Collaborative Research: Research Initiation: Educational Methods for Teaching Adaptive Responses to Entrepreneurial Failure

Project: Research project

Project Details


Entrepreneurial activity is critical for the continued innovation, growth, and transformation of the national economy. Entrepreneurial education has been rapidly expanding within universities over the past 15 years in hopes of helping develop the next generation of entrepreneurs. Colleges of engineering have been amongst the most active participants because of their students' ability and training to innovate within a rapidly evolving technology-based economy. Entrepreneurship education within universities and colleges has the potential to both increase the commercialization rate of fundamental research being performed in university systems and to provide fundamental mindset development that will lead to more engineers and scientists to become entrepreneurs at some phase of their careers. Because of the high risk involved in entrepreneurial activity, the failure rate of new ventures is quite high, yet initial research shows that universities and colleges are currently doing very little to teach skills that prepare entrepreneurially minded individuals for failure or to support them at times of failure. This research will develop an understanding of methods that universities and colleges utilize in curricular and co-curricular programming to support entrepreneurs both before and while experiencing entrepreneurial failure. This project's goal is to identify teaching strategies and interventions that lead to positive adaptive behavior and help the entrepreneurs learn from and maintain an entrepreneurial orientation when faced with failure.

Despite the increase of programs and funding dedicated to entrepreneurship, the study of entrepreneurial failure in the context of engineering education is almost non-existent. It is currently unknown whether sufficient preparation and education around project/venture failure is occurring to properly equip entrepreneurially minded engineering students to learn and grow from entrepreneurial failure. This research will add to the body of knowledge on student entrepreneurial failure by identifying the different types of failure that students in entrepreneurial teams experience as well as understanding the relationship between pre-failure dispositions and post-failure responses. This project will employ qualitative approaches to study current and former engineering students who (co)-founded an entrepreneurial venture as part of university entrepreneurship programming, and whose ventures have ceased operation without an exit event. The research questions are: RQ1: What are the different types of entrepreneurial failures that students working on ventures experience? RQ2: What are the different ways that students who experience entrepreneurial failure respond (i.e. identification of adaptive and maladaptive post-failure responses)? RQ3: What are the different factors or events that lead students who experience entrepreneurial failure to exhibit adaptive or maladaptive responses (pre-failure dispositions)? RQ4: What educational methods do student entrepreneurs report receiving to help them prepare for and respond to entrepreneurial failure? The study will provide an initial understanding of the pre-failure and post-failure dispositions and responses of these engineering entrepreneurs combined with the educational programming (if any) that was provided that influenced these dispositions and responses. The goal for this project is to build and disseminate knowledge on educational programming that is beneficial to entrepreneurially minded students who face failure events. The project will also provide direction on enhancements to pedagogical approaches that educators can use to better teach and support students who may face or are facing failure events as part of a universities' entrepreneurial programming.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date9/15/208/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $22,284.00


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