Study Design Starting to Take Shape

Supervision Meeting Thursday 21st Jan 2016 10:30 – 12:10

I was feeling like life was starting to get back on track again after the winter vomiting bug paid a prolonged and untimely visit to our house (yuck) and the joint birthdays are now over.  All presents are opened and there are just the thank you letters to write.  A good thing about my birthday did mean I got a lovely little new laptop which was just as well as somehow (technology heh) my old University laptop took umbrage, and upped and died on me last night.

So a trip to Maplins to sort out displays this morning, old laptop admitted to laptop hospital, and all systems are fully operational now phew.

The first item on the agenda was to complete the funding application form to see if Durham will part fund my proposed trip to Canada this Summer to present (if my abstract is accepted) a paper on Threshold Concepts and the Threshold Concept conference.

I was delighted to receive notification last night that my Practitioner Development Workshop proposal had been accepted for the 3E conference in Leeds in May, so I need to apply for some money to get to that one from the subject group at Northumbria.  I also will need ethical approval for the data collection I want to do as part of this workshop from Northumbria and Durham -hopefully I will tick those jobs off today.  This is doubly exciting as it will be the first step in PhD data collection – earlier than planned, so feeling very good about that.

Nicola and Ray suggested Foundations that support entrepreneurship as a potential source of funding too – so I will explore this avenue.  I’m on a mission to promote Entrepreneurship Education, develop and support nascent Entrepreneurs, and Entrepreneurial Leaders of the future.

Previous to this meeting I had sent Ray and Nicola a provisional study design proposal for feedback and comments so our meeting was primarily structured around that.

Ray had delivered a seminar at Northumbria on the 20th Jan (Coach Lane) that unfortunately I had not managed to get to what with me being out celebrating my birthday and all, but he had had an interesting conversation about the LITTORAL space while there, something I had never heard of before.  This is usually taken to mean the inter-tidal space on the sea shore that is covered by the sea when the tide is in.  So this space is outside the jurisdiction of any country – it’s not part of the sea and it’s not part of the land.  Ray was musing around the differences between the liminal space and the littoral space – and wondered if Entrepreneurs could be said to exist in the littoral space – slightly outside the law.  We talked about other instances of occasions where the normal rules did not apply – say topless bathing OK on a beach, but not OK 10m away from the beach in a beach cafe/restaurant.  Or the rules in a Carnival or on a picnic be distinct but different.  Does the transgressive nature of entrepreneurship compare to the alteration of what’s OK/not OK in the littoral space?

I mentioned my conversation with Prof James Cunningham and a potential dilemma regarding choice of methodology and potential routed for post/during PhD publication. Educational Journals and Journals dedicated to all thing Entrepreneurial appear to favour different approaches, and I need to be aware of and happy with the implications of my methodological choices.

Then we got down to improving the design of my proposed study.


First of all we need a point of identification – where the threshold concepts are identified. Only expert entrepreneurs and their professional advisors are going to be involved at this stage, no one else has a valid opinion.  This will be done using the Delphi Technique.  The contact with the research participants may start with a request to “understand their journey or career path” – no mention necessarily of threshold concepts.  These will be derived from their responses.

Paper 1 could then be how the Dephi Study was done.


Second we need to explore how these threshold concepts are or could be incorporated into the curriculum and the curriculum design.  Are we delivering them or not at the moment?  At this stage I need to decide if I am concentrating on the Northumbria curriculum of the EBM programme and it is therefore an exercise in curriculum enhancement, or if I am looking to create some sort of analytical tool that is more widely applicable – and then use it to analyse the Northumbria Curriculum and share it with a wider community of practice and talk about its application on a wider scale.

Access to the data gathered in the Delphi study might be used in exchange for curriculum details at other HE institutions for the second stage.

Paper 2 could then be what we did to our curriculum as a result of the Delphi study.


Stage three would explore the student experience – perhaps in combination with stage 2?  Perhaps we could bring students and experts together somehow, but this might be over complicating things at this stage.  Perhaps it’s something we leave till later.  Perhaps for this thesis I could limit data collection to students of the EBM programme or explore expansion to include students of other Team Academy programmes?

Consider troublesomeness, liminality, what’s worked, what’s not worked.

Use  concept mapping technique, use a concept map as a mediating artifact, an enabler

Run a workshop to construct a concept map – constructivist experience, then conduct individual interviews to further understand and construct the concept map.  The concept map will represent graphically how the threshold concepts relate to each other.  Perhaps at the last stage we could invite entrepreneurs to comment on the map.

Or we could develop another concept map with the entrepreneurs and then compare the student map with the expert map.  Ray pointed me to the work of Ian Kinchin and David Hay, also Glynis Cousin.

Ray and Nicola recommended I got ethical approval at each stage, but presented the request in the context of the whole study.  Also they advised it would be sensible to stick to a smaller number of methods to keep things simple.

Educational Developers – Curriculum Redesign

Finally we need to undertake the exploration of further adjustments and recommendations for interventions.  Basically take the threshold concepts to educational developers to see what we can do with them.  It would be a validation of the proposed redesign, recommendations explored with all the stakeholder groups?  We could invite people to comment on the findings – eg with the Entrepreneur’s Forum for example, this would be further data and potentially further publishable results.The final stage (?) would be about the enactment of the curriculum.  Perhaps this might take the form of a workshop for educators, a symposium?  Dissemination, or offer reflections on dissemination.

For each section research questions should be clear and differentiated from questions to ask participants.

The literature review should cover ALL theories, and the methodology chapter/s need to cover all methods.  Consider the deliverables at each stage – parcel it up.  Overall then summarise what’s come out of it.

Some outcomes might include:

: Mapping of expertise

:Survey of current provision

Keep an eye on’s page for special issues on Threshold Concepts.

Ray recommended a paper by Steve McKendrick but I think I must have the name wrong (perhaps it is Stephen McHanwell), the papers on the subject of anatomy I can find on Mick Flanagan’s UCL web page [] are here  :

Smith, C. F., Martinez-Alvarez, C. and McHanwell, S. (2013) The context of learning anatomy: does it make a difference?,
Journal of Anatomy: Available to journal subscribers on-line, 12 AUG 2013; DOI: 10.1111/joa.12089.

McHanwell, S. (2012) Consensus statements and core syllabuses in anatomy: issues and validation,
Abstract for a presentation at the Joint Winter Meeting of the Anatomical Society, the British Association of Clinical Anatomists and the Institute of Anatomical Sciences, University of Cardiff, 19-21 December 2011, Journal of Anatomy, 221 (1), pp77-78.

McHanwell, S. and Smith, C.F. (2012) Teaching anatomy to students in professions allied to medicine,
Abstract for a presentation at the Joint Winter Meeting of the Anatomical Society, the British Association of Clinical Anatomists and the Institute of Anatomical Sciences, University of Cardiff, 19-21 December 2011, Journal of Anatomy, 221 (1), p77.

Nicola suggested emphasising the participatory element of the study as much as possible all the way through and to have notions of curriculum as a thread/framework for the content.

It’s also clear that a research question/questions are required for each stage of the research.

WP_000913At each stage the relevant research questions need to be clear and identified.

So for next time:

I need to write up the plan taking into account this meeting’s amendments and improvements.

Draft and submit all the ethics forms.