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Entrepreneurial findings

Entrepreneurs in classroom and mentoring boost learners’ confidence in entrepreneurial education, finds study at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Large group of business people listening to teacher in a computer lab. The presence of entrepreneurs in the classroom and programme mentors boosts the confidence of entrepreneurial education students to perform key tasks, according to a study at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL) at Cambridge Judge Business School being presented to a major conference at Babson College in the USA this week. The study found that the presence of an entrepreneur in the classroom has the largest general impact on students’ entrepreneurial self-efficacy (ESE), which is defined as a person’s confidence to successfully perform tasks pertaining to entrepreneurship – and has a particularly significant impact on tasks relating to financial value such as pricing, valuation and negotiating terms. Mentors within academic programmes have a particularly significant impact on innovation, or the application of new ideas and ways of doing things, and on the appetite for starting up new ventures.

Monique Boddington

Monique Boddington

“Mentors and entrepreneurs both provide entrepreneurial role models but their position within an academic programme is very different,” says the study by Monique Boddington, CfEL Research Associate, and Shima Barakat, CfEL Research and Teaching Fellow, which is being presented this week to the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference (BCERC) in Massachusetts, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. “Arguably mentors are much more hands on and it is not necessarily about their own experience but about how they use their own experience to help someone else’s entrepreneurial journey; on the other hand an entrepreneur in the classroom is often there to tell their own story.”

Dr Shima Barakat

Dr Shima Barakat

The study found that people on courses with mentoring had a higher pre-course ESE; a similar but weaker effect was found for courses with entrepreneurs. One possible explanation for the difference is that mentoring is often associated with more advanced courses, which tend to attract people with more experience and higher confidence levels. Concerning gender, the study said that despite “drastic improvements” in the number of women entrepreneurs, they still lag behind men and especially in high-tech industries. While various studies have found contradictory results on gender and ESE, the paper concludes that “while entrepreneurship education is not particularly disadvantaging a particular gender neither is it acting as a levelling intervention.” The paper – entitled “Entrepreneurial self-efficacy as a measurement of entrepreneurship education – understanding programme effects and demographic variability” – says that entrepreneurial education that increases an individual’s ESE is important. “ESE correlates to entrepreneurial activity and also success, therefore education that raises an individual’s ESE would in turn increase the rate of entrepreneurial activity.”