Good assessment strategies are invaluable to institutions and to students as well. For one, when a learning institution has well established assessment practices, there is no danger of going off the mark when it comes to educational quality. Educators are able to maintain the set standards for educational quality while at the same time developing entrepreneurial capacities in their students. This means that when a student learns in an institution that has developed its assessment practices, there is a high likelihood that he will be a better entrepreneur than a student who has not gone through the system.

Pittaway has written down some of the principles that he says should be followed when creating assessment programs for enterprise education. He has given these principles as reliability, value, consistency, appropriateness transparency and clearly defined assessment practices. He goes on to point out that although these are the ideal principles for assessment tools in enterprise education, not all educators apply them all. There exists some conventional mean of assessment that are not as effective as they are supposed to be in this highly entrepreneurial world. Educators must consider coming up with appropriate assessment practices that reflect the requirements success in the world today.

The idea that assessment practices need to be wholesome is a welcome one. It is high time that educators recognized the importance of effective assessment in creating a generation of entrepreneurial individuals. They should therefore think really carefully about the assessment practices that will bring out the best int heir students in terms of entrepreneurial capabilities. Teachers and other education policy makers should not work in isolation with students and other stakeholders when designing assessment strategies that are applicable to a wide range of courses.

Given the diversity and potential complexity of enterprise education assessment practice, there is need for more consideration for the subject from a practice and research perspective. This view is supported by both Pittaway and other educational researchers. Educators need to think more carefully about the problems and issues that are normally associated with assessment practices in learning institutions. These issues include the intended learning outcomes in entrepreneurial studies as well as how this can be linked together in designing effective educational designs. When these issues are resolved, assessment practices will finally give the results that are required in this day and age.

Enterprise educators need to be highly innovative in the way they design their assessment tools so as to enhance learning and skill gaining in their students. If the assessment practices that are used in most institutions of higher education are obsolete, then there is need to revise the system to ensure that assessment criteria is in line with entrepreneurial requirements. Educational researchers all agree on the fact that there is need to align learning outcomes, assessment tasks and learning opportunities to make enterprise education and assessment as effective as possible.