March update

Had my supervision with Julie and Nicola today (Wednesday 27th March 2019).

Previously I had sent tidied up versions of the Introduction, Context and Literature chapters.  Since my last supervision I’d been analysing my educator data and just started analysing my student data.

I had read up on thematic analysis and so had diligently re-read all the transcripts again and made hand written notes on them.  Then I had created a word document for each interview with coding memos and the verbatim comments they referred to.   Then I coded all the interviews in NVivo. Then I had started to develop a document capturing all the themes emerging from the interviews but that started to feel all wrong.

Today’s main question was, “Should I start from the data and work back to the research questions?” or “Should I start from the research questions and answer them using the data?”.  By the time I’d realised I had this dilemma, I’d pretty much worked out the answer to it too.  I have to remember I am not using Grounded Theory – I need to use my research questions to keep me on track with the discussion of the research data.  I cannot explore every theme that is emerging from the data, I will have to save the really interesting bits that don’t directly relate to my research questions for another day.

Julie agreed – I’d answered my own question.  It was also really useful to realise that in interpretivist research, you can’t really distinguish between the findings and the analysis – and I had been trying to.  The findings are essentially the interview transcripts and I can’t put all them in the thesis!  So I just need the analysis supported with relevant pertinent quotations from the interviews.

I have three data sets and they don’t all have to be treated in the same way.  I will have a section (or chapter maybe) on the entrepreneur data setting out the themes emerging from the Delphi survey and discussion of those themes.  I will have a section (or chapter maybe) on the educator data setting out the themes emerging from the interviews and discussion of those themes, in their own right and also in light of the entrepreneur data.  Then I will have a section (or chapter maybe) on the student data, setting out the themes emerging from the concept maps and discussing those themes in their own right, and then a section discussing all the findings from the three data sets all together.  Entrepreneurship threshold concepts have emerged from the Entrepreneur and Educator data, and I can see evidence of students’ progress towards understanding them in the Student data (yeay!).

When I am labelling the threshold concepts I need to be aware of the baggage that comes with any term I choose – I need to make sure I am using uncomplicated terms that don’t mean very specific things in other contexts.

We talked about coding.   I have coded all my educator interviews and now I need to collate and tidy up the codes before going back and perhaps re-coding them again.  Julie advised me to keep a note of the themes that really jumped out at me that I wouldn’t be able to include in the thesis to come back to at a later date (for later papers).

Other comments about the chapters I’d sent previously were that I should take out the sub-headings (that I had in there to help me navigate the documents) and leave the chapters until I put everything back together again.

Now I will aim to write up the data analysis and send it to Julie and Nicola after Easter, so they have a chance to look at it before our next meeting on 10th May 2019.

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Choosing which trees to bark up

Writing up my supervision from yesterday (27.02.2019) with a horrible cold – so brain not fully functioning.

Sent Nicola and Julie the first draft of my Introduction, Context and Literature chapters – was meant to be around 10,000 words per chapter, ended up being more like 60,000 all together.  Felt real sympathy for my supervisors and was torn between sending them something horrible with time to read it before we met, and trying to fix it and then not allowing them any time to read it.  So I went for the former.

I spent the morning before my meeting with them reading through what I had sent.  I concluded that although a few bits were ok, there was a lot that needed to go and most of it was in a mess.  I had included the kitchen sink and I need to now get a massive big red pen out.

That was also largely what Nicola and Julie had concluded too.  I need to flag my arguments and be clear about what I am focusing on and what I am not.  I have too many arguments which could present traps for me in a viva.

For each chapter it needs to be crystal clear –

WHAT are the key arguments? – (Choose the trees I am barking up – can’t bark up all the trees!)

(What does my reader really NEED to know? )

WHY has this been included?

We discussed a potential reordering of the material.  Should the research questions come right at the beginning or at the end of the beginning?  Should I present the reader with the research questions before I have explained where they have come from?

It depends if the introduction is an introduction or an overview/executive summary.  Julie suggested that an introduction should include at least the research aim if not the research questions.

