Roel Grol and Coen Oosterbroek provide a timely stimulus for reflecting on the relative merits of employment and self-employment.

In a time in which youth populations are increasing and unemployment amongst young people is on the rise in many countries, enterprise and entrepreneurship education is gaining importance. This may provide future generations with an entrepreneurial mindset to better equip them with skills and mindsets that could be necessary in a fast changing world (British Council, 2020; European Commission, ND; Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2015). Research shows, amongst others, that due to entrepreneurship education, learners in the UK self-reported an increased confidence, developed higher aspirations for life, and seemed more successful as an entrepreneur (European Commission, 2015). In concordance, after participating in entrepreneurship education learners in the Netherlands showed more entrepreneurial behaviour (European Commission, 2015).

When perceiving these findings and understanding their importance, it is no wonder that a section on entrepreneurship was included in the Dutch business curriculum for secondary education during its latest revision that came into effect in 2018 (e.g.: College voor Toetsen en Examens, 2020). One of many changes in this curriculum regards the choices that learners have to make later on in their lives with regard to being either self-employed or working as an employee (Boot, 2014). Also the UK subject content in secondary education reflects the importance of gaining entrepreneurial skills and understanding businesses, enterprises, and stakeholders, as well as the perspective of learners on these matters (Department for Education, 2014; Department for Education, 2015).

To introduce the choice that learners face later on in their lives with regard to being either self-employed or working as an employee, we propose a teaching/learning activity (TLA) described in the remainder of this article. Using a think-pair-share structure, this TLA aims at learners to self-examine their positions with regard to either being self-employed or being an employee based on important personal stances with regard to, amongst others, perseverance and risk appetite. The main learning goals of this TLA are:

  1. to name the advantages and disadvantages of being employed or being self-employed;
  2. to make a better choice between being employed or being self-employed using the gained insights;
  3. to determine which personal characteristics are suitable for being employed and which personal characteristics are suitable for being self-employed, based upon quotes.

When setting up this TLA, it is recommended to form heterogeneous groups of four learners each. Each group receives 10 sets of 3 cards each (see attachment). Each of these cards contains a quote which reflects possible attitudes with regard to entrepreneurial behaviour as classified by Driessen (2010)1. As an example, three cards of the category “risk appetite” are printed below:

I’d rather have a 50% chance of getting £100,- than a 100% chance of getting £50,-. When I take the train, I am usually at the railway platform three minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time. I’d rather have a 100% chance of getting £50,-, than a 50% chance of getting £100,-.

A learner chooses which of the quotes on one of the three cards fits best, based on their own personal preferences2. After making this choice, they fill out the form (also attached) by writing down the letter that was on the back of the card they chose. Next, their set of three cards is passed on to their neighbour, and they get a new set of three cards from another group member. After repeating these steps for all 10 sets of cards, each learner should have collected 10 letters and/or symbols on their form, which then translate into a score as indicated in the back of the form. This score indicates the extent to which a learner fits an entrepreneurial profile. When all group members have checked their score, they discuss in their group the outcome and try to answer the question: do I agree with my score / do I recognize my position on the continuum of being self-employed to being an employee? Then, learners are encouraged to discuss which colour represents which entrepreneurial characteristic at a more abstract level. This aims at getting an understanding of the possible categories of entrepreneurial behaviour as described by Driessen (2010).

The last phase of this TLA is a classroom discussion, led by the teacher. Questions for debriefing may include:

  • What did you experience during the first phase of this TLA, namely selecting a quote that suited your preferences?
  • Based on the texts you’ve read on the cards, which consequences does it have when one is self-employed?
  • Based on the texts you’ve read on the cards, which consequences does it have when one is employed?
  • Did you and/or your group members discuss the extent to which the characteristics for being employed and the characteristics for being self-employed are mutually exclusive?
  • Were you able to find the entrepreneurial characteristics by abstracting from the cards you were provided with? Which categories did you identify?
  • Which characteristics do you possess that you consider helpful when being self-employed3?
  • Which characteristics do you possess that you consider helpful when being employed3?

This TLA was presented to teachers in business and economics in secondary education whilst implementing the new business curriculum and during an international conference on business and economics education in 2018. Participating teachers indicated this TLA to be a great way of introducing learners towards entrepreneurship education. Moreover, the dialogues between learners and their group members on their personal preferences and qualities were considered valuable by them. Gaining self-confidence and perseverance are important result found in research on entrepreneurship education (see: Van den Berg & Timmermans, 2017). During this TLA, learners will engage in discussing some personal preferences with regard to characteristics of entrepreneurship. By doing so, learners are encouraged to think about their own future and the possibility to become an entrepreneur or to deliberately decide not to become self-employed.

