Unseasonably warm

Third supervision meeting today (17/12/2015 10:30).  We spent more time talking about data collection methods and considerations whilst eyeing up the plethora of Christmas goodies on Ray’s table!  The Delphi Method is sounding increasingly promising as a way of gathering expert opinion. Nicola highlighted a thesis by Dineke Tigelaar which looked at teaching portfolios – she used the Delphi method to evaluate the framework, the work was practice focused – I need to take a look at that.

Tigelaar, D. E., Dolmans, D. H., Wolfhagen, I. H., & Van der Vleuten, C. P. (2004). The development and validation of a framework for teaching competencies in higher education. Higher education, 48(2), 253-268.

Nicola also mentioned a Concept Mapping project around curriculum development – a project in which participants spent 1 week together mapping their curriculum conceptually – she’ll let me have the author’s name in due course. JD Novak seems to have written a lot on concept mapping – another area I need to read up on.

The idea of approaching my data collection in stages – a phased approach was discussed.

Ray drew my attention to the work of Glynis Cousin and “transactional curriculum inquiry”.  We considered who the groups involved might be…(can I call them stakeholder groups? – is there any benefit in doing so?)  So far I have

  • The students of entrepreneurship programmes
  • The educators of entrepreneurship programmes
  • The educational development experts – theorists – like Ray and Nicola
  • The expert entrepreneurs
  • The professional support providers to the expert entrepreneurs – financiers, accountants, lawyers etc

I could approach each group (on an individual basis) in turn (in what order?)  i.e. gather data individually from each person in a particular group and use the findings to inform the questions I ask of the next group…

or ask each individual in each group the same question at the same time…

I was imagining the question would be something like “What do you think the threshold concepts are in entrepreneurship?”

Or I could ask what the concepts are and then ask people to consider if they were all equal.

Then I could examine the responses from each group and explore the differences and similarities.

Nicola mentioned a 20m workshop she had run on concept mapping where participants were taught how to do concept mapping and then mapped a concept.  This might be a useful thing to ask groups of research subjects to do.

I asked about sufficiency and contribution.  I need to explore both what the threshold concepts of entrepreneurship education are and what the implications of them might be in teaching entrepreneurship – can we produce a more entrepreneurial graduate?  This would be a potentially high impact contribution as I could argue for an economic impact. By using knowledge of threshold concepts to make entrepreneurship programmes more effective – there will be a positive impact on the economy because entrepreneurs will be able to start more new businesses more successfully.

There is also the potential to frame my work in the context of fostering future entrepreneurial leaders, which links really nicely into the ambitions of Michele Rusk and the Centre for Strategic Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership at Newcastle Business School.

Nicola raised the point about how the work might be related to practice.  Would I be aiming at producing something that would be relevant to just my programme or to entrepreneurship programmes in general? Is there a predication with my own programme and practices or am I proposing to conduct an exploratory study drawing on the wider Team Academy community?  I prefer a wider scope at this stage although the practicalities of the data collection may defeat me at a later stage perhaps.  I could aim to include staff and students at a number of institutions – I don’t think that’s beyond the realms of possibility…:) So I could be claiming relevance that was more than just local but not claim an universal effect.

The stages of the research might be described as:

  1. WHAT? – What are the threshold concepts in entrepreneurship education?
  2. HOW? – How do we teach them?
  3. SO WHAT? – What are the implications of this on the curriculum of entrepreneurship programmes?

To answer these questions it’s likely I will need different response groups.  Nicola raised the pragmatic aspects of such work and suggested pilot studies were conducted – perhaps I could gather data from one local source and one far away, and then (although the sample would not be representative) see what the differences were.

Perhaps some of my subjects (expert entrepreneurs) would be retired and therefore might be more willing to give their time?  Perhaps each expert entrepreneur would know others I could also speak to – so a snowball sample could be used.  The proposed new Northumbria Entrepreneur Chapter might be really useful here as a source of research subjects.  We discussed the possible motivations of contributors and all felt fairly positive that there would be enough altruism out there to ensure a reasonable sample.

Ray suggested asking a question like ” Who is your hero?” or “Who do you admire in the business world?” as a good way of getting to the more personal subjects of people’s values and motivations and priorities.

We moved onto discuss the possibility of trialing methods in conferences.  I have submitted a practitioner workshop proposal to the 3E conference in Leeds (May).  In order to use the findings I will need ethical approval from Durham and I also might as well get it from Northumbria too.  I can then put in the abstract that I have ethical approval for the work.  I also need to give participants the option of opting out if they like.  Taking field notes is also a good idea as long as I clarify how I am keeping them.  It’s also wise to try and gather individual contributions as group contributions are negated if only one participant withdraws consent.  Reconnaissance is never wasted.  NB: Ethical requests for working with students are approved on a monthly basis at Durham so I need to not leave it too late in requesting approval before I propose to actually gather the data.  I need to check where all the relevant forms that require completion are at both Durham and Northumbria.

We returned to the potentially staged nature of research.  It is an increasingly popular way of completing a PhD – do one stage – publish – do the next stage – publish etc.  Martin Lackeus’ Thesis was in this format – a thesis then 4 appended papers.