When the area is entrepreneurship and education the entry point for the thesis is not clear.  It’s hard to decide where to start the story/ argument.  Often the research gap emerges from the literature review but that’s not where my story starts really because the context is important for me too.  It’s hard to see how to treat the context of the thesis when it’s working as both background and justification for the thesis.

I had included a lot about Team Academy and my own career trajectory which was interesting (they said – honest!) but unnecessary.  At times I am expressing opinion – it gets too personal. I need to present perspectives from different camps and signpost them as such – present view points from different schools of thought rather than personal opinion. I need to base every point I make on the perspectives of what others have said.  When I do express a view I need to own it and explain where it has come from.  It’s a difficult tight rope – I am expected to make a contribution to knowledge but I have to evidence and base the contributions I am making on the work of others.

I also mentioned my idea of using threshold concepts as “frames” in education.  Enabling students to see through various entrepreneurial  lenses or frames , so that they can see things in a an entrepreneurial way.  That’s what we need to try and teach them.  Once they can see things like this, they have understood the concepts.  Julie commented that it was interesting that the threshold concept framework approach had suggested the use of frames in education.  So the threshold concept framework is helpful in understanding what entrepreneurship education can do, as well as understanding how entrepreneurs think.

Nicola highlighted the importance of making the scope clear – am I talking regionally, nationally, internationally?  Julie suggested treating context as a range of contexts – I can explain that the work is UK focused but that it has a wider relevance and significance.

So we agreed the date for the next meeting (27th March 2019) .  Before then (in one week) I am to unravel what I have written, thin it down by choosing my arguments, order the arguments so they tell a coherent story and then re-send, together with a plan for approaching the data analysis.

 

 

 

Cleared for write up

I met with Julie and Nicola on 21st January 2019.  I had sent in advance a few pages setting out the central argument of my thesis – examining entrepreneurship education through the lens of the threshold concept framework permits a more conceptual approach, balancing the impact of the prevailing neo-liberal educational environment.

I also had sent through a draft outline structure, setting out what I would be covering in each chapter.

So overall we agreed that my premise holds water but some things need to be teased out more; for example my claim that an entrepreneurial skill set is a form of generic skill set.  I am taking a strong position, so I need to add in a strong position statement and explain how I came to that position, frame it.

I need to take the reader through my argument more slowly and expand the sections.  I can present it as a personal reflection so it will need less justification, arising from my situation as EBM programme leader.  I can signpost which reflections will be picked up and reflected on further (for example; see section 3.5…)

It also needs more signposting to the literature – what I think and what other people have said need to be more clearly differentiated.  I also need to make sure that I use less secondary sources – if I am relying heavily on the work of another person, particularly if I am relying on one particular paper, I need to be reading the original paper, not someone else’s take on it.

This applies particularly to Bernstein and Lyotard.  Big names are potentially contentious and could derail the viva, so it’s best to leave them out altogether if I am only mentioning them in passing.  Otherwise I really need to know what I am talking about.  I need to present the work of others properly – or not mention them at all.  Especially philosophers or theorists.

I also need to make sure I include a more factual section with numbers/data/dates on entrepreneurship education, policy stuff – key government actions that changed provision, what the drivers of change were, what were the drivers of growth in the availability of entrepreneurship education programmes?

I need to expand on the view that entrepreneurship is more like an art despite being right in the middle of business and directly linked to new venture creation and job creation.  There is little evidence of its conceptual development currently in the literature.

Entrepreneurial Skills can be regarded as an extension of employability and as such, applicable to all – a generic skill set, but Entrepreneurship can also mean venture creation very specifically, only relevant to a few.

I need to mention the evangelical side of entrepreneurship education and use it as one way of considering the educator data.

We moved on to practical issues.  Julie suggested I thought of a time line for the preparation of a working draft of the first three chapters:

  1. Introduction to the thesis
  2. Context of the thesis
  3. Literature

I will aim to have this done by the end of February.  By the end of the sabbatical at a minimum I aim to have completed my data analysis, and ideally will have drafted everything.  Julie and Nicola encouraged me to consider what it was that was essential to be completed in the sabbatical and what was desirable.  I need to map out the time available and then fit the work required into that time.  This means I might have to leave some sections unfinished, before I move on to the next ones to be done.

