So much to read!

My reflections on the educator interview data appeared to be boiling down into two potential interpretative perspectives:

  1. Using Bloom’s taxonomy of learning (or another more appropriate taxonomy), specifically (with Bloom) the dimension of affective knowledge and attitudes – examining how these things are developed in students.
  2. Using the educator’s view of the purpose of entrepreneurship education – their philosophy of education to define their approach to doing it.  Threshold concepts would depend on the educators’ views of the purpose of entrepreneurship and enterprise education in a higher educational context.  This would be where the About/Through/For perspective would emerge, and also the development across the continuum of pedagogy/andragogy/heutagogy….

So all excited after thinking these thoughts, and having just read a paper:

Neck, H. M., & Corbett, A. C. (2018). The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy1(1), 8-41.

which both seemed to summarise my own conclusions and help further unravel some of my problems with drawing conclusions from the educator data I was stopped short in my tracks when Nicola and Julie were not aware of the term heutagogy, that I had been introduced to a couple of years ago at an ISBE conference.  It had popped up again in the paper I referred to above.

Ped And Heut

created by Jon Andrews cited in Gerstein, J. (2016). User Generated Education [accessed on 6/02/18]

I had assumed that this was a term coined by scholars in education but things are never that simple are they?  Of course there are subgroups of education scholars each with their own set of terms and epistemologies.  It revealed a cultural divide between scholars of adult education and scholars of higher education.  It was revealing I think, and exciting too because perhaps it indicates a rich seam to be mined – applying SOTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) in Higher Education to enterprise and entrepreneurship education.  So far people in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise education seems to be drawing on the adult education sector – it will be interesting to look at it from the higher educational perspective.

They referred me instead to Transformative Learning and Social Readiness, the work of Neut Alaris? – but I think I must have misheard – when I searched on these terms I came up with Jack Mezirow – Transformative Learning theory.  Hopefully I’m on the right track – it looks very interesting even if that was the intended reference and will be good to compare with the theory of threshold learning concepts.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. Jossey-Bass, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104-1310.

This lead into a conversation about adult learners – mature students, which appears to be the view prevalent from enterprise education.

They also referred me to Linda Martindale’s thesis

Martindale, L. (2015). Threshold concepts in research and evidence-based practice: Investigating troublesome learning for undergraduate nursing students (Doctoral dissertation, Durham University).

which talks about relating “ways of thinking and practicing” to threshold concepts.

Nicola mentioned the concept of democratic education – and the work of Gert Biesta which also looks really relevant and interesting – so much to read!

so many books

I think this will be relevant to the educator’s views of the purpose of education and their own role.

Depending on your view of your purpose, your view of threshold concepts would be different.

So in that case, I would not discuss the educators’ “list” of threshold concepts – but the idea of using threshold concept theory as a pedagogical approach, predicated on developing student understanding.

Nicola and Julie were hesitant regarding the usefulness of Bloom in this context and referred me rather to the SOLO taxonomy of Briggs.

Biggs, J. B., & Collis, K. F. (2014). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome). Academic Press.


Moseley, D. (2005). Frameworks for thinking: A handbook for teaching and learning. Cambridge University Press.

Which is a handy reference for a range of approaches. Definitely one I need to get!

They recommended the work of James Atherton who examines the relationship between Higher and Adult Education – but I can’t find anything on Google Scholar by him that looks relevant here?


Trigwell, K., Prosser, M., & Waterhouse, F. (1999). Relations between teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning. Higher education37(1), 57-70.


Prosser, M., & Trigwell, K. (1999). Understanding learning and teaching: The experience in higher education. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

for assumptions about learners, deep and surface approaches, educator/student centered learning, and behavioural approaches – different conceptions of learning and teaching.

We discussed the relevance of using a taxonomy and I think it merits some further thought – perhaps exploring the stages of learner readiness for example.

We discussed the significance of the educators’ focus on student attitude – and whether attitude was affective or is it about conceptual understanding?

