Risk, Deviance and Work


This is a write up of my most recent supervision meeting with Prof Ray Land and Dr Nicola Reimann.  It took place on 20th July 2016 in Ray’s office in Durham.  The weather was hot and a thunder storm was threatening, so I bought an umbrella on the way from the station.  The skies opened soon after I arrived, but I didn’t get to use my new umbrella.

We started with a brief catch up on Halifax – the Threshold Concepts Conference.  I was interested in the idea at the conference that not all so called Threshold Concepts were concepts.  This made me determined that my Threshold Concepts would actually be conceptual.  Ray said that soon after they had coined the term “Threshold Concepts” they wanted to change it to “Learning Thresholds” but the term Threshold Concepts had stuck and it was too late.

for example aquatic confidence has been defined as a threshold practice – not a concept.

He referred me to Bowden Baille & Meyer’s paper on Threshold Capabilities and David Perkins work on dispositions.

Nicola mentioned the work of Jamie Thompson et all on ELLI – Student Learning Dispositions, I definitely need to take another look at that, as this idea of agency seems to be really important.  The opposite of laziness – energy? fortitude?  The difference between people who recognise there is an opportunity but don’t take action, and those that do.  I’m not sure this is a concept so much as a critical entrepreneurial disposition.  There seem to be links to agency, learner power, psychological capital, positive psychology, self-determination and heuristics (“You are not so smart” D. McRaney) etc. etc. etc.

Ray reminded us that you cannot separate a concept from the change in subjectivity undergone by the person understanding the concept.  The ontological shift has to happen before the conceptual shift can happen.

We then went on to talk about whether dispositions can change? and Nicola asked what the impact of the context might have too.  If it is about dispositions – can they be changed – can they be learned?  this might imply that we need to select more carefully for the EBM programme…

I’m wondering if there might be a magic mixture or recipe of dispositions, characteristics, competencies, and context, and then the threshold concepts are like the instructions for how to put them all together.

Then we discussed whether risk would be seen as risk to a risk taker.  It’s this thing about being different from other people – you might not think it’s odd until you realise you’re the only one who thinks like that.  It’s only in contrast to social norms that deviance becomes apparent.  It’s defined by society.

Nicola mentioned espoused theories and theories in use when we touched on “being seen as an entrepreneur”.

She commented that the interview itself brings out certain constructions of being an entrepreneur.

We discussed briefly the media construction of entrepreneurs – and the impact of the celebrity culture.  The ones you see in the media are the ones who court celebrity – that doesn’t account for all entrepreneurs, its not a distinguishing characteristic.

The other big question I had was whether you could see and appreciate a threshold concept as such, if you had not crossed the threshold yourself?  Ray referred to the work of Etienne Wenger – who said in order to cross a threshold you must see a version of yourself on the other side.

Ray reminded me of Leif Martin’s paper in Halifax on complex thresholds – where there were apparently three different TC’s that needed to be crossed together – dealing with uncertainty, dealing with complexity and having the confidence to challenge.  They existed together, they came as a “job lot”.  That is also something to consider.

We moved on to discuss the interview transcript I had sent in advance.  Nicola reminded me that the transcripts needed to be anonymised at all stages in the analysis.  She suggested I thought of good pseudonyms instead of code numbers and started to use them straight away.  This would also have the added benefit of distancing me from what I already knew about my interview subjects, and other extraneous data.  If I could effectively foget who they really were I could perhaps get a purer look at what they were saying.

Nicola suggested that I might be able to find a typology of entrepreneurs – Type A, B C…

Ray thought there might be potential for a book in my thesis – he said there could be interest for a book that was about people talking, what people had actually said.  The quotes are certainly become compelling reading at least to me.  Or a magazine article.  Or a paper  – consensual model (can’t remember what I meant by that…).

I wondered whether Delphi Technique was a  quantitative or qualitative approach.  We talked about ways of describing data; qualitative data was rather described as trustworthy and credible rather than valid and reliable.

I propose taking a pragmatic approach and concentrating on the transcripts, coding them for concepts.  I’ve now completed three and although I ‘m coming up with concepts – I’m not coding for them….hmmmmm.  I seem to be coding for everything else but.

Nicola referred to Action Poetry – something that has practice limitations (D.Perkins)  How you understand something fairly quickly and then directly see possibilities for it.  I have to say I didn’t really get this so I’ll have to read up on Action Poetry to understand it better and how it might apply to my research.

Ray prompted me to follow up on Brad Wuetherick’s call for papers to form chapters for a book following the conference – and we agreed that next time we would discuss what my paper/chapter might usefully and realistically be about.  We mentioned a methodological approach, rather than findings.  So I need to do more thinking about all the possibilities and narrow down a few before my next supervision which is on Tuesday next week!




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.