Is Team Coaching the future of enterprise education?

Written by Lauren Davies


I have worked in enterprise education for almost eight years, starting in an extracurricular role before transitioning to my first lecturing role almost two years ago. For the past year I have been working as a Team Coach (equivalent of a Lecturer) on the pioneering Team Entrepreneurship degree programme at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). The programme is based on the innovative Team Academy model, which originated in Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences in Finland in 1993. UWE Bristol was one of the first UK institutions to introduce this model in 2013 and the programme since evolved to a team of nine Team Coaches and a cohort of over 100 students (known as “Team Entrepreneurs”).

What makes the Team Academy model different to a standard Business Management degree programme? Well, for starters, there are no exams, no formal lectures or seminars and no structured syllabus to follow. Team Entrepreneurs learn by doing, through engaging in entrepreneurial projects and ventures individually and within their Team Companies. The Team Company becomes a Learning Organisation for the Team Entrepreneurs for the duration of their studies and they become adept at giving and receiving constructive feedback and working effectively as part of a team.

Team Entrepreneurs direct their own learning, deciding what, how and when they learn and bringing back key learning from their own entrepreneurial endeavours to their Team Companies. Learning is shared within Training Sessions, which are led by the Team Entrepreneurs with the Team Coach supporting learning through enquiry rather than instruction, asking key questions and solidifying learning at pivotal moments.

For me, the role of the Team Coach aligns with Colin Jones’ analogy of the “guide on the side”, as opposed to the “sage on the stage”. As a Team Coach what you don’t say can be as powerful as what you say. Knowing when to intervene and when to allow the team to navigate their own learning can be challenging, but those moments when you know you made the right decision make it worthwhile. For me, those moments occur when the Team Entrepreneurs raise a point that I was considering raising. If I had intervened too soon, I would have taken that opportunity for learning and reflection away from them. It is far better for learning to be solidified by the Team Entrepreneurs than by me as the Team Coach.

From my experience of working with Team Entrepreneurs, this self-directed learning approach leads to individuals that are, for the most part, confident, self-aware and have high levels of emotional intelligence. These qualities help Team Entrepreneurship graduates stand out against other Business Management graduates and put them in good stead for future careers as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. This brings me on to the title of this blog – is Team Coaching the future of enterprise education? Well, in true coaching style, I’m not going to give you a straight answer! I think that Team Academy model offers an innovative approach to delivering enterprise education within the curriculum. This self-directed approach to learning may not be right for everyone and there are times when it’s appropriate for educators to take a more directive approach. However, I believe that the core principles that underpin the Team Academy approach can be applied in a wide range of enterprise education contexts.

A practice-led, experiential learning approach provides learners with real-world knowledge of entrepreneurship and the enterprising skills that our graduates will need as they navigate uncertain futures. Adopting a team coaching approach to learning means letting go as an educator and accepting that you may not be the expert or have all the answers and, even if you do, it might not be your role to provide them. Trusting in students to direct and negotiate their own learning is one of the most valuable traits I’ve learned since becoming a Team Coach. Finally, whether students intend to be their own boss or gain a graduate role, there are very few career paths that do not involve working with others. The Team Academy model puts the team at the centre of learning and supports Team Entrepreneurs to not only develop advanced team working skills but to also understand and value the concept of collective responsibility.

I believe that there is a vast amount of best practice within the Team Academy model that can be applied in a wide range of educational contexts. So, is team coaching the future of enterprise education? I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I believe this approach offers huge potential in developing the enterprising individuals of the future.

Lauren Davies

Director of Enterprise Educators UK

Team Coach/Lecturer, UWE