Maintaining Confidence in the Face of Realistic Challenges

A Study of Entrepreneurial Self-efficacy

"A holistic approach to entrepreneurship training is essential for mediating self-efficacy and balancing training challenges".

In a nutshell

Entrepreneurship training has its ups and downs, and maintaining students’ self-belief is key. Error mastery orientation helps, but it’s no magic self-efficacy booster. Time for educators to think outside the box!

In a Bigger Nutshell

Most of the time, learning entrepreneurship through action-oriented training works really well. The student gets to try their hands at what it would be like to actually go through the process in a controlled and pedagogical environment, learning practical knowledge and skills that will help them in their future career. However, this kind of realistic entrepreneurial training is much like a rollercoaster ride; you get the riveting ups, but also the daunting downs. And sometimes these downs are more frightening than they are exciting. If they’re scary enough they might even make you question the structural integrity of the entire rollercoaster — and your own sanity for getting on it. More specifically, facing these challenges can be detrimental to some students’ belief in their ability to succeed, their entrepreneurial self-efficacy. This does not necessarily mean that those students are not suited for entrepreneurship, but rather that there is something missing from the action-oriented pedagogy.

Enter error mastery orientation, the unsung hero of entrepreneurship education. It means to approach challenges with optimism and resilience, to view setbacks as opportunities to grow rather than failures, and learning this mindset is crucial to maintaining entrepreneurial self-efficacy. At least this is what a recent study by Carina Bohlayer and Michael M. Gielnik reveals. Their research showed that students with low error mastery orientation experienced a drop in self-efficacy when facing training problems, while those with high error mastery orientation maintained their confidence and handled the challenges with more ease. Because they kept their self-efficacy throughout it they also came out of the experience with stronger entrepreneurial goal intentions, meaning they were more motivated to put effort into starting a new venture in the future.

Publication Date: January 2023

Authors: Carina Bohlayer and Michael M. Gielnik

Institution: Institute of Management & Organization at Leuphana University of Lüneburg

Study Type: Longitudinal Research

Sample Size: 320 junior students in electrical engineering and computer science

Research Focus: Effects of action-oriented entrepreneurship training programs on students’ entrepreneurial self-efficacy

Research Methodology: Survey with a questionnaire; longitudinal study over three years

Main Findings: Error mastery orientation buffers the negative effects of problems on entrepreneurial self-efficacy; it does not necessarily increase self-efficacy.

Citation: “(S)training experiences: Toward understanding decreases in entrepreneurial self-efficacy during action-oriented entrepreneurship training,” Journal of Business Venturing, Volume 38, Issue 1, 2023, 106259, ISSN 0883-9026

However, the study also found that error mastery orientation is merely a buffer against potential hits to self-efficacy — not a booster of it. So, teaching error mastery orientation is not a be-all end-all solution, but rather a vital component that also needs to be supplemented with additional ways to actively increase entrepreneurial self-efficacy. The authors of the paper therefore call for a more holistic approach to entrepreneurship training, both in terms of mediating self-efficacy and balancing the challenging aspects of action oriented training. We know by now that while training challenges can sometimes lead to decreases in self-efficacy, they can also serve as valuable learning experiences. The rollercoaster cannot be tooscary, but it still needs ups and downs — otherwise it’s just a train.

Original Paper by Carina Bohlayer & Michael M. Gielnik,

Originally published in January 2023.

Summary by Elvira Andersson

Keywords/tags: self-efficacy, error mastery orientation, action-oriented training, entrepreneurial goal intentions

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