• The Role of Identity, Intention, and Empathy in Social Needs-Oriented Education

      Celuch, Kevin; Jones, Aleshia
      Social entrepreneurship consists of applying innovative and entrepreneurial thinking in taking the initiative to address societal problems (e.g., related to health, the environment, fair trade, etc.) (Miller et al., 2012). Implied in this definition of social entrepreneurship is that certain individuals have the skill set and motivation to make a difference in a social need domain (Smith & Woodworth, 2012). While the emerging social entrepreneurship literature has provided some good descriptive and case-based studies, more rigorous theoretical and empirical work is needed to understand the unique motivational processes implicated in social needs-based behavior (i.e., creating an entity to address a social problem). The present study addresses a question at the core of social entrepreneurship education: What motivates students with an interest in social entrepreneurship to transfer their learning beyond the classroom? Many examples of the how to- examining content and various pedagogical techniques appear in the literature. In contrast, less attention has been devoted to the exploration of the underlying processes by which students are influenced by entrepreneurial education. Such research would provide insight into why students, particularly those interested in social ventures, are motivated to transfer learning beyond the classroom. While the importance of transfer of learning has long been recognized, questions have been raised regarding learning transfer. In fact, research on the design and delivery of learning interventions have found a lack of transfer as the norm rather than the exception (Tziner et al, 1991; Brinkerhoff & Montesino, 1995). Given the importance of transfer of learning to higher education, the transfer problem may be one of the most significant challenges in the scholarship of teaching and learning (Perkins, 1987; Ramocki, 2007). The transfer literature has highlighted issues of motivation and skill development in the effectiveness of transfer (Noe, 1986). Further, the literature raises the issue of a disposition effect (Perkins & Tishman, 2001) which signals the importance of concepts such as identity and empathy in addition to ability in addressing transfer of learning. This research integrates literature related to identity (self-concept), empathy (sharing the emotion of another), and self-regulation (motivational self-perceptions) to address how students evolve to view themselves as capable social entrepreneurs. Given the significance of identity and skill development in entrepreneurship education (Smith & Woodworth, 2012), the prominent role played by efficacy perceptions and intention in entrepreneurial behavior (Krueger, 2000), and the relationship empathy has with helping behavior (Unger & Thumuluri, 2007), examining such constructs could provide important insights for educators. This research surveys over 500 students from five different universities in the United States. We included students from multiple programs by design as our objective was to explore broader student processes and not the influence of a specific pedagogical technique. We used a moderated-mediation regression model to examine the combined influence of identity, intention, and empathy on social needs-orientated efficacy (Preacher et al., 2007). Student entrepreneurial identity was found to be a significant predictor of entrepreneurial intention. Further, identity was found to work through the interaction of intent and empathy to influence social entrepreneurship efficacy. Lastly, student identity as an entrepreneur was found to interact with empathy such that stronger identification has a greater effect on social entrepreneurship efficacy when students have higher empathy. 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