Happy New Year!


The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

In preparation for my supervision on 20th Jan 2017

  • I sketched out a plan for a paper on the Delphi part of my study and started to filling in paragraphs under the subheadings
  • I summarised the data from the Delphi so far
  • I put together some notes on my thoughts regarding the second part of my study, concerning the educators.

I also planned out my deadlines for this year.

  • Finish off the self-selecting students paper with Angus (nothing to do with my PhD, but a conference paper that will just fade away unless I do something with it to get it published.  We need a self imposed deadline, say end Feb 2017.
  • Finish the Delphi paper for BAM and submit by 28th Feb 2017.
  • Turn it into a Chapter (Entrepreneurship Education: New Perspective on research, policy and practice) for submission  by 30th April 2017.
  • Turn it into a journal article and submit (May 2017)
  • Present it to the Entrepreneurs Forum (October 2017)
  • Turn in into a key note speech for Portugal (November 2017)

So my current priorities are to finish the Delphi paper for BAM, and clarify my approach for the 2nd task of my study – collecting data from the Educators.

I had posted on twitter and LinkedIn (a personal post and also to the Enterprise Educators group) the following question,

“I’m looking for your opinion on the best UG entrepreneurship progs (whole modules or whole progs – not extra curricular activities or self-employed placement years) in the UK please. Best is subjective I know – and I’m not trying to construct a league table or anything. But perhaps you could think of “best” in terms of best at developing an understanding of entrepreneurship in students. I’m looking to create a group of programmes I can study for my next research task in my thesis. Ideally they would also be friendly and let me have access to their course materials and be interviewed too!”

So far I have had some extremely helpful answers.  I was also asked to give the title of my PhD research…so this is what I said it was at the moment,

“A transactional curriculum inquiry, using the lens of threshold concepts, to design and develop undergraduate entrepreneurship curriculum.”

Ray and Nicola mentioned the 3 Rivers Conference – which I need to investigate and decide whether to include in my plans.

We discusses the results from the Delphi and I explain by decisions regarding the vote I had gone back to my participants with.  Nicola suggested tracking back form the dissenters to what they said in their interviews – that could provide some very interesting insights.  So really I should keep all my candidate TC’s in the frame throughout the study and allow each of the respective participant groups (educators & students & entrepreneurs) to hold their respective positions, and then make sense of it all at the end.

I could explore the impact of the words – for example “Deviance”.

It may also be useful for me to track down a friendly statistician to give a perspective on sampling, sample size and the effect of  going from a scale to a vote – perhaps it had a polarising effect?  This might be a known artificial effect and a feature of the question design rather than the question content.  To do with the design of the measurement instrument.

For the 2nd stage of the Delphi I got 12/13 responses, for the third and final stage I got 10/12 responses.  I have chased, but I really don’t want to pester and risk damaging the relationship I have with the research participants who have already given up so much of their time.

I was asked to consider the possible impact on a curriculum if I hadn’t conducted phases 2 and 3 of the Delphi – so just had my analysis of the interviews – I would have had 9 Threshold Concepts, rather than the 5 I feel I currently have consensus on.  So my data is more robust and I also have an indicator of the level of consensus on all of them, and an opportunity to track back within the data to consider the reasons perhaps for the dissenters to dissent.

The concepts where there is dissent may be equally interesting from a curriculum point of view.  Students could be asked to consider how relevant they feel the concepts are – these ones include more tensions and complexities perhaps.

So moving on to consider the educators now.  We discussed presenting the current list to them and asking where they felt they appeared in their curriculum.  I felt that this might be interpreted as scrutiny and could possibly result in a defensive response.  Alternatively – people might feel included to find things that weren’t actually there, in order to pass what they might feel was a test of some sort of quality.  So we agreed that I should ask them a similar question to the entrepreneurs; perhaps something like,

“What are the concepts that students must grasp in order to understand entrepreneurship?”

or perhaps;

“What concepts are critical to an understanding of entrepreneurship in students?” 

need to work at that I think…. haven’t got it quite right yet.  But the principle will be to ask first and reveal later.  So in this way I won’t queer my pitch.

I’m planning to also look at the documentation and then go back to the respondents.  Nicola was concerned at how big a job this could turn out to be.  I need to find a way to do it that’s manageable.  I think I might just stick to the assignment briefs.  Maybe from the last 2 years, or maybe even just from the final year.  Nicola suggested I start off with the documentation for the EBM programme, effectively using it as a pilot.  I could conceptualise it as a pilot in my write up and make it an integral part of the study.

Assessment is core to Task 2.  Assessment briefs and assessment criteria.  Bear in mind that there is no documentation standard, so I cannot assume that everything that is included in the Northumbria Assessment Briefs will be included in other people’s so I may need to request things more specifically.  I need to have an “other” category – “Is there anything else that you think I should see that would be relevant to my research?”

Factors that are relevant to assessment include Authenticity – this is where I will find the tacit assumptions.

I am assuming that an  understanding of the Threshold Concepts will mean an understanding of entrepreneurship.  Is this a fair assumption?  I doubt the TC’s tell the whole story.  It’s more like “and understanding of the TC’s of entrepreneurship will enable you to understand what’s distinctive about the way entrepreneurs think.  This will give you an understanding the practice of entrepreneurship.  But it’s also affected by context/structure, personality and ability”

I suggested that there might be room for more threshold concepts to emerge from this stage with the educators as there maybe threshold concepts that are relevant to developing an understanding of entrepreneurship – in addition to the threshold concepts relevant to understanding entrepreneurship.  (Thought I understood this idea at the time, in the conversation with my supervisors, but it doesn’t appear so clear to me now…)  I think it was perhaps that there might be threshold concepts that are distinct to an understanding of entrepreneurship in the educational environment that may not exist in the regular operating environment of the practising entrepreneur.

