As an educator, how do we know if a student learned? What areas were learned best and what evidence of that learning are we able to capture? In the Entrepreneurship for Others class, the Entrepreneurial Mindset Self-Assessment serves as one tool to track student learning. The self-assessment is given to students on the first day of class and the last day of class. For the Fall of 2020, the self-assessment was also given on the first day of online-learning once the worldwide pandemic led to shelter-in-place orders from the city mayor. This self-assessment provides some useful quantitative data.
The main course objective challenges students to define what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset. On the first day of class, they are asked to submit a definition and their final paper for the semester allows students to reflect on the various learnings over the course of the semester and articulate how that original definition evolved. This qualitative data sheds quite a bit of insight into the quantitative self-assessment results.
Below is a list of four growth categories from the self-assessment.
Digging deeper, let’s utilize some quotes from students’ final papers as well as describe some of the learning activities that aimed to reinforce the four elements above.
“When I first walked into this class in January my idea of an entrepreneurial mindset was one that saw it as a way to make money with a new invention or service . Although this may seem right it doesn't even scratch the surface of what an entrepreneurial mindset is.” - Nick Mazzarese '21
As described earlier, the bookend learning activities hone in on this exact question. Throughout the semester, students are reminded to think about what the phrase means. When guest entrepreneurs share their story, students must write a thank you email and include an aspect of entrepreneurial mindset that the student better understands as a result of the interview.
“My new “entrepreneurial mindset” definition is a way of thinking that helps one overcome challenges, be decisive, and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. It is a constant effort to improve, learn from failures, and take the necessary action to make ideas a reality.” - Mark Holewinski '20
“The first unit of Entrepreneurship for Others was already very different from a normal class. The layout of the desks was different from any class I had taken and so was the curriculum. We started by defining an entrepreneurial mindset, something we would become very familiar with. My definition comes from hearing entrepreneurs as someone who starts a business and wants to be their own boss. That was all I knew and it wasn’t very much. This would change over the course of the class. After this, we were tasked with coming up with our own personal vision statement. I spent a lot of time thinking of what I wanted to define my personal vision as, something I had never really thought about. That’s when I realized that this class would take me to places I had never been and would force me to think in a new way.” - John Duffy '20
The project for the first unit requires each individual student to craft a personal vision statement. Students create a 2 minute video that articulates their core values, their work profile agilities and a mentor that influences how they view their life. The video concludes with a 1-2 sentence personal vision statement that they use as a compass to guide their work the rest of the semester.
“When we went on and did the Lobster backpack challenge, I realized how creative I can be. When you're going through processes like these, you have to keep in mind who you are doing it for. Are you doing it for yourself, or for others? I believe that true entrepreneurs work at what they love with the hope of bettering someone who experiences their creation.” - Jack Harlan '21
Respond rather than React
Students watch videos of entrepreneurs compiled by the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative. Student reflections often indicate how the student realizes that many entrepreneurs share common experiences such as struggle and setbacks. Time and time again, the students reflected on the entrepreneur’s ability to respond to their environment and not possess a victim mindset.
“This phase also helped me expand my view on the methods of learning concepts. I had originally thought that online research was enough to qualify the need for my product, but as I continued to do research online, the harder I found it to get anything useful. Without being able to understand the background of the individual, I wouldn’t be able to properly process and use the information given to me in my research. Interviews became a way to expand my knowledge on the topic of my solution, which led to me succeeding in justifying the need for my product.” - Jack Jackson '21
Early on, the course emphasizes the value of talking to human beings. Students are required to make ‘cold-calls’, during what we call the ‘toothbrush vending machine’ challenge (This activity was created by UMKC SBDC). The students participate in this activity in groups and with an adult mentor. When guest entrepreneurs visit the class, she or he is interviewed by students in the class and students ask questions. During class field trips, such as the MECA Challenge, connect students with other students as well as with adult entrepreneurs that serve as mentors for the all day innovation challenge.