We agreed the date for the next supervision meeting.

What’s the big story?

what's the storyI had a supervision with Dr Julie Rattray and Dr Nicola Reimann on December 12th 2018.

I was concerned about keeping up with the literature as I have Google searches set for “Thresholds” “Threshold Concepts” and “Threshold Concepts and Entrepreneurship Education” and I get sent a considerable about of stuff that feels impossible to keep up with.

I was reassured that it’s OK to choose a point at which to stop looking at the literature.  Then return to it when everything else is done, just before submission, and add in the critical recent publications resulting from the interim period.

Prior to the supervision, I had sent through in advance a number of sections with draft titles such as Entrepreneurship Education, The importance of Entrepreneurship and Definition of Terms.

Next step is to start shaping these into Chapters.  I need to consider the story I’m telling – do I need Introduction, Context and Literature Review chapters, or just Introduction and Literature Review chapters for example?

Working out a structure will help me keep the big picture in mind.  I need to work out “what’s the big story?”  It won’t be the only story that’s told and can be supported by a number of little stories.  I have some “bits” now – but what’s the argument that’s being supported here?  What point am I trying to make? I need to be clearer about why I’m saying what I’m saying, what the argument is that I am making.

The literature review should be highlighting the gap in the knowledge.

I appear to be highlighting the gap in the literature concerning the conceptual side of entrepreneurship education, and how entrepreneurship education links to the purpose of higher education.  I need to pull out the conceptual change stuff and focus on concepts.  So its entrepreneurship education from a post- neo liberal perspective.  Has this perspective got a name yet?

Ultimately I am most interested in the “why?” of entrepreneurship education, the conceptual perspective, change and transformation.  That’s what the threshold concept framework enables and that’s why I find it attractive.

So as I’m reviewing the literature, I need to be critiquing it.  So I need to relate what other people are saying and highlight the perspective from which they are saying it.  And also highlight what’s missing from what they are saying and what other things might be said from an alternative perspective.  So I need to present one view, but highlight alternative views – for example using the threshold concept perspective.

Applying a new lens brings different things into focus.

I could argue that the current approaches miss a conceptual perspective and there are other things that could be considered if a more conceptual approach was taken.  For example – what programme success means and if and how it might be measured.

My supervisors felt I was too tentative in expressing my own perspective – and in pointing out the limitations of the perspectives of others.

They suggested I developed the sections a bit more and started threading them together with an argument.  All the time, I need to be clear WHY I am telling the reader what I am telling them, I need to be clear how what I am saying supports my overall argument.  I need to justify everything in the context of the main argument.

Julie suggested I wrote a paragraph or abstract that outlines what the arguments are going to be in each chapter – and then I have a way of testing each paragraph to see whether it builds the argument or is not relevant to it.  Every paragraph then makes a point.

I need to make the connections very explicit.

I need to be careful of using the term “measurement” – rather use “evidence” instead.  Measurement is a loaded term and implies other things I do not intend.

I can set out the various “schools of thought” regarding the overall purpose of higher education and then present my own and how it is different.    Entrepreneurship Education changes according to the overarching perspective of the purpose of Higher Education.

From a neo-liberal perspective – entrepreneurship education looks like this…..

However there is an alternative perspective – using the threshold concepts framework as a lens to look at it through….

I can talk about how things such as employability are affected by different perspectives of the purpose of Higher Education.  This would become a critique of the prevailing discourse of entrepreneurship education.

Presenting a neo-liberal perspective (I think) I could discuss the rise in entrepreneurship education in the context of Higher Education, the increase in the number of programmes over time, the rise of neo -liberalism and the obsession with employability.  The marketisation of Higher Education – entrepreneurship education has developed against this backdrop in this way (or perhaps because of this backdrop).

A backlash against neo-liberalism is coming..there are more people talking about social competence and social justice for example.  I could look at the UK Qualifications Framework where these things are only mentioned in passing and paid lip-service.

Julie suggested reading the counter discourse – writers such as Stephen Ball and Stefan Collini – Julie lent me “What are Universities for?”  She suggested reading Collini before Barnett.  These authors are presenting a critique of neo-liberalism and an alternative.