Roel Grol and Coen Oosterbroek are teacher educators within the field of business and economics at the Faculty of Education at HAN University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

The materials described and discussed in this article were developed during the implemention of the new business curriculum and have been used for teacher-training purposes (see also: Expertisecentrum Economie en Handel, 2018).


  1. The full list of characteristics of entrepreneurial behaviour include: independence, perseverance, social skills, risk appetite, performance orientation, dominance, and effectivity or self-esteem.
  2. These characteristics are purposefully designed as generalizations.
  3. Advise: when discussing this question you may aim at connecting the learners answers to the categories of entrepreneurial behaviour as described by Driessen (2010), such as “independence” or “risk appetite”.


Boot, A. et al. (2014). Van M&O naar Bedrijfseconomie, ondernemerschap en financiële zelfredzaamheid. Retrieved from: (accessed: 13/07/2020).

British Council (2020). The value of enterprise and entrepreneurship education. Retrieved from: (accessed: 13/07/2020).

College voor Toetsen en Examens (2020). Officiele publicatie examenprogramma bedrijfseconomie havo. Retrieved from: (accessed: 14/07/2020).

Department for Education (2014). GCE AS and A level subject content for business. Retrieved from: (accessed: 16/02/2018).

Department for Education (2015). Business GCSE subject content. Retrieved from: (accessed: 03/05/2019).

Driessen, M. (2010). De ondernemende ondernemer. Zwaag: Pumbo.

European Commission (2015). Entrepreneurship Education: A Road to Success. A compilation of evidence on the impact of entrepreneurship education strategies and measures. Retrieved from: (accessed: 13/07/2020).

European Commission (ND). Entrepreneurship education. Retrieved from:  (accessed 13/07/2020).

Expertisecentrum Economie en Handel (2018). Materiaal nascholing bedrijfseconomie 2017-2018. Retrieved from: (accessed: 13/07/2020).

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (2015). Entrepreneurship in education. Retrieved from:  (accessed: 13/07/2020)

Van den Berg, N. & Timmermans, F. (2017). Kennisrotonde: Wat is het effect van aandacht voor ondernemerschapsvaardigheden in mbo-opleidingen op de ontwikkeling van deze vaardigheden en op arbeidsmarktsucces? Retrieved from: (accessed: 13/07/2020).

Cards with categories

Independence If I have to file my tax returns, I’d prefer to do it, and figure it out myself entirely. If I have to file my tax returns, I’d prefer to ask for advice but still do it myself. If I have to file my tax returns, I’d prefer to let someone do it who has experience and particular knowledge about it.
Independence I determine when (and if) I tidy my room. I usually don’t think it’s a problem to do what my parents ask me to do, but sometimes I do make my own choices. I always go to my aunt’s or uncle’s birthday, even though I really don’t like to go.
Perseverance I am a real ‘go-getter’: when I really want something, I’ll go flat out to make it happen. I like to get the best out of myself when working out, but I really hate doing the (sports) laundry afterwards. I have a hard time applying myself to certain tasks, usually I postpone them to the last minute.
Social skills I blush or feel uncomfortable when strangers talk to me in public. I like to fulfil tasks without having (much) contact with others. When travelling by train I usually chitchat with strangers.
Risk appetite I’d rather have a 50% chance of getting € 100,- than 100% chance of getting € 50,-. When I take the train, I am usually at the railway platform three minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time. I’d rather have 100% chance of getting € 50,-, than  50% chance of getting € 100,-.
Risk appetite When I retire, I’d love to travel around the world with my spouse and children, if any. By the time I start working fulltime, I’ll start thinking about my retirement. I am totally unconcerned about my retirement. Live now, pay later.


Performance orientation I’m totally satisfied with getting a D or E (equals 5.5) for a test. I have learned just enough. Usually I try to get good marks in school, but sometimes I cannot manage to. I always try my very best to get the best mark I can.
Performance orientation I have a good idea what kind of profession I’ll have in the future and how I’ll establish that. My goal for this year is to pass. Next year I’ll see what happens. I only know the day before, when I have a test.
Dominance Whenever we are in groups in class I usually take the lead because I’m good at it. Whenever we are in groups in class and no one in my group takes the lead I’m fine doing so. Whenever we are in groups in class I am reluctant to take the lead. I’d rather have someone else be in charge.
Effectivity or self esteem When I’m really going for something, I can be very determined and enforce it one way or another. Faith doesn’t help me out here. Even though I know it doesn’t help, I can be a bit superstitious before I have participate a sports event: I say a small prayer. You never know! I think the largest part of my life is determined by faith.

Cards template (front)

Cards template (reverse)