End of Year 2 – final supervision for 2016/17

R Barnett

I met with Ray only as Nicola was on leave.

Positionality – I need to include a discussion about this in my write up.  Who I am in relation to my research participants and the impact this has (positive and negative) on the data and the method).  There is a sensitivity about my position as I could be regarded as representing a competitor (Universities compete for students) and I’m gathering competitively sensitive data.  I am a Researcher and an Educator – and a business founder (in the past).  I need to acknowledge that I am moving between these different ways of seeing.

The purpose of Higher Education – Ray’s view is that it is to enable people to make informed evaluative judgements as a basis for effective decision making.

Are Threshold Concepts what I’m looking for – perhaps better termed “Learning Thresholds” in this context – the conceptual bit is difficult in this context.  Learning Thresholds are more dispositional.  I’m using Thresholds as an analytical tool for sense making.

Ray referred me to Michael Eraut – an the ideal of professional knowledge, declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge.  Also Perkin’s dispositions might be useful here.

Ray also mentioned the work of R. Barnett – the concept of open ontologies (vs fixed ontologies).  “Learning for an unknown future” 2004.

Threshold Concepts and their relation to competencies and learning outcomes.

PraxisFreire, P. Critical Pedagogy “Pedagogy for the Oppressed” – combining practice and knowledge and values.

Competencies are narrower and usually defined according to a well established knowledge base.  They originated as part of the National Vocational Qualifications as a measure of achievement.  Criticised for being a tick list and too reductionist.

Higher Education resisted competencies and agreed to Learning Outcomes, and the idea of constructive alignment, acknowledging that they needed to play the accountability game.  Threshold Concepts do not sit comfortably with learning outcomes – as LO’s imply a nice neat linear progression.

Universities are saying they are preparing students for an unknown future but how can they if they are reliant on learning outcomes, which by definition are predefined?  Espoused theory versus theory in use.

Eisner’s expressive objectives might also be useful here.  Useful in complex situations where outcomes are difficult to predict.  All you can do is design the encounters that you want your students to have.  The curriculum is a set of encounters.

Ray also mentioned Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the concept of Flow.  Perhaps artists are in a state of Flow rather than liminality?  (When they say that they are not intended to cross a threshold, because liminality is where they are creative).

Also Shulman – pedagogies of uncertainty, how might this apply to EE programmes?

Perhaps for the student phase of data collection I could ask what it’s like to be a student on one of these EE programmes in the current climate?  Paradox of quality models, QAA frameworks, various league tables and quality criteria in the context of an uncertain future.  DO they see the point of it all?  What does it feel like?  Are they venturing into strange places?  Do they want to?

Reminded me of “bounded instability” and the Organisational Design mind bending development programme I went on at P&G.






Time to take stock – what’s the point of Ent.Ed?

motoway services

Currently charging around the country, furiously collecting data from entrepreneurship educators, I’m getting an increasing feeling of needing to stop and make sense of it all.  I’ve had a skype call with others doing TC related doctoral research, presented a paper at our faculty conference, attended an Enterprise and Entrepreneurship event run by the Westminster Forum for Higher Education and visited 4 other Higher Educational institutions to gather data, as well as interviewing my colleagues at Northumbria (plus the day job!).

People have been extraordinarily kind and generous in offering their time and sharing their own programme materials.  I’m wondering if there’s something peculiar to Enterprise and entrepreneurship education that could explain this at least in part, but I’ll come back to that.

I’m accumulating piles and pile of data, but I’m not sure what questions I’m really trying to answer any more…definitely time to take a break from gathering and spend some time ordering and thinking and writing.

Key questions coming from my Annual Progression were:

  1. How is success defined for a Enterprise/Entrepreneurship initiative in HE?  and should it be defined?

Is it “learning” (measured by achievement of defined learning outcomes and number of good degrees)?  How are the learning outcomes chosen?  Are they the right ones?  What is the justification for their choice?

Is it number/size/turnover of new business start ups?

Destination of leavers from Higher Education (DLHE)

Is it student numbers? Drop out rates? Student satisfaction scores?

Is it in the subjective the opinion of the educators?

Is it an increase in entrepreneurial intention?

Our means of measuring success will dictate how we design the programme curriculum and what we put emphasis on.

This question leads on to the bigger question of

2. What is the purpose of Higher Education?

3. Can a field such as Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education have threshold concepts in the same way that an academic discipline like Maths does?

4. How can I ensure that I move beyond “journalism” in presenting my findings – what am I contributing?

Will I need to not only make recommendations for curriculum design, but implement them and report on the findings?

Could I create a new model/framework for enterprise and entrepreneurship education?

5. How do Threshold Concepts relate to competencies? Learning outcomes?

6. Am I being too ambitious in looking across the whole field of enterprise and entrepreneurship?  Should I concentrate on one aspect of it?

So to recap then, my current thinking is that an entrepreneur is defined by the act of founding a business.  It may be argued that not all business founders are entrepreneurs, and not all entrepreneurs are business founders.

Entrepreneurship could be defined as the collection of competencies, skills, attitudes, mind-set, knowledge…commonly associated with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial behaviour in any context.

A doctor practices medicine,

An artist practices art using skills in artistry

A musician practices music,

An accountant practices accountancy, using  skills in accounting

A marketeer practices marketing, using skills in marketing

An entrepreneur practices entrepreneurship, behaves entrepreneurially, using enterprising skills and knowledge of business start up

So perhaps that (enterprising skills and knowledge of business start up) is what we need to develop in our students of enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Success is measured by the extent to which we do that.  So we perhaps need a before and after measure of enterprising skills and knowledge of business start up.

By learning the practice of entrepreneurship (= enterprising skills and knowledge of business start up) the authentic, informed and grounded intention to start up a business (or not) is revealed.  Any measure of entrepreneurial self-efficacy or intention to start a business can be argued to be unreliable at the start of any enterprise or entrepreneurship educational initiative, or perhaps even incubator/accelerator, as people are not informed enough to know.

They move from not knowing what they don’t know (unconscious incompetence) and being swept up by media and society stereotypes, to knowing what they don’t know (conscious incompetence) which could see a significant drop in entrepreneurial intention.  Then for those that are still interested – they would move to conscious competence and then unconscious competence (could this be equated with expertise?)

Vocational education assumes intention – why would you take a course on hairdressing if you didn’t want to be a hairdresser?  There will of course be drop outs – people who realise it’s not for them afterall, but that is not a measure of the quality of the education surely.

So we must not treat entrepreneurship/enterprise education as vocational – because we can’t assume intent.  We deliberately say that our programmes are not just for people who want to start their own business now or sometime in the future.

Higher Education delivers professional education for lawyers, doctors, accountants… and non-vocational education like English, Maths, Biology; but not vocational training such as hairdressing, bricklaying, electricians, plumbers…

Trouble is  – what’s entrepreneurship?  A sort of profession, vocation and academic discipline…it is attempting to meet the objectives of both the utilitarian approach to education and a transformational (normative?) approach (Collini – extending and deepening human understanding).  A utilitarian approach in Higher Education taken to the extreme could be described as the means without the ends (wasn’t me who made that up – can’t remember who…)

Perhaps Value Creation is the Learning Threshold of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship – satisfying the utilitarians (Jeremy Bentham), the transformers (virtue, virtue ethics, MacIntyre) and the pragmatists (Dewey, Obama).

Perhaps people get excited about EE because it is a way of enhancing lives – helping others find their place in the world, making a contribution to society…