The way I am writing at the moment is too much as if the views of others are statements of fact.  Just as  I am too tentative about my own perspectives, I am not presenting the views of others as purely the views of others – I am presenting them as statements of fact.   It would be better to say “Here is what so-and-so thinks…” rather than “This is how it is”.  I can present Entrepreneurship Education from different perspectives – “this is how it is from a neo-liberal land and here’s an alternative through the lens of threshold concepts.”  So I could say “Entrepreneurship education has emerged like this, in this way…” I can present how it’s been constructed and not “this is how it is”.  I need to make the reader aware of the context that I am talking about it in and the perspectives I am presenting it from.  I can then frame things within a particular perspective and present my preferred alternative.

We started talking briefly about the roots of academic frailty (Kinchin) and the impact a neo-liberal environment has had.

I was also warned to ensure that I was not including any unnecessary references as they can potential be “traps” in a viva.  For example – I referenced Biglan when talking about academic disciplines without acknowledging the fact that he had come in for a lot of criticism, or presenting alternative perspectives.

Remember there are multiple ways of understanding EVERYTHING and I should never just include one without expecting to be challenged!

So useful phrases will be …”One way to think about categorising disciplines is like this….” or “According to Biglan, disciplines can be categorised like this…”

Make it clear that I am presenting the arguments of others that I don’t necessarily agree with.  Anything like that can get me sidetracked in a viva.  I must make sure I don’t (inadvertently) own the work of others.  Also be careful of over using one author – use a range of authors unless I am seeking to present the particular perspective of one individual.

Additionally Nicola pointed out that when talking about “fields” and “regions” that is a reference from Basil Bernstein and potentially also contentious – to be avoided.  The take home message here is that if it is not important – don’t include it.

Likewise – I mention Problem Based Learning, but the way I talk about it reveals I do not have a good enough understanding of it to make the argument with it that I am trying to make.  PBL does not emphasise problem solving but using problems in pedagogy.  So do not include extraneous argument that could get me into unnecessary trouble.  It’s the stuff that’s mentioned in passing that can trip you up.

We concluded with a discussion about how to approach my sabbatical which is starting after Christmas.  I need to block out time for data analysis.

I need to have the headings (not necessarily all the details) and a skeleton structure and then I can start thinking about how to manage all my data.  It was suggested that I could set aside April/May to look at data and write up after sabbatical….

😦

Thought I’d be able to get it more done than that during the sabbatical.  I was hoping to have written up.  We’ll see.

It was agreed I would come with a suggested plan for my sabbatical for discussion on 21st Jan (next supervision date) that we could firm up during the meeting.

 

 

 

 

The more I do, the more I realise that there is still to do

I met with just Nicola today 17th October 2018 as Julie had to attend another meeting.  I had sent through a first attempt at writing for my actual real life thesis – a positioning piece, called “context” and Julie sent me a few points of feedback on it in advance of the meeting today with Nicola.

My primary concern was getting a grip on my literature.  I read part of another thesis and was absolutely in awe of the rigour with which the author had conducted her systematic review.  Not only was there a review of the literature pertinent to her specific research question, but there were also systematic reviews of areas relevant to her conceptual framework and methods.  The mountain I had to climb was getting larger as larger as I was approaching it.  I feel like the more I do, the more I realise there is still to do.  Rather than the task getting smaller, it is getting larger.

Nicola pointed out that there is more than one way to conduct a literature review.  Literature reviews exist on a continuum between systematic and narrative.  She recommended a book on literature review – I need to chase up the exact title from her.

She felt that organising my papers was a worthwhile exercise so I will press on with that.  I am filing all the papers I have at home that currently look like this ( a big random pile in no order) so that I know what I have and can find it easily.  As I go through them I am checking I have each one on Endnote, and filing according to theme.  The themes I am developing include: entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial learning, threshold concepts, learning theories, the purpose of higher education, employability, motivation and student attitude,  positive psychology and self determination theory, education for professions and practice….

