Institutional CommitmentEducation

Entrepreneurial Universities: The Alignment of the Teaching and Learning practices

In this article, we explore the adjustments needed in a university on its path to achieving its third mission, specifically in terms of teaching and learning by using the concept of “constructive alignment”.
Written by Dr. Lina Landinez

Teaching and learning under the constructive alignment principle
The concept of “constructive alignment” is a principle used for devising teaching and learning activities and assessment tasks, that puts students at the centre and aims to define and communicate the instructional design before the teaching takes place. The constructive approach indicates that knowledge acquisition and creation is the responsibility of the individual learner (i.e. guided by the student) rather than teachers, as traditionally expected.

In a teaching and learning process, teaching is desired to be as effective as possible. At the same time, students shall have a good learning experience that will help them acquire and develop the knowledge and skills needed. To achieve these two goals, the education process should start with designing appropriate Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) that serve the student, the teacher the institution and the context. Therefore, the ILOs will guide the learning, as well as the entrepreneurial practice of an institution.

The entrepreneurial university
Our understanding of an entrepreneurial university is oriented towards and strategically positioned to, deliver a range of societal contributions, with a focus on economic impacts. Entrepreneurial Universities not only promote entrepreneurial thinking and acting among students and staff, but the institution itself is becoming an entrepreneurial agent. Then, active learning becomes a core and guiding element in the entrepreneurial university.

The element of “alignment” (from the concept of constructive alignment), when referring to the entrepreneurial university, will imply that universities should align or transform themselves at every level, starting from their institutional commitment and strategic development to the daily teaching practices and activities. Many universities have realised that merely adding an entrepreneurship centre, an industry liaison office or changing the vision statement is not enough. Rather, a much more transformative approach is needed. With this multilevel alignment, the university will be able to provide the students with access to the appropriate experiences that will lead to knowledge development and entrepreneurial endeavours. The alignment of the university goals and vision with the desired graduate attributes should be oriented towards delivering a range of societal contributions that can transcend university borders to societal and community needs.

Constructive alignment in an entrepreneurial university
The constructive alignment principle lines up with the understanding of “entrepreneurship”, from a social constructivist view, in which the reality and the outcomes of an entrepreneur are built on the individual actions concerning the surrounding context. The power then resides on the individual to achieve learning by undertaking entrepreneurial endeavours. As the learning is connected to the endeavour, and both are experience- and outcome-based, the learning will occur at the same time that the entrepreneurial outcome is developed.

So, what does it mean in terms of teaching and learning? An entrepreneurial university undertakes education that is focused on the development of entrepreneurial mindsets and skills and promotes a wide range of career opportunities including intrapreneurship, self-employment, and entrepreneurship. Research leads to income and intellectual contributions with a high potential for commercialisation. Third mission activities are focused on entrepreneurship. This is reflected in the university’s education, research, and external-facing activities.

Placing the concept of constructive alignment at the centre of an entrepreneurial university brings the focus on the alignment of IOLs with the principles and values of the entrepreneurial institution. These principles must reflect the needs, challenges, and opportunities of their (local) context and communities. The most direct way to achieve this is by embedding entrepreneurship in the curricula, which in practice means analysing and updating the learning outcomes towards the entrepreneurial mindset and skills, relationship management, and community engagement, among others. The IOLs should be designed by addressing questions such as:

  • The subject (the student): What are they expected to achieve to promote more entrepreneurship during and after their studies?
  • Cognitive domains: How do we align cognitive domains to the entrepreneurial journeys and include more actively the affective and psychomotor domains in entrepreneurial education?
  • Cross-disciplinary: How do we ensure the cross-disciplinary basis of entrepreneurship? How to ensure that ILOs from different courses, programs and disciplines would be connected?
  • Assessment: How will entrepreneurship learning outcomes be assessed to ensure effective learning and to empower further entrepreneurial practice?
  • Teaching and learning activities: how can we develop a whole new set of activities that consider entrepreneurial learning outcomes and at the same time focuses on the reality of the local context?

Expanding the “constructive alignment” concept originally established to design and assess curricula for the whole institution can result in providing effective entrepreneurial education, research, and related services. In practice, an overall analysis and alignment of the university and the faculties/schools/department, the programs, courses and lessons should be done to reflect the same logic and expectations at every level, and to provide students with the corresponding opportunities to develop attributes and knowledge. Going then beyond the instructional design, constructive alignment should guide the institution to address needs such as:

  • Which entrepreneurship courses are offered and to whom (e.g. which faculties and departments)?
  • Which approaches (e.g. didactic ones) are used to develop entrepreneurship competencies among students?
  • How is interdisciplinary work fostered? How are new courses designed? Who is integrated into the process?
  • Which external entrepreneurship programs and activities are linked to the university?
  • Which training activities are offered to support entrepreneurship among staff?
  • Which entrepreneurship goals are de ned for academics, management, as well as support and administrative staff?

The holistic transformation towards an entrepreneurial university implies an understanding and acting of their entrepreneurial practice at every level of the institution. Every university can and should build its own path following its needs and wishes, as well as the surrounding environment. One of the most tangible pieces of evidence of this transformation resides in the daily life of a student that through every class and activity will develop her/his entrepreneurial mindset, behaviour and acting, which will further be reflected in the community around them. Teaching and learning are therefore main drivers of the third mission, and the concept of constructive alignment is a tool ready to be used to make this transformation happen.


Biggs, J. Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. High Educ 32, 347–364 (1996).


entrepreneurial education teaching and learning cognitive alignment

About the author

Dr. Lina Landinez

Dr. Lina Landinez, the CEO at ACEEU has worked in the three elements of the Triple Helix Model. Her expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship stems from years of experience working with government and management in universities in Colombia, research organisations in Australia and as a lecturer in Germany prior to joining ACEEU. At ACEEU, Dr Lina guides the team brings to life the strategic next steps of the company. Lina's academic journey began with a deep dive into plant research, from where her passion for innovation led to the study of economics of innovation. Her experience of managing innovation at a company level came together to now foster excellence in innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement in universities around the world.

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