RALEIGH – A low-cost intervention aimed at fostering a growth mindset in students gave the students more confidence in their entrepreneurship abilities and helped them persist when challenges arose.

“The finding is valuable because efficacy, or confidence in one’s abilities, and perseverance are powerful motivators and are critical for career development in entrepreneurship,” says Jeff Pollack, second author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of entrepreneurship at North Carolina State University.

“Growth mindsets – the belief that human attributes are malleable – help students to flourish,” says Jeni Burnette, lead author of the paper and an associate professor of psychology at NC State. “For this study, we focused on fostering a growth mindset of entrepreneurship – the idea that everyone can improve their entrepreneurship ability.”

For the study, researchers worked with 238 undergraduate students. One group of 120 students received three growth mindset video modules focused on the idea that, with time, effort and energy, individuals can improve their entrepreneurship ability. A control group of 118 students watched three video modules that focused on misconceptions about entrepreneurship.

The study found that the growth mindset intervention did not directly or indirectly affect the classroom performance of students.

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However, in post-intervention surveys, the researchers found that students who received the growth mindset intervention, relative to the control, reported greater entrepreneurial self-efficacy, such as confidence in their ability to identify new business opportunities and create new products. The growth mindset intervention also fostered greater persistence. Specifically, students reported continuing to pursue an entrepreneurial idea as part of a class project, even after encountering a challenge.

Additionally, self-efficacy correlated with an increased likelihood that students would consider entrepreneurship as a field of study and as a possible career.

Effects of the intervention did not depend on the student’s gender or previous experience in the entrepreneurship field.

“This low-cost approach can be easily integrated into the classroom and is a promising tool for increasing students’ motivation in entrepreneurship above and beyond simply learning about the field,” Burnette says.

The paper, “A Growth Mindset Intervention: Enhancing Students’ Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy and Career Development,” is published in the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. The paper was co-authored by Alexandra Babij and Fanice Thomas, both Ph.D. students at NC State; Rachel Forsyth of the University of Florida; Crystal Hoyt of the University of Richmond; and Anthony Coy of the University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee.

The work was done with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, under grant number G-201703-1934.