Nicola was concerned that I needed to know the latest papers that are being published in threshold concepts.  This would indicate that I need to be more systematic in my literature review with respect to threshold concept research and can be a little less systematic on the other more peripheral areas.

Nicola suggested using the university library guidance on doing literature searches in both Durham and Northumbria, and then make an appointment to get some specific advice and help with what I am doing. Nicola mentioned Christine Purcell at Durham for Education and suggested I contacted the person responsible for Business in the library at Northumbria.  They can help me check my search logic and which data bases I am using.

Also not to forget the Mick Flannigan site too for all the Threshold Concept work bearing in mind that some of the inclusions are of variable quality.

Above all, it’s important to find the cutting edge stuff and get a sense of how the field has moved on.  Previously people were looking at the identification of threshold concepts, now they are more interested in….what?

My contribution

For the thesis it is not enough to take two existing concepts and claim that you are creating knowledge by applying one to the other in a way that has not been done before.  I could possibly make contributions to knowledge in entrepreneurship education, threshold concepts and in the design of my research (the method).  The actual contributions will emerge when I apply my conceptual framework to the analysis of my data.

So I am bringing several theoretical frameworks together (setting the scene, the context) and then looking for new things using this framework in my data.

We returned to the Context chapter I had written prior to the meeting.  Both Nicola and Julie had commented that each sub heading needed considerable fleshing out.  The sections on entrepreneurship education are likely to be fairly straight forward to write as they will be mainly descriptive.

In the section on threshold concepts I need to give an overview of the field.   I need to position what I am doing in the context of what other people have done.  I need to compare and contrast my work with the work of others and bring out what my contribution is.

There is potential gap in the literature on the student perspective – is this because there is an omission? or is it because it is impossible/difficult to research given that students do not know what they do not know…

We talked about the best way to use the remaining two and half months there are remaining before I have my sabbatical and agreed that sorting out the literature would be a useful thing to do in this time.

Some areas might need to take more of a back seat – entrepreneurial learning for example.  I need to address what “threshold concepts” is – is it an approach, a framework, a model?  Nicola felt it was not a theory –

I also need to unpick and explain the relationship between concepts and ways of thinking and practicing.  Nicola mentioned another PhD student who had  just focused on the troublesome nature of threshold concepts.

It occurred to me that my equivalent of troublesome was transformative.  A focus on change and transformation will provide a thread through my data.  I have data on how entrepreneurs feel that they are different from other people (what transformations have occurred), I have data on the changes and transformation educators are looking to see in their students, and I have data on the changes and transformation students regard as important to the study of entrepreneurship.  So when I go back to my data I will look for evidence of transformation and change.  That is the most important characteristic of a threshold concept for my research purposes.

Nicola suggested looking at the literature review sections of other thesis for a heads up on the latest thinking in a particular area.  We agreed three more dates for supervision meetings and Nicola suggested I write a section of literature review for our next meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

Take a deep breath and start writing the thing

high dive

I met today with Nicola and Julie.  I had been getting to grips with Communities of Practice according to Wenger (1998).  I had concluded that this learning theory was not really going to be a good fit for data analysis and my supervisors agreed.

We could go round and round discussing whether Entrepreneurs constitute a community of practice “strictly speaking” or not, whether “Entrepreneurship” is a “Profession”  but really we concluded that those aren’t important questions for me.  I can draw from all these frameworks and definitions without holding one or other of them up as more “true” or “better” than another.  Wenger contradicts himself in his own writing regarding whether whole professions can be regarded as communities of practice, Shulman speaks of professions as communities of practice, etc…But what is important is the Social Practice approach to learning – social practice is important (perhaps critical) when learning entrepreneurship.  I can take the principles that work from all these authors’ theories.

I was encouraged to look at other social practice approaches to learning – such as Activity Theory (the one with all the triangles), and Actor Network Theory (Julie will look out a new book on this by a colleague Jonathan Timmons).  All these authors make the point that learning and knowledge cannot be disembodied, stand alone things, separated from people.  Learning and knowledge must be embodied in practice to come into being, and they are social.