“One of the most powerful activities in this class in my opinion was the toothbrush vending machine. Talking to strangers is something that I see as difficult as an introvert. However, when we had to call people and ask them their thoughts on a toothbrush vending machine I felt powerful. When I say powerful, I mean that I got out of my comfort zone and held valuable conversations. This not only helped me in the class, but it also helped me develop my own personal social skills.” - Peter Agnello '20
“I have always been a lone worker, and one who never asks many questions, I just like to figure things out on my own. Now that I am reflecting on something like this, I am coming to understand the significance of a mentor in other aspects of life other than learning about a toothbrush vending machine.” - John Michael Gyllenborg '21
An interesting aspect of this semester is the fact that the course was split in half by the worldwide pandemic. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, the class went to a 100% online learning model. When looking at the data, however, it seems like the course experiences were still effective in increasing entrepreneurial mindset dispositions in all categories. Below is another set of data points followed by some quotations and learning activity descriptions of each of the four elements.
Extrinsic Rewards vs. Intrinsic Rewards
The course is entitled “Entrepreneurship for Others’, which draws inspiration from the mantra shared by all jesuit schools, “forming men and women with an for others.” The second day of class, the students embark on a quick-fire pitch challenge articulating the impact Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. had on Jesuit Education (Spoiler alert: he coined the phrase “Men and Women with and for Others.”)
Throughout the entire course, student hear from entrepreneurs first hand the importance of intrinsic motivators and intrinsic rewards. This is one of the primary elements that surfaces in the final papers of students when discussing how their definition of ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ evolved through the course of the semester.
“Mr. Shelton came in to speak to our class about his company, he explained that in an effort to grow his business he drove many times back and forth from Stillwater, Oklahoma to Kansas City. Hearing him speak about the endless travel and hours on the road made it evident to me how badly he wanted to succeed. He put in the work required to build a business beyond just an idea. He needed a market and a pipeline for his product. Honestly, I really didn’t feel like writing this paper, but when I thought about how he wanted something so much that he was willing to put forth the effort to achieve his goals. That is why I decided to sit down and knock out the last assignment of my high school career. His lessons stuck with me during my group project because we all chose a topic that we were passionate about.” - Sean Herrington '20
“From “Action,” I learned about the idea of ‘failing forward.’ I was able to apply this to my team project by not being afraid to fail. I can try a number of different ideas for my project and have them not work out. However, I can use each of those failures as learning experiences to push me toward success. The prototyping process is very important in coming up with ideas. It helps you see step by step how the idea is going to play out. It allows you to change and modify your idea to be more practical and better.” - Mark Holewinski '20
Ironically, I find this category to be an area for growth in the class. Much work can still be done to help equip students with the project management and project design skills to see an idea through towards a solution that is useful to others. However, the students seem to self-report that their skills improved over the course of the semester.
“Being entrepreneurial isn’t limited to starting some sort of business but it is a mentality to be proactive in your life and go after your goals.” - Max Goodwin '20
Students are asked to create storyboards of the user experience. They are also required to create prototype solutions in order to quickly iterate and learn. Furthermore, the students work in groups and are required to individually write down goals that will serve the group as the project unfolds.
“The Prototyping process also felt like a game at first. I had the feeling that this was still a game and that we wouldn’t try to create a “Life Skills Camp”. I was wrong though and it soon became apparent that we were working towards a real-world product. This put a serious tone on the project that I wasn't expecting for this class.” - Nathan Hogan '20
Setting one’s sights on long-term goals that create value for others is a major topic of the course. However, students also learn explicitly about the work of Walter Mischel. The online learning pivot created an opportunity to take advantage of the educational tech tool, EdPuzzle. The students gave positive feedback about this tool and the amount of learning about delayed gratification (and the next topic, Learned Helplessness) showed the greatest gains to day in any semester course.
