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Chaparral 2019-2020: 28.3 E-ship Learning

E-SHIP LEARNING
Embedding E-ship in Liberal Arts Courses

by Fatema Baldiwala, adjunct professor
Glendale Community College and Los Angeles Valley College

 

How do you get students to buy into a concept when they don’t see its relevance to them or to their lives?
The answer: ENTREPRENEURSHIP!

As an English teacher, I discovered entrepreneurship accidently. I walked into a workshop on the entrepreneurial brain. The entrepreneurial brain is constantly seeking. It envisions in unique ways things that exist, not in reality but in different ways. It is a problem-solution brain that thrives on challenges. Listening to that lecture was a moment of epiphany!

As a result of my entrepreneurial epiphany, I found a solution for teaching my Beginning Composition and Argument/ Critical Thinking composition courses at the community colleges I teach at. Both composition classes require students to write a traditional research paper in MLA format based on a current event. Both classes were low energy. Students knew what to expect, and plagiarism was rampant. Regurgitated research papers eerily similar in tone and content would turn up as original writing.

In the fall of 2015, I launched a new course, Rhetoric of Entrepreneurship. After USASBE’s 2019 conference, I created another new course, this time, for upper level English composition classes. This new class was titled Social Entrepreneurship: Write to Fight.  The semester-long courses fundamentally altered the way traditional research papers for composition classes are written. By teaching English through an entrepreneurial lens, these courses serve the student community by simultaneously teaching entrepreneurship and helping more people gain an entrepreneurial mindset.

Intense Collaboration

At GCC we thrive on collaboration. I became part of the Entrepreneurship cohort and worked with Business faculty who taught Entrepreneurship. The cohort regularly invites guest speakers for well-attended sessions open to everyone at the college. It also organizes student Shark Tank pitch competitions, with the winner advancing to the regional pitch competition.

As a result, my classes became collaborative. My Entrepreneurship partner, Rob Newman, and I decided to share homework as an incentive to have students from my class enroll in his too. An advantage of having joined homework and shared students was that concepts could transfer from class to class and students’ understanding of subjects was enhanced. Not only did this give an opportunity for students to view a book through a different lens, it also helped with retention. Additionally, my class worked with GCC’s Sandbox/makerspace to re-design or to make artifacts before the writing began. This kind of experiential learning made the skill of writing more tangible and real.
 

Course Organization

The course is based on five major writing assignments. The writing is a process of scaffolding on one concept to another, one genre to another, which enhances how writing could be seen as multiple structures, each structure viewed in a different light but all through the lens of entrepreneurship.
 

Diagnostic: the entrepreneurial mindset

Our first writing assignment is a diagnostic, which is an essay based on a student’s personal experiences. My topic for the diagnostic is “Tell me moments in your life when you have displayed an entrepreneurial mindset.” Choose any three characteristics from the 15 characteristics listed and tell me how you have embodied these characteristics with concrete examples from your own life.

  • Descriptive paper modeled on the provisional patent
    Before writing this paper, the Sandbox was used to actually make artifacts. Students submit their descriptive paper as if they were submitting a paper for a patent. Students have to situate that product within a historical timeline to show its evolution, compare it to similar products in the market to highlight how their product or service was superior, and describe its design and look, its functionality, and the particular audience for whom the product or service was created. This leads to interesting contrasts between the more scientific objective tone of APA format and the more opinionated subjective tone of the MLA format.
     
  • Formal research paper on a current topic
    The third essay for the class is the traditional formal research paper based on a current topic, but in my class, this is unique as the subject of this paper is inspired by the student’s created product or service. Students begin to understand critical thinking when they look at their product and think of ways it relates to a social, political, or economic issue of the day.
     
  • Visual literacy paper
    Students create a print or digital advertisement (impact marketing) of the product and then analyze every aspect of their ad. Through this process they learn how ads are put together for their persuasive appeal. As part of completing this exercise, they comment on the ethos, pathos, and logos of the image, as well as the cultural codes hidden within these visual signs.
     
  • The pitch
    This has two parts. The first part is the elevator pitch where students pitch their product to one individual for one minute. After learning how to make a pitch, students then have the opportunity to present their pitch at GCC Shark Tank-like event. They also write a business letter that makes their pitch.

 

This new approach to teaching English has shown that once entrepreneurship education is introduced in general education courses, it can foster much-needed skills for academic and professional success. Skills learned in these courses give students agency that problems are theirs to solve. Students are engaged and immersed in the discovery process. Learning skills of critical thinking, creativity, persistence, and empathy will serve them for a lifetime.

 

Callout: “Entrepreneurship is the new liberal arts.”    Steve Blank

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