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Work in progress — Enhancing the entrepreneurial mindset of freshman engineers

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2 Author(s)

Our research reports on an ongoing study of the impact of entrepreneurial interventions within first-year engineering courses on changes in the mindsets of engineering students. Entrepreneurial mindset in our study is operationally defined as a more growth oriented mindset versus a fixed oriented mindset. This operational definition and an accompanying mindset measurement instrument was developed and validated by Carol Dweck of Stanford University. Based on Dweck's research results we assume a growth mindset is a reasonable surrogate for a student engineer's creative and innovative or entrepreneurial skills. Mindsets of student engineers are benchmarked at the beginning of the freshman year and again at the end of the freshman year, soon after completion of a team based poverty alleviation freshman capstone project. Pre- and post- control samples of freshman engineer mindsets are being collected from similar sized engineering programs at comparable colleges in our geographic vicinity. A pilot study indicated a statistically significant tilt toward a fixed mindset in freshman engineering students compared to a growth mindset observed in an opportunity sample of freshman business students. We are currently tracking engineering students both at the group and at the individual level. Our long-term research goal is to determine how and why engineering course assignments affect a student engineer's entrepreneurial skill set. We hypothesize that a student engineer's creative and innovation skills are in part a learned behavior that is influenced by the student engineer's learning experiences and course assignments. In order to study this phenomenon we are establishing a baseline of the change in engineering student mindset over time. Once we have established this baseline of mindset data, we will then alter interventions to evaluate their differentiated impact on engineer mindset changes.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2011

Date of Conference:

12-15 Oct. 2011