I will also need to consider if there is constructive alignment – but constructive alignment to what?  How have the programmes been designed in the first place?  Along the QAA guidelines or what?  Who decided what to include and what not to include and why?  Who decided how to teach it and why?

I would be useful to get copies of completed assignments and to see what attracts the marks.  How is good performance defined?  How are the students performing?  Performance might be an appreciation of the performance of entrepreneurship.  The difference between being an entrepreneur and doing entrepreneurship, and being a student of entrepreneurship and developing an understanding of entrepreneurship might be compared to the difference between courses in Art (in order to become an artist) and  courses in the History of Art (in order to become an expert in art, in order to develop an understanding of art).  Or going to a Conservatoire (to become a professional musician) and studying music at University (to develop an understanding of music.)

Ray mentioned the concept of

Front Stage – Back Stage – Understage (Gothman – the presentation of self in everyday life)goffman

It will be important to consider this when I decide what to ask the educators for.

I will need to consider

  • What are they willing to give me?
  • What is easy for them to let me have?

What I ask for need to be something they are willing to give, and easy to give.

It may prove difficult to see student assignments so I will need to investigate that.  I’m hoping that people might give me access to samples sent to external examiners, as these have already been prepared for sharing.  I could prepare a sample letter for educators to use to seek permission from the students to share their work.  But first I need to ascertain if this is really necessary.

  • I remembered a conversation with Jamie Bassett from St Martins at BAM in 2015 about “the uncertainty project” – to pass you have to fail at some point.  Student define success and failure and then have to push themselves to succeed to the point at which they fail.  I have emailed him to see if he would be willing to participate as an educator.

My supervisors also warned me against using a deficit model with providers – i.e. looking for the places where they are not doing it properly.

I also need to prepare ethics forms to seek approval for this next stage.  Perhaps that’s what I should aim at having completed before my next supervision on 15th Feb.














What’s consensus?


Jurgen Habermas

I met with Ray and Nicola on Thursday 15th December 2016.

I had received and collated responses from the first round of the Delphi but things weren’t going as smoothly as I had hoped.  What was I going to do with the responses?  I couldn’t keep asking the same question until I got everyone to give me the same answer.  When could I claim to have achieved consensus?

My two Delphi expert advisors in Newcastle had really put a spanner in the works but suggesting that what I was doing was a survey and not a Delphi study.

ACTION: include a section on what consensus means in my methodology.

Jürgen Habermas – (philosophy) – the key thing is the process.  So as long as I have attempted to gather data in a way which is ethical and in a way in which power doesn’t affect the outcome.  The process is more important than the outcome.  Link to democracy where the aspiration is consensus, it is something that we strive towards.  What is the difference between consensus and unanimity?

I need to read up more on Delphi studies and see what they have done, particularly those doing qualitative research.

Threshold Concepts must be transformative – and to involve integration (do they?)

We discussed what I could go back to my panel with.  What question/s I might ask them.

Bear in mind that I am not making a universal claim (not nomothetic) – idiographic but illuminative, about a specific group.

I mentioned that a Spider Diagram had been suggested to me as a possible way forward, with an invitation to comment.

 Something like, “I am interested in having a consensus – a few things are coming out as critical (to thinking as an entrepreneur”

“Do you think this is a credible representation of what you’re saying?”

Don’t use percentages as this gives the impression of quantitative analysis, stick to the raw data.  Separate out the comments of the dissenters and explore the perspectives of them more.

Use nominal rather than ordinal scales.  “4” is completely different to “5”.  So it’s not really a scale.  Call them bands, more similar to a multiple choice range of possible responses.  More like – “What’s your favourite fruit? Apples, pears, oranges, grapes”. Apples are not the opposite of grapes, or even the most different.  There is no discernable pattern for ranking.

Respondents may have perceived them as an ordinal scale.

Consider how people conceptualise something that is socially constructed.  It’s also about behaviour.

What entrepreneurs value (and believe).  It’s a social phenomenon.  Make a virtue of the lack of pattern in the ranking question.

There are three potential threshold concepts where I might be able to claim consensus: opportunity, risk and focus.


I can start to consider how I might bring this to the focus of the students?

Perhaps plot where respondents are on the Venn Diagram?


The boundaries of the sectors in the Venn Diagram have permeable boundaries.

It was noted that much of what the Entrepreneurs were commenting on was about AGENCY.  To what extent does structure (entrepreneurial ecosystem – organisation – economic environment etc.) influence agency?

ACTION: Include sections on Agency and Structure and how they interrelate.

Critical Realism: Lev Vygotsky – all learning is social – could be an inner dialogue.

Relationship between structure and language

How do Agency and Structure influence each other?  Does one have a stronger influence than the other?  If it’s a scale, where do I position myself on it?

“Structuration”  What is the relationship between the dance and the dancer?

Nicola recommended doing some more reading on Delphi Studies before going back to my panel.  Aiming at the New Year (SOON!)

Perhaps rather than calling this process a Delphi Study – I could refer to a refined tool for use in qualitative questions.

Next time: formulate a research question for the educators.(20th Jan)