We returned to the transactional inquiry process and how it would become multidimensional. Possible stages for my work could be something like:

  • A paper on what the expert entrepreneurs say
  • A paper on the implications of what the educational experts say
  • A paper on the student perspectives
  • A literature review paper – each perspective requires examination with a different lens
  • A methodology paper – how I propose to get data from each group.  Justifying the different methods chosen for each type of respondent.

Nicola highlighted methods to capture transformation might have a longitudinal perspective – perhaps a biographical narrative might be useful, from which transformations might be deduced.  This could lead into a discussion about what is known about transformational learning.

We discussed the troublesome bit of troublesome knowledge and noted that when you “got” it – something that had been troublesome – it was exhilarating.  Perhaps too much emphasis is put on the discomfort associated with threshold concept comprehension, maybe there’s room for more emphasis on the positive aspects, the positive emotions.  A view more in line with positive psychology and appreciative inquiry?

Troublesome knowledge is that which we cannot assimilate or accommodate without letting go of something, reframing something…this letting go is associated with feelings of insecurity and is unsettling.  I was reminded of Sarasvathy’s urns (Knightian uncertainty) – one where you know how many red and blue balls are inside – so picking a red ball has a known probability associated with it, and the other where you don’t know the ratio.  She suggests that entrepreneurs prefer situations where the probability of a particular outcome is unknowable.  Another example of tolerance of uncertainty – even a preference for it in entrepreneurs.  Is this linked to a facility for learning in entrepreneurs perhaps?  If entrepreneurs like/relish uncertainty, perhaps they would be more likely to enjoy learning and expose themselves to unfamiliar situations more than others.  They would not be put off by finding things difficult or troublesome – but would be exhilarated by that.

Nicola mentioned some students of her language class that thought they were in the wrong group when they were finding things hard.  On the contrary – their discomfort showed they were in the right group!  What’s the point of being in the group where you already can do everything – you cannot be learning much there.

Ultimately we moved on to briefly discuss next steps.  Nicola mentioned a 9 month progress review – paper and presentation.  I need to check the details of this and add it to my PRIP request for research hours.  We also agreed I would write notes on the design of my study and how it links to the research question for next time – 21st January 2016.

Nicola had to leave at 12:00 for another meeting.  Ray and I continued briefly.

Ray suggested I proposed a paper on TC’s in entrepreneurship for the TC conference in Canada – looking at effective ways to identify them – the what (transformational shifts) and the how (educational implications).  Making it clear that it was a doctoral study, exploratory work, work in progress.  I should present the instruments I am proposing to use and ask for feedback at the conference.  Present it as a transactional analysis drawing on key groups of respondants.  This paper might also serve as a good grounding for the 9m review – two birds with one stone?




Effectuation as a form of entrepreneurial expertise

Supervision 26th November 2015

Having had my brain fried (in a good way) by the ISBE2015 conference in Glasgow I thought I was starting to get a little clearer on things.  Like how perhaps there could be entrepreneurial pedagogies that might apply to any subject discipline and how there also might be an entrepreneurial subject discipline or field or domain or whatever.  Lackeus’ thesis made me wonder about the relationship between threshold concepts and competencies.  He was using entrepreneurial competencies as a bridge between entrepreneurship and education, perhaps I could use Threshold Concepts as my bridge between Entrepreneurial Expertise and Entrepreneurship Education.

I was still struggling to remind myself exactly what it was I was trying to get at.  Do entrepreneurs see the world in a different way?  Is there a uniquely entrepreneurial way of thinking?  Does one “become” an Entrepreneur, like one would a Dentist or an Economist or a Priest?  Given a common set of facts or a news story for example, would each of these types of people give an interpretation unique to their profession, their way of thinking?

Bruyat (1993) posited that entrepreneurship was as much about the change and learning that the individual entrepreneur experiences, as it is about the change and new value caused by the entrepreneur.  And the bigger these changes are, the more likely people will view the act as being one of entrepreneurship.  How might these changes to the person be defined and characterised?  Are there any threshold concepts in there?

Referring to the learning that the individual experiences, WHAT are they learning, and WHAT are they doing to learn these things?  Lackeus claims that entrepreneurs are learning entrepreneurial competencies (self-efficacy, uncertainty tolerance and self-insight) through value creation for others (interaction with the outside world, uncertainty in the learning environment, team approach and artifact creation).

Read and Sarasvathy (2005) on the other hand suggest that effectuation can be regarded as a form of entrepreneurial expertise.  “The study of entrepreneurship as a form of expertise – a set of SKILLS, MODELS and PROCESSES that can be acquired with time (is that the same as “learnt”?) and deliberate practice.”

It’s helpful to differentiate what kind of learning and teaching we’re talking about using prepositions…

Teaching…ABOUT (understanding IN THEORY)

Teaching …FOR (occupationally orientated, preparatory)

Teaching… THROUGH (learning by doing, experiential learning)

Teaching…WITH (becoming – Mahieu 2006)

Perhaps if the study of entrepreneurship can be viewed as a “domain of expertise” (Read and Sarasvathy, 2005) we might be getting somewhere.  This is in contrast to the view that entrepreneurship is an individual characteristic, a type of person.