We explored the significance of learning context – and the continuum of learning about/though/for. Entrepreneurship educators perhaps adapt their approaches according to the context of the intervention – you focus on different things if you have 2 hours or 12 weeks, if you are teaching an extra curricular module or a core option…In addition the context of the educational initiative would influence and be influenced by the student readiness in each context.

Perhaps there’s a model in of approaches to teaching and learning

We need to consider what the learner brings and the relationship between the curriculum and student readiness.  What assumptions does the curriculum make about student readiness?  This is overlaid with what the educator regards as do-able and the tension resulting from teaching groups of students in various states of readiness.  In disciplines where learning outcomes are fuzzier (such as entrepreneurship), students are starting from different places and ending in different places.  Although I’m sure all educators would relate to this particular challenge.

This is not very evident in the current threshold concept literature – student readiness – what the learner brings.  Readiness also has to do with scaffolding – the building blocks.  This links to communities of practice – allowing people to be on the periphery – scaffolding students into the curriculum.  It is legitimate peripheral participation – developing people to become self-regulated learners, to become autonomous learners.

We returned to the subject of attitude –  the link to affect and the literature on positive psychology – whose definition of affect?  Whose definition of attitude?  Perhaps I could revisit the entrepreneur interview data to look for evidence of attitude?  I need to define attitude and perhaps coin a new term from the interview data that is less loaded.

Julie defined attitude as ,”a behavioural manifestation of a belief or way of being“.  This clearly links to ontology, and is values based.

Affective – could be about resilience, hope etc (the work of Peter Felton) or

Affective – could be about motivation and a more psychological definition.

Julie did not see the pursuit of attitude as an alternative to an approach building on threshold concept theory, as attitude links to a willingness to enter a liminal state.  Julie is interested in the relationship between attitude and belief.

We moved on to talk in more detail about some of the concepts I had highlighted from the educator data such as entrepreneurial self-efficacy – false and authentic.  Julie and Nicola questioned whether entrepreneurial self-efficacy was too big to be a threshold concept.  They referred me to the work of Fiona Watson, who has attempted to illustrate the relationship between threshold concepts and troublesomeness. In the next phase of data collection,  I could then perhaps invite students to identify both threshold concepts and attitudes of entrepreneurship and explain their relationships.

We also discussed if attitudes were coming through so strongly for the educators because they were working with the students in a particular phase of their entrepreneurial journey.  For students – the attitude is important.  For Entrepreneurs – it’s the conceptual stuff that’s more salient.  Different things have more relevance to people at different stages of their entrepreneurial journeys.

Perhaps it’s less about knowing (cognitive) and being (affective) but understanding that you could know and be – metacognition.  At the end of a course or degree in entrepreneurship, the aim could be to know whether or not you want to be an entrepreneur (rather than the aim being to be an entrepreneur).

We also briefly touched on self-regulation – so that would be about giving the students all they needed –  to know if they wanted to be an entrepreneur.

So now – planning the student data collection phase and continuing to analyse the educator data, and of course – lots of reading!







Data wrestling


At my last supervision, Julie and Nicola had been really keen for me to get to grips with my educator data before embarking on collecting the data for my student phase.  I was reluctant but I didn’t really know why.   I was keen to press on and get all the data collected that’s for sure and that means the student data, but I also was wary of the educator data I had collected.  I was aware of many problems with it:

  • In almost every case the interviews had been too long – I had had too many questions, and felt I had really stretched the generosity of my participants.
  • I had been wearing two hats – one Programme Leader hat where I was really keen to find out how other people did their Entrepreneurship Educator job and compare it to how I did mine.  Actually there were three hats – me as a Programme Leader, me as Northumbria University – benchmarking with other Universities, and finally me as a researcher.  The researcher hat I think was not sufficiently firm on my head.
  • I was also aware that the concepts of the academic field of entrepreneurship hadn’t emerged very clearly, if at all.  The interviews were much more wide ranging and complex than the interviews with the entrepreneurs.  The educators had a much more complicated job to do in more complicated working environment.  Or at least that’s what came over in the interviews.
  • My research questions had slipped – I hadn’t been consistent either in the questions I had asshadowked.  I had missed some, added others…the whole research project had moved from what had originally been planned.  I had intended to conduct a largely paper based research exercise, but quickly realised that the documentation was a faint shadow of what was being delivered on the ground.  So had moved to practice.


