NFTE and the Entrepreneurial Mindset


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Our focus on the mindset. The focus in education across the globe is rapidly changing from the stress on test-based accountability around basic math and English skills to an emphasis on developing and building the mindsets in young people that will help them become productive and engaged citizens.

At NFTE, we have been in the business of changing students’ mindsets for over 26 years. During this period, NFTE has been providing entrepreneurship education reaching 500,000 young people from low income communities in classrooms and out-of-school programs across the U.S. and around the world. Over the past year, NFTE initiated a major effort to improve, enhance and expand its offerings of courses and programs with the goal of reaching an even wider audience.  By 2017, NFTE will have served over 1 million students globally.

NFTE’s programs address both students’ mindsets as well as their knowledge about business startup.  The entrepreneurial mindset is the set of attitudes, skills, and behaviors that young people need to succeed academically, personally, and professionally. These include: initiative and self-direction, risk-taking, flexibility and adaptability, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving as well as other factors. More than any other organization in entrepreneurship education and career readiness, NFTE knows how to develop the entrepreneurial mindset and how to see the core factors of this critical component of career readiness come to life in a student.

Our Theory of Change. NFTE’s theory of change rests on the notion that NFTE class, led by a teacher trained in our project-based learning curriculum, provides an engaging and motivating learning experience for students. Throughout the year, the students learn not only the ABC’s of business startup, they also acquire an entrepreneurial mindset that sets them on the path to thinking about their future. The outcomes of the process include a young person more prepared to enter post-secondary education or the workforce with the skills, characteristics and knowledge needed for success.

The context of education reform. Schools and school districts are recognizing the importance of entrepreneurial qualities and clamoring for ways to impart and measure them. Their interest is bolstered by education researchers’ findings that student success in both higher education and later in life depends on a combination of both academic skills and non-cognitive skills – quintessentially entrepreneurial skills – such as perseverance, motivation, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication– that NFTE has long prioritized (see Farrington 2012; Pellegrino et al. 2012).

Educators and employers are further recognizing the importance of developing growth mindsets for young people to achieve and grow intellectually and socially.  The concept of the growth mindset was original developed by the psychologist Carol Dweck, who, nearly 30 years ago linked individual student motivation with perceived intelligence[i] Drawing from this discovery Dweck and others have since noticed that students who believe that intelligence is a malleable factor rather than a fixed trait were much more engaged learners who were able to learn from their mistakes and maintain their motivation.

At NFTE, our project-based curriculum and heavy use of volunteers and mentors to create a truly experiential learning context helps develop students’ growth mindsets. Students learn that failure is a key component to learning and that pivoting from setbacks is a critical component that is behind all successful entrepreneurs. NFTE students learn that through hard work and a commitment to learning from others that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.


[i] http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/09/11/03mindset_ep.h33.html