We then started to see how connections could be made between threshold concepts and social learning theories, and the tensions between theory and practice, the laboratory approach and the apprenticeship approach (Shulman after Dewey, 1998), acknowledging that there is a continuum not a dichotomy; there is a place for both, it’s an artificial divide.

People who subscribe to the extreme end of social practice learning theory maintain that there is NO knowledge (theory) without practice.

This is tricky in the context of entrepreneurship education.  If you leave the practice too late the students become fidgety and cannot see the relevance of what they are learning.  If you leave the theory too late or leave it out altogether – the students don’t know where to start and they don’t know what they don’t know, they feel abandoned.  The big questions are “When do you start to practice?”  “How do you start to practice?”, “When and what do you teach?”.

We started to formulate a spherical model where the learning destination was the “core”, the ultimate purpose of the learning.  In this case “entrepreneurship”.  The core is a bit fuzzy and evolves over time.  It is moulded and developed by the practices which surround it.  Around is there is a kind of force field or solar system, or community of practice like an onion with many layers.  Threshold Concepts appear like pathways from one layer to another – but progress is not necessarily linear although the general direction of travel is towards the core.   The gravitational pull of the core has different effects on different people, some really want to get there and find it very attractive, others do not.  Some students get stuck at a particular threshold concept and make no further progress, they will remain at cross purposes to the rest of the community of practice mimicking an understanding which they do not fully possess.  Their discourse will continue to be at cross purposes with others closer to the core than they are, they will continue to see the world differently.  At each layer there will be elements of legitimate peripheral participation and the role of the educator is to design a social entity, with a powerful learning community where opportunities to learn and understand the threshold concepts of entrepreneurship are optimised, designing a heightened version of reality.

solar-system 2

We discussed that this discussion likely needs to be towards the start of the thesis in a context chapter or a section of a chapter.  I need to set out the premise of the study – “…Entrepreneurship Education needs to look like THIS…”.  If this is accepted then these are the dots that need to be connected, these are the threshold concepts that need to be understood.  The social practice approach becomes very relevant as there is no accepted practice knowledge in entrepreneurship, only enacted practice.

Or another metaphor would be a transport network.  There are many stations, some with no connections, others with many.  Any many different routes to the same destination.  Some students may not ever arrive at a particular destination – either because their desire to get there is not sufficient, or because they “get stuck” at a particular station and can’t make the right connection.  All the while they are in contact with other members of their community of practice, engaging, developing practice, interacting…

London transport

It’s important to distinguish the journey towards becoming a member of the entrepreneurship profession (becoming a member of that particular community of practice) and the journey towards becoming a graduate of the EBM programme at Northumbria (and becoming a member of that particular community of practice).

My task now is to attempt to write a “context chapter” explaining these premises, where I am coming from.  Conceptualising my thinking.  Using the transport map analogy – the threshold concepts are the major interchanges and my research is setting out to explore what they might be.  The perspectives of the entrepreneurs, the educators and the students may all be different because they are concerned with different parts of the map.  A complete map may not be possible to construct, but in this way, it’s a bit like the periodic table; we know that there are some gaps where there will be elements but no one has managed to isolate all of them yet.  However the more we ask entrepreneurs, the more detailed their part of the map will be, the more we ask educators and students, the more details their parts of the map will be.  The maps may overlap in some areas.

The idea of crossing a threshold does lend itself to the idea of making a connection.  You have to get off one train to get on another.  You can get stuck in the station. There will be other people at the station that might be stuck too or might be able to direct you. However the train will wait for you – it is not so time dependent. The train will be there for as long as you take to find it. However, while being stuck at the station you might lose interest in getting to the initial destination, it might just be too hard and difficult and no longer as appealing as it once was.  So you might get on a different train going somewhere else. Or you could get on the wrong train and end up somewhere you did not intend.  Or tell everyone you’re at Station A, when you’re still really only at Station B.  You could try getting to A a different way, that might work.  But there are always going to be some stations that can only be accessed via a particular interchange (threshold concept).