So I knuckled down and took my supervisors’ advice and realised that all my fears had been grounded!  On the first reading of the first interview I made hand written notes of some themes that I could spot.  The list quickly ballooned and covered a very wide range of themes/categoried.  Too wide perhaps to cope with.

I tried again with the same interview on Nvivo11 but I was daunted by the prospect of coding all the pages and pages of interview data I had using this long (and getting longer) list of possible codes.  For every code I added, I remembered that that would mean going back to the beginning again and coding with this new code in the mix.  This was making me reluctant to add new codes and constraining my interpretation of the data.

I then went back to my research questions and chose to have another go but this time just coding against themes relevant to the research questions.  This felt wrong too – I was ignoring so much of what people had said.  I couldn’t believe there was data which was of no relevance at all!  This is something I am going to have to grapple with – binning or setting aside lots of data.  What a waste!  A waste of the participants’ time, a waste of my time, a waste of transcription time/money!

So with this in mind, I decided to have another go – but this time coding everything again on Nvivo – as I had done at the start.  Perhaps I would not use some of the themes in the thesis write up – but perhaps I would write other papers or draw other useful conclusions from them.  I pressed on coding more interviews and the picture started to become clearer.  Rather than continually returning to the start every time a I created a new code, I carried on.  I figure that it’s not quantitative research – I won’t need to say the number of times that this or that particular theme came up – even if only one person said something relevant it’s valid.  I still have a lot of reading to do around the treatment of qualitative data, and the rationale behind the my methodology and method of analysis.

As I coded I became increasingly confused between the nature of and the relationships between concepts, traits, mindset, attitudes, learning outcomes, competences, types, personality, paradigm, approach….I will need to define these terms for myself.

The other problem that was emerging from the data analysis was lack of evidence of the threshold-ness of the concepts the educators were talking about.  I had asked them for the “fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship” – but not why they thought they were fundamental.  I had asked what students struggled with as evidence of troublesomeness – so perhaps that would give me some supporting evidence.  Did I need supporting evidence – was it enough that the educators thought a concept was fundamental?

I decided to write up a summary of the themes emerging from the interview I was coding at the time as a way of preparing for my next supervision.  This seemed to work much better for me.  I could draw themes from the interview data and start to see the possible approaches I might take in presenting the findings.  So I developed that and sent it off to Durham.

I was also aware that I had promised to write up the interview data for the participants – this was becoming long overdue.  I have managed to do one so far and it was a useful exercise.  So I will get the others done.  I will.

However, they may have to wait until I have made a first pass coding the educator interview data and collected the student data (currently scheduled for March in two locations).

I did start to become more reassured as I read more of the interview transcripts that I hadn’t completed messed up the interviews.  I had asked the questions I had intended to – however participants often answered different questions, or spent more time answering questions that I had intended to be more peripheral.  The emphasis was different but all the constituent parts were there.  They had done a lot of talking.

The educators appear to be far more concerned with the development of their students than the number of successful student startups – unsurprisingly.  They are person focused, rather than output/subject focussed.  Consequently this might explain why many felt unable to generalise at all, as each student is different and the response to the educational initiative is likely to very with the individual.  What is threshold concept for one student may not be for another.  They are more concerned I think with the scholarship of teaching and learning than necessarily with the subject matter (entrepreneurship).  They appear to be primarily educators, rather than enterprise or entrepreneurship educators.

Ways of thinking and practicing are mentioned – certainly the cognitive knowledge content is not centre stage – educators are more focussed on the development of particular student attitudes.

These attitudes are cultivated through practical experience of commercial activities.

Perhaps TC’s are ways of thinking – how do ways of thinking relate to attitudes?  Perhaps separately the emerging TC’s or attitudes are not distinctive to entrepreneurship but together they are.

So – on to my next supervision hopefully to work out if I am on the right track unravelling and wrestling with my educator interview data.