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How and to what extent does entrepreneurship education make students more entrepreneurial? A California case of the Technology Management Program (Tam 2009)

Citation

Tam, H. (2009). How and to what extent does entrepreneurship education make students more entrepreneurial? A California case of the Technology Management Program (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 304852166).

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of participation in the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Technology Management Program (TMP) on students’ entrepreneurial attitudes.
    • The author compared the entrepreneurial attitudes of students at the beginning and the end of the spring 2008 academic term.
    • The study found that the overall entrepreneurial attitudes of students participating in the TMP became stronger over the course of the term.
    • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not account for pre-intervention trends in participants’ entrepreneurial attitudes. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the TMP courses the students took; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Technology Management Program (TMP)

Features of the Intervention

In the late 1990s, the University of California, Santa Barbara College of Engineering established the Center for Engineering and Entrepreneurial Management, which created the TMP. The TMP offered a range of classes, culminating in a Certificate in Technology Entrepreneurship, for students interested in learning business skills, such as product development, technology management, and entrepreneurship. The program offered about 10 classes each term. Adjunct professors and lecturers with business experience taught most of the classes, which blended didactic instruction, guest speakers, entrepreneurship workshops, a business plan competition, and internship opportunities.

Features of the Study

In spring 2008, the author asked students enrolled in any of the nine TMP courses available that term to participate in a voluntary survey at the beginning of the semester (March) and again at the end (June). The survey consisted of items designed to measure how strongly students identified with statements describing achievement-oriented business habits, innovation, personal control over business outcomes, and self-esteem. Each survey item asked the respondent to rate his or her agreement with a statement such as “I often approach business tasks in unique ways” on a scale from 1, strongly disagree, to 7, strongly agree.

Of the 430 students enrolled in a TMP course at that time, 75 completed both the pre- and post-course survey. The author compared the participants’ entrepreneurial attitudes before and after they participated in a TMP course, estimating the differences between pre- and post-test scores overall and in each of four attitude subscales. The analysis did not include controls for any demographic characteristics.

Findings

    • The study found a positive, statistically significant indicating that students more strongly identified with entrepreneurial perspectives at the end of the course than at the beginning.
    • In particular, students identified more strongly with survey items describing innovation in business and perceived personal control over business outcomes. The average response to innovation items increased from 5.09 to 5.22 out of 7.00 and the average response to personal control items increased from of 5.06 to 5.22 out of 7.00.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author compared the outcomes of participants measured before and after they completed the spring 2008 TMP course. CLEAR’s guidelines require that the author observe outcomes for multiple periods before the intervention to rule out the possibility that students had increasing or decreasing trends in the outcomes examined before enrollment in the course. That is, if students who increasingly identified with entrepreneurial attitudes tended to enroll in the program, we would anticipate further increases over time, even if they did not participate in the program. Without knowing the trends before program enrollment, we cannot rule this out.

Further, CLEAR’s guidelines require that the study demonstrate that participants would not have selected into the intervention based on pre-intervention trends in the outcome and/or their own characteristics. Because the study results reflect only those students who chose to enroll in the program and to complete both the pre- and post-test surveys, they likely differ from eligible students who did not choose to enroll in the program. The characteristics that led these participants to enroll and complete the study might also affect the observed changes in attitudes.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not account for pre-intervention trends in participants’ entrepreneurial attitudes. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the TMP courses the students took; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

April 2016