Using threshold concepts in this way, as a “lens”; means that I don’t need to worry about whether or not entrepreneurship is a discipline because it “just is”.  I can  use social learning theories to explain how students get from station to station.  There is something very interesting here to be explored around the relationship between social learning theories and threshold concepts which could have wider application vis a vis the introduction of two year degrees and degree apprenticeships for example.

 

Cupcakes and Chihuahuas

cupcakes and chiwawas

Things look different in different circumstances – so you might not recognise them.  And some things look the same when they are very different – like muffins and dogs 🙂

Met with Julie and Nicola yesterday.

Julie got promoted!  Whoop Whoop!  and now is Associate Professor.

Julie kindly mentioned my work at the Thresholds Conference in Ohio and it was followed up by another researcher interested in entrepreneurship threshold concepts in Waterloo, Ontario contacting me.  It would be so good to get an international collaborative project going, I hope it turns into something.

My quest for a way into the educator data looks like it might be turning into two possible papers for publication.  One outlining the conceptual framework I am developing for the analysis of the educator data, and the other actually doing the analysis.

We spent most of the session talking through my thoughts on a conceptual framework and how the nature/ form of thresholds might be different in different disciplines and easier to see in some places than others.

The recent Ohio conference proceedings will be useful as perspectives were becoming more critical and more people were starting to talk about “complex thresholds”.  Julie will send me her paper that was presented there.  Shame I wasn’t there….

De-coding the disciplines might be worth revisiting again as they talk about bottle-necks, places which are troublesome but are not necessarily all threshold concepts.

The role of the student voice will also be interesting to chew over as there are opposing views on the value of including them – Felton vs Barradell.  Barradell argues not just for the voices of the educators and the students but for the stakeholders as well.

Perhaps a systematic review of the literature is called for (PT – post thesis) looking at methods used to identify TC’s and criteria used consistently to define whether something was one or not.

But I need to keep ploughing through the literature and note the people that are saying what I’m saying and the people that are disagreeing.  Julie noted that there’s not much out there critiquing the framework (threshold concepts) so my research could be very timely.

It will also be important to refer to “the framework” rather than the “theory”; as a framework can be context specific, which is what I am looking for here.

Nicola raised an important comparison with the work of Sue Bloxham who is looking at assessment practice.  She contrasts two perspectives concerning assessment: one approach where two markers are searching for the perfect mark – techno rationalist (the mark is out there somewhere) and the other where two markers construct the agreed mark between them – social constructivist.  Nicola noted that there is almost an obsession with the “correct” identification of TC’s similar to the techno -rational approach to assessment.  To go out looking for TCs implies they are sitting there waiting to be found.

I’m arguing for a more social constructivist approach – where the learning thresholds are constructed by the community of practice.  I am investigating different communities, or different communities within one big community, and exploring how they have constructed their understanding/s of entrepreneurship.  My role in the thesis is to understand how these various communities have constructed themselves.

I need to ask if they think about entrepreneurship differently from each other and if that matters?  I need to ask if it is important that the three communities understand each other and interact at all?  What are the linkages?  Where are they the same and different?  If standards are socially constructed by the groups there needs to be dialogue between them that I need to understand – it’s not the job of the researcher to “find them out”.

I may not to be able to answer all these questions in the thesis, but I can pose the questions and move later to propose answers perhaps in other research.

We then moved to discuss the possible ways in which learning thresholds can be different between the disciplines and why.  Does understanding maths require less “letting go” than understanding entrepreneurship?  Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, a practice, it needs to be embodied to be understood.  Therefore you likely have to let go of more of your old self to understand it.  Theoretical subjects require less embodiment – but there is a greater cognitive load.  There’s more to entrepreneurship than the acquisition of knowledge.  There’s something qualitatively different about entrepreneurship.

I need to research more into what other people have said about learning in the professions.

Also if you don’t have to go to university to be an entrepreneur – why is there a need for entrepreneurship education?  Because we can’t solve the world’s problems fast enough relying on the natural course of affairs, we need to accelerate the process.  We can’t rely on market forces, and the natural emergence of entrepreneurs, we need universities to help.  Also universities might lead to  more responsible entrepreneurship, more sustainable entrepreneurship, more diverse entrepreneurship, more team based entrepreneurship.  We hope.