Saravathy’s effectual heuristic principles.

The bird in hand principle – start with what you have (means orientation) Vs. Start with where you want to be (goals orientation)
World Making – understand transformation Vs. search and select for an existing opportunity
The affordable loss principle – risk little, fail cheap Vs. using expected return as a decision criterion.
The crazy quilt principle – Building partnerships through pre-commitments from stakeholders Vs. competitive analysis
The lemonade principle – leverage surprise.  Seeking out unexpected contingencies in order to leverage them to create novelty Vs. avoidance of unexpected contingencies in order to efficiently achieve pre-determined goals
The pilot on the plane principle: apply non predictive control creating sufficient conditions (the six paradoxes of control) Vs: seeking necessary conditions for success

Now it feels to me that there might be some threshold concepts in there.

So I’m wondering if there are Threshold Concepts that are NOT bounded, or perhaps if  a test of an academic discipline is whether it has distinct threshold concepts.  Uncertainty as a threshold concepts for example could be argued to be slightly different in different disciplines.

Learning is more than the acquisition of competencies – it requires transformation and that is not necessarily observable.

Ray suggested I explored the SCAMPER model of added value and work by Dreyfus (Hubert) on expertise.

Dreyfus, S. E., & Dreyfus, H. L. (1980). A five-stage model of the mental activities involved in directed skill acquisition (No. ORC-80-2). California Univ Berkeley Operations Research Center.

Eberle (1971) originated the SCAMPER model as a way of remembering major factors and processes involved in any aspect of creativity. The letters S-C-A-M-P-E-R stand for substitute, combine, adapt or alter, modify or magnify, put to other uses, eliminate or minimize, and reverse or rearrange.

Also Chin – for example

Chin, C. L., & Chi, H. Y. (2009). Reducing Restatements with Increased Industry Expertise*. Contemporary Accounting Research, 26(3), 729-765.

Ray noted also that experts tend to be transgressive – and this also can characterise entrepreneurs.

Or IS it a more dispositional thing: Ray and Nicola suggested I analysed various discourses: expertise, competence, discipline, community.

We moved on to talk about teams – and I was introduced to the concept of signification and semiotics (Saussure).  This also must be considered I think with the word entrepreneur and team (if the team thing is relevant to the thesis – argued by Lackeus to be relevant to the development of self-insight).

So perhaps the EBM programme (or any HE programme in EE) could be regarded as a sort of booster on an individual’s journey from novice to expert entrepreneur?

We also discussed the liminal state – perhaps entrepreneurs, like creatives, remain in a liminal state, avoiding crystallization – perhaps theirs is a different kind of expertise.

Another perspective to consider is the interdisciplinary nature of entrepreneurship.  This creates a potential problem for students as the field lacks clarity. Perhaps discipline is a problematic word here. “A Discipline is a Subject with an Army and a Navy”.  “A discipline has a distinct way of getting to truths” (Hirst). A Field combines a number of different ways of getting to truths.

So then, to attempt a critique of effectuation theory:

Is it about skills? Dispositions? Threshold Concepts? Expertise? Ways of thinking and Practising (WTP)? – Ray and Nicola advised me to gather some effectuation theories, and then try to typify and categorise them – the next step could be then to design the curriculum to foster them.  Developing a way of seeing.

I need to consider “How is expertise assessed? What criteria are we looking for?  What will be be rewarded and why?” (on the educational programme)

Perrault – tacit knowledge in different disciplines.

Then we started to consider possible methods of data collection.

?What constitutes expertise – ways of thinking and practicing?

2nd source = Sarasvathy

Delphi Technique – a model for getting at expertise – identify a group of experts (entrepreneurs, business advisors, faculty staff) and ask them what the top ten characteristics of successful entrepreneurs might be.  All responses are anonymous.All rank them, then repeat.  Not sure how I would get from characteristics to concepts…

Action research would be an approach to the development of the EBM programme – perhaps combined with a Dephi Study – a staged design, a series of related studies (all publishable).

Transactional curriculum analysis – also include the student perspective, a longitudinal approach (focus groups, individual interviews – opportunity to try out visual research methods)

Ask about experiences or outcomes?  Analyse how the students talk about it.  What are the students’ reactions to the interventions?

Should the studies focus on Northumbria, the UK or wider?  What is my access to possible sources of research data like?

Consider what will work in terms of curriculum design.  Use an expert group of entrepreneurial educators.  Consider ethics – reciprocity might elicit cooperation.

Conclusion – which things work for what – repertory grid, consider concept maps and nominal group technique.

We finished with a brief discussion on forthcoming conferences.  Ray and Nicola recommended HECU8 – Higher Education Close Up, EARLI The Higher Education SIG, SRHE the early researchers pre-conference and main conference perhaps in preference to the Threshold Concept conference this summer if I fail to secure funding for it.