“Sometimes I just don’t want to do an assignment or I’m so backed up on other assignments that I find it difficult to get to something. Sometimes, it's because I get distracted or caught up in something else. One of the videos talked about how highly successful people are proactive, and not reactive. When school was cancelled because of the pandemic, we were forced to pivot, but instead of just moping around we had to look for something in the mess that might inspire us to make something new, especially something more suited for the digital world. We had to get an idea and start our project, instead of sitting back and getting sad about life. Like Brian Scudamore said, you need to be able to differentiate yourself from others, and to make yourself special. You need to always be on time, consistent, and reliable and you need to present yourself as professional, and act like a big company even while small. It shows the importance of being reliable to shape a personal brand for yourself that other people will buy into and appreciate.” - Braden Schleicher '20
“The change to online school was tough and not easy. As I mentioned earlier, self-control was the most important value I had to learn. I was tempted everyday to not do any work and just give up. I had to force myself to do the work and just flat out get it done. If my teachers were able to make assignments and grade them, I could do them and not complain. I learned a lot about myself over the course of the break. When no one else is around, you start to realize how dumb and trivial a lot of the things we focus on are. Most of the things that we worry about can be taken away in an instant and will cease to bother us. We shouldn’t focus on these things but rather the things that are more precious, lasting, and fulfilling. Things that are fulfilling like loving and caring for our fellow man. Helping each other in a time of need. These are the things that are more important. Solving problems that help real people and not just trying to fill our pockets.” - John Duffy '20
As mentioned in the last category, students completed an EdPuzzle about the work of Martin Seligman. However, the real and present worldwide pandemic circumstances also led to a lot of deep student insights regarding how to respond to individual circumstances. Building upon an early topic around growing one’s internal locus of control, the students were asked to use the resources given to them in order to still accomplish their goals. Early in the semester, the students embarked on a learning activity that heralded the concept of ‘creativity through constraints’. With the worldwide pandemic, no greater constraints to this course could have been imagined!
This led to nearly all student projects to change tactics, but maintain focus. For example, one group wanted to create a life skills camp for teenagers, so they moved the prototype to an online course. Another group wanted to develop a pop-up restaurant concept that features home recipes of talented amateaur chefs (inspired by a student’s Aunt Connie). They pivoted to a live-stream cooking experience model. More details about group projects will be in another blog post, but the point is that the students had a choice and were put in a position to adjust their project based on the unanticipated constraints.
“I have learned through entrepreneurship for others how to reach out and interact with others. My original definition for having an entrepreneurial mindset was to think critically and respond positively to certain obstacles in order to have a good outcome. I think this definition still holds true even after the class, however, more could be added. I’d like to add that you are able to gain a lot of knowledge from other inventors just by talking to them. Even if you start off at the bottom, by listening to others and taking their advice into consideration you are able to jump ahead of the curve and be on your way to success.” - Jude Salido '20
“My original definition for an entrepreneurial mindset was about someone who wants to make it big through their own business. I said that it was about believing in one’s own abilities and being willing to work on it. I think my original definition is still applicable, but through this class I saw the real implications of it, and my definition expanded to understand more topics. I saw that entrepreneurship can be a learned skill and a willingness to ask for help is almost just as important as hard work. My personal vision statement was about standing for respect and living humbly and forming a personal vision statement helped me examine what was important to me, and who I want to be through this class and beyond. When I know who I want to be, I can keep myself on the right path.” - Braden Schleicher '20
Leaning on the quantitative and qualitative data above, it is clear that there is value in entrepreneurial mindset education. Perhaps most inspiring is the fact that this learning experience becomes even more useful during unforeseen circumstances, such as a worldwide pandemic.
“The online learning was a weird adjustment for me since I had never done it before. The class of 2020 always adjusts and we attacked it and did very well in adjusting to the new curriculum. Although we may have not enjoyed the online and would’ve liked to finish where it all started, I am grateful for the obstacles that Rockhurst threw my way. Entrepreneurial mindset, to me, is adjusting to the unknown and finding a simpler, more efficient way to attack a problem. Failures often lead to stronger successes. This can be applied to any issues that you will face along the way throughout life. We have to continue to be open to learning new things, avoiding your own arrogance and make the most out of what we have been given. Once you have knocked down that wall then you have the entrepreneurial mindset.” - Sean Herrington '20
“To conclude, my view of the entrepreneurial mindset has changed greatly. At first, I understood an entrepreneur as someone that knew how to use money and knew how to run a business. After finishing the class, I realized that my original definition was very far off from the true definition. I learned that a true entrepreneur was someone that learns from obstacles they encounter. An entrepreneur does not need to be someone who owns or runs a business. Instead, they are someone that creates efficient solutions to problems and efficient solutions to help not only themselves, but helps others. True entrepreneurs put others first and make a situation that not only they can benefit from, but others can benefit from as well.” - Parker Allen '21