First Supervision Meeting with Prof Ray Land and Dr Nicola Reimann 16th September 2015

It was a lovely sunny day as I worked out the best way by bike to Newcastle train station from City Campus.  A nice man showed me the cycle racks in the station building and I caught the 9:30 to Durham, arriving at the Department of Education after a 20m walk at the other end.  It’s looking liking like the journey (home to Supervision) will take me about 45 minutes (an hour on the safe side) door to door.

Following the British Academy of Management conference in Portsmouth just last week, my thoughts on my thesis were confused.  Just what was a degree in Entrepreneurship meant to do?  Is it about learning to be an Entrepreneur, or is it about understanding Entrepreneurship?  What exactly is Entrepreneurship anyway?  Is it perhaps just an elaboration of Employability Skills and Graduateness?  Could you argue that all the attributes that you might apply to an effective Entrepreneur, could be applicable to anyone wanting to become more effective?  My subject was disappearing before my eyes like the Cheshire Cat.

I was curious about the Supervision process and what the balance between direction and independence would be.

I met with both Dr Reimann and Professor Land in Professor Land’s room.  The conversation started with some recommendations regarding useful Journals, Organisations and Conferences for me.

The following Journals were recommended (I found the * ratings later from the CABS Journal rating guide):

  • Higher Education (2*)
  • Studies in Higher Education (3*)
  • Teaching in Higher Education (2*)
  • Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education and Training
  • International Journal for Academic Development
  • British Educational Research Journal (3*)
  • Academy of Management Learning and Education (4*)
  • Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (4*)

I later added the titles in italics.

The following members’ organisations were recommended:

  • SRHE – Society for Research into Higher Education (December conference)
  • EARLI – European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (good special interest conferences in Higher Education for example)
  • SEDA – Staff and Educational Development Association (good for lecturers, plenty of good ideas to apply)
  • NCEE – National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education
  • EEUK – Enterprise Educators (UK)

I later added the organisations in italics.

The following conferences were recommended:

  • IUT – Improving University Teaching (coming to Durham in 2016, likely 6th – 8th July 2016 to be organised by Dr Julie Rattray)
  • Threshold Concept Conference 2016 Nova Scotia? Dates?
  • SRHE – early career researchers
  • HECU – Higher Education Close Up (Methodological focus, conceptual, qualitative, biennially in the UK)

Recommended Reading:

  • “Doing your Educational Research Thesis” Judith Bell, Open University (Chapter on literature review)
  • “The Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion” Thompson and Walker
  • “Researching and Learning in Higher Education” Glynis Cousin

The conversation then moved to the topic of my research more specifically.  Am I considering the Entrepreneurship Degree from the perspective of the Student or/and the Programme itself?  Both or either would be OK.  Am I examining how learning can be designed, and attempting to optimise and enhance learning on the programme?  This may be a useful contribution.

Ray recommended I start with the current design of the programme so I intend to review the Programme Specification in order to clarify the stated learning outcomes.

I need to consider if the EBM programme as it stands is designed to  produce Entrepreneurs, or to produce people who understand the Entrepreneurial Organisation, or what?  Does the programme aim to develop people who are more enterprising, or to develop entrepreneurs, or what?

What is a degree in Entrepreneurship meant to do?

Then I can attempt to define what students need to “get” in order for  this to be achieved.

There are also likely to be methodological implications and concerns regarding the collection of data.  If I decide I would like to collect data from other Universities, will I be allowed access or will access be barred as a competitor, the research data being competitively sensitive?  It would be useful and interesting to compare different approaches to education and their comparative effectiveness.  I need to start thinking about this now and to build relationships perhaps internationally with people in non-competing institutions where I think I might be able to gather useful data.

Ray suggested I considered “variation theory of learning and awareness”, where a greater understanding of something is developed by looking at its variations – for example the colour maroon.

see: Marton & Tsui (2004). Classroom discourse and the space of learning.

My supervisors assured me that it’s appropriate at this time, to spend time clarifying my research question(s).

See the work of Lee Shulman, for example (2002) Making Differences: A table of Learning, Change: The magazine of Higher Learning 34:6, 36 – 44. regarding the necessity of emotional investment as a prerequisite for learning.

Ray also mentioned “psychopathy” as a phenomenon worth considering in the context of the study of entrepreneurs.  People who, perhaps in a similar way to Surgeons, may be advantaged by a lack of empathy.

Then we came back around to the defining characteristics of entrepreneurs.  For, if you can’t define the characteristics of an Entrepreneur (as distinct from any other type of person), then how can you teach a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Management?

Perhaps a useful starting place would be to set out some different conceptualisations of entrepreneurship, and perhaps use these as a framework to examine students’ understanding.

  1. So I need to try to categorise the types of literatures there are about enterprise and entrepreneurship and how people use the terms enterprise, enterprising, entrepreneur, entrepreneurial, entrepreneurship etc.  What kind of practices are being developed here?
  2. Then I can starting to think about how these things may be learnt.  What kind of pedagogies are needed?  I might consider pedagogies of uncertainty for example.
  3. Ultimately then I can consider curriculum design implications – what might be the best way of doing it?  How might we improve Entrepreneurship Education in Higher Education.

For everything I read, I should be asking myself – ‘In what way has this been helpful in regard to this question?’

Nicola recommended reading the research blog of Ian Robson (Northumbria, Coach Lane) to get a good understanding of the debates.

We then moved on to discuss more logistical issues regarding supervision.

We will meet together (all three whereever possible) every 4 – 6 weeks initially.  When the work moves into the data collection phase, meeting frequency is likely to fall, and then pick up as the write-up is completed.

It would be helpful for me if I considered and suggested potential agenda for the meetings and tried to share some written work in advance of the meetings.

Other top tips were to access Skills Plus at Northumbria Library for help on citation searches, to get a digital recorder and always take TWO when collecting interview data, and to remember to note page numbers when using direct quotations.

Nicola also gave me details of the PGR Induction event for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health on 5th Oct which luckily I am able to attend.

ACTIONS from today

  • Develop a set of meanings in context for key terms.  Consider which resonate most with what I’m trying to do.
  • Complete the Supervision Form
  • Complete the Training Needs Analysis

Meeting dates/times were agreed for the next 8 months.  The meeting finished at about 2pm and I managed to make it back to Newcastle for the very worthwhile REDP introductory workshop on Literature Reviews which was very timely.

I felt my head was clearer as a result of the meeting and I very much appreciated the supportive attentions of my supervisors for the duration of the meeting. I left feeling as if my task was much more achievable, especially with some set task for the short term, I was not about to try and eat a “whole elephant”, but one mouthful at a time.

Our next meeting will be at 1pm on Monday 12th October 2015.