On Thursday of SAB week 8th June I recorded my first group interview with educators. As I was reading up about the various frameworks I could use to collect data at this stage of the study I managed to build a list of 48 questions – BIG questions. The prospect of managing to ask them all, and to get meaningful answers in a group interview situation of about two hours or less – was nil. I made a pretty feeble attempt at cutting them down and ended up with 40, but I felt I was still being unrealistic, however my preference was to give it a go. I have never been one to dedicate too much consideration to any particular course of action before jumping in. That’s why I hate chess – it forces me to think more than one step ahead, and hold multiple possibilities in my head at the same time. Arghhh.
The key areas to cover in the group interview were:
- The nature of involvement and responsibilities regarding teaching entrepreneurship
- Ontological assumptions underpinning the teaching of entrepreneurship – the educator’s conceptions about themselves, the students, teaching and the knowledge to be taught
- Operational elements characterising the teaching of entrepreneurship – teaching goals, forms of evaluation, pedagogical methods and means, knowledge emphasised, forms of evaluation, engagement, experiential learning
- A section of questions on operational elements focusing on threshold concepts – what’s fundamental to teaching entrepreneurship, curriculum design that helps/hinders, student misunderstandings, areas of troublesome knowledge, mimicry, mastery, transformations, thinking as an entrepreneur, novice versus expert
- Support infrastructure – academic autonomy, physical space, institutional support/ constraint, status, coordination, financial arrangements, student funding
- Archetype – Supply/Demand/Competence
- A section of questions asking for opinion on findings from entrepreneurs
Those are the things I want to know – but what is the best way to find them out considering the constraints of my research participants in terms of available time?
In my pilot group interview, we took two hours and got through 33 questions, missing the questions on archetype and review of the findings from entrepreneurs. So pretty big omissions – arguably meaning that my research objectives at this stage might not be met.
The participants commented that they had found the process interesting but the questions were very big and complicated and might need more explanation and paraphrasing. Perhaps I could include examples to illustrate the questions, or use the vignette format to help.
I must ensure that I get at their perspectives on the concepts of entrepreneurship and how they teach them. Then I can consider if there threshold type concepts in there – I can hone in on the transformational elements of any potential threshold concepts.
I need to ask what has informed the design of the curriculum? Why do we do it like we do? What has informed the design of the curriculum? Then I can analyse what they have said and draw conclusions about the existence or otherwise of “threshold” concepts.
I need to choose what I can reasonably ask in the likely time available and I do not have time to ask all the questions I want. I need to think of other ways of getting the data I want. The two main parts are:
- What educators think is important
- What educators think about what the entrepreneurs said
In other words, are the stages of my study cumulative or am I triangulating the results from the entrepreneurs and the educators? My preference is to concentrate on the views of the educators in their own right, and their views on the learners’ perspective. In other words – I am not taking a cumulative approach but treating the collection of these two data sets as being independent.
We discussed this in my supervision session on 13th June just prior to the AP conference sessions.
By asking educators what they think is important for students to learn on entrepreneurship programmes and why avoids the issue of potentially presenting the entrepreneurs’ perspective as the expert and “right” one. I can focus on the educator’s view of the student perspective – what don’t the students “get”? What do the educators find hard to teach? How do they recognise when students have “got it”? I must also consider the documentary evidence – does it add up to what the educators are saying they do? I could review the documentation supporting the initiatives in advance and then probe them at interview – but the likelihood of me having the capacity to do this is slim I fear.
I need to differentiate aspects associated with graduateness and employability and that associated with the specific subject area – entrepreneurship.
Nicola suggested perhaps I might seek the educators’ perspectives on the candidate TC’s as developed from the entrepreneur interviews in the form of a questionnaire. I could ask them to annotate and compare – do something off-line and separate to the interview. The group interview format might be inhibiting – do I want to get at the “backstage” knowledge and how might I do this? The “real” story about how the curricula were put together, why certain things are there and other things are not…
In terms of comparison to the entrepreneur data…essentially I’m asking the educators “What’s going on?” and then looking to see how close is it to what the entrepreneurs said, where is it not similar? Should it be similar? Perhaps there is a justifiable difference between the views of the educators and the views of the entrepreneurs? Certainly the students are pre-nascent entrepreneurs and perhaps they need to learn different things. The entrepreneurs were selected for their expertise – important concepts for them may be different. What’s the temporal aspect to all this? Do the threshold concepts change over time and journey to becoming an expert?
I’m certainly not looking for a definitive answer to the question “How do entrepreneurs think?” I’m examining that question from various perspectives – the entrepreneurs and the educators (who in some cases have also been entrepreneurs). I can also consider if there is a fit between the perspectives of the educators and the entrepreneurs – is that ok? is that not ok?
Ray mentioned matter vs art – “mis-matched frame” Not sure if this is the right link but it seems to be on the right track
Nicola also suggested using other visual data gathering methods such as the Diamond Ranking method – sorting type tasks to get at the educators’ perspective of what the entrepreneurs said. This might add variety and therefore maintain engagement of the research participants. I like this a lot and think I might use it at IEEC2017.
In addition I think I definitely need to have a section on the philosophy of education and the purpose and function of higher education. Is it to keep people off the streets? Is it to teach people to learn how to learn? Is it to develop expertise? Is it to create business founders? Is it to increase the number of business startups? Is it to maximise chances of employment?
The educator interviews will concentrate on the educators’ perspectives and their perspectives of the students – not on what they think about what the entrepreneurs said.
I will develop a visual data collection method to elicit the views of the educators on what the entrepreneurs said.
I will group the questions into areas and know the key questions in each group and the overall purpose of each group so I can manage time accordingly in the group interview situation.
I will test the findings for distinctiveness to this subject area – not applicable in general to higher education and/or employability.