Maybe the middle of the end

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75th anniversary of the D Day landings today hence the WW2 propaganda poster!

I met Julie alone today as Nicola was away.  Since our last meeting I had sent Julie and Nicola drafts of my method and methodology chapters and managed to squeeze out a final chapter too.  I’d had email feedback and pencil notes on hard copies back.

I put all the chapters together in one document and then split them all up again.  Top tip – don’t put all your chapters together into one document until you have absolutely stopped fiddling with the text!  It feels so much more manageable and navigable in chapters, such a relief to have it back in bits again.  Plus the time it takes to save each document and the time taken by endnote to catch up with each reference change is massively reduced.

Julie suggested that I should leave the final chapter alone and revisit all the other ones getting my argument / story straight.  I am therefore now aiming to send Julie and Nicola all my chapters (separately) apart from the final one before my next supervision.  We can then discuss them and the final chapter.  Then I can have another better go at the final chapter.  Or I might find that comes along with the others ones too.  We’ll see.

I realised that having read Dunleavy’s “Authoring a PhD” and Murray’s “How to write a thesis” I had tried to summarise the whole thing in the final chapter, rather than drawing out the main points in each chapter.  Thus frustrating my reader by giving them stuff again that they already knew when all they really wanted to read was my findings.  Readers will want to get there quicker.  Julie suggested I could distill several paragraphs into one.

She said my method chapter was better now but my methodology needed tweaking once I’d got my central argument straight.  So what is my central argument you might ask?

Am I identifying the threshold concepts of entrepreneurship?

or

Am I using the threshold concept framework to demarcate entrepreneurship?

and the answer is…

I am using the threshold concept framework as a lens, or analytic tool to demarcate entrepreneurship.  So I am most interested in the integrative and bounded nature of  threshold concepts, and am using these characteristics to define the boundary of the subject.

The integrative and bounded nature of threshold concepts give cohesion to the subject of entrepreneurship.  This links to what I have been talking about in terms of episteme and identity in the thesis

So I am not so much interested in the threshold concepts of entrepreneurship (in fact there might be not such things definitively in any case), but I have identified some potential ones, or some candidate ones which help determining the distinctive nature of entrepreneurship.

Julie recommended “Education – the anatomy of the discipline” (Furlong ,2013) as a useful text in this context, as I will need to add a bit on the literature concerning what a discipline is.  Just to demonstrate I know that there is one, but not necessarily to cover it in any depth.

We talked about the relationship between entrepreneurship and skills and abilities.  Julie made the distinction that “entrepreneurship isn’t something you can turn off”. Unlike, say, team working skills.  You don’t do team working all the time, but you do do entrepreneurship all the time if it is interpreted as a way of thinking, a way of seeing the world.

We also talked about the key difference between PRACTICE (noun) and PRACTISE (verb).  Entrepreneurs practiSe entrepreneurship, but entrepreneurship is not a practiCe.  So when entrepreneurs practise entrepreneurship they do it in the sense that they repeatedly do it in order to get better.  They don’t do it as a member of a Community of Practice.

So entrepreneurship is not a skill or a set of skills, it’s a way of thinking and practiSing.  You can’t do the practise without the thinking, and you can’t do the thinking without the practise.  So the threshold concepts are not concerned with just the cognitive processes or just the activity, but both.  Attempting to practiSe entrepreneurship without getting the thinking bit is mimicry.

Julie mentioned Jean Lave’s work on Communities of Practice again , because of the point Lave makes about there being no learning outside the community, but I don’t think entrepreneurs are members of a community of entrepreneurs in that sense.  They practise entrepreneurship in social contexts but not in communities of other entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship is not a profession either – neither is it a vocation either, the necessary elements of altruism and social citizenship are not foregrounded although they might be a very powerful drivers they’re not going to be the ones that characterise the endeavour in the same way that it does for doctors, teachers or lawyers.

Entrepreneurs share a way of thinking, but in isolation from each other, it is not explicitly shared or developed as part of a community of entrepreneurs in the sense of a community of practiCe.

The boundedness lies in their distinctive way of thinking.  An entrepreneurial way of thinking, and how they practiSe entrepreneurship – how they do entrepreneurship.

So in the research study:

Entrepreneurs are telling me what the boundary markers are for entrepreneurship

Educators are reinforcing those boundaries and telling me about troublesomeness and transformation

Student are demonstrating to me the presence or absence of understanding and the extent to which they have a sense of the boundaries (of entrepreneurship).  The maps show me where they are in terms of integration of their knowledge.

All the way through, the story is about INTEGRATIVENESS and BOUNDEDNESS.

Then the story can be in the final chapter about what can be expected of entrepreneurship education going from here and how the students might be taught best.

Using the Threshold Concept Framework as a lens to define what is distinctive about entrepreneurship means that entrepreneurship CANNOT become a generic skill set (because it is bounded conceptually).

It is bounded, but the boundaries are not rigid, because they are socially constructed, and as such dependent on many variables.  The ‘thresholdness’ of a concept (or the degree of transformation required to understand it) sits on 3 dimensions: the degree of ontological shift, the degree of epistemological shift and the context of the learner.  This would explain why some concepts are experienced as more troublesome by some people than others.  And also why the threshold-ness of some concepts changes too – for example when the world view changed to accept that the world was round when people had thought it was flat, a lot of people had a lot of transformation to do.  But not now because we never thought of the world being flat before we thought it was round.

See the source image

So the process of identification IS more important that the identification of the threshold concepts themselves because they are not static or fixed but situation and learner dependent and socially constructed.

My research questions have become something like:

What is distinctive about entrepreneurship? – To be answered by the entrepreneurs, and the educators

If that is how the subject can be bounded – then how can we teach it? – to be answered by the educators.  Remembering that I am not proposing THE best way – just some ways from the perspectives of this sample of people.

If that is how we can teach it – then how do students understand it? – to be answered by the students.

The study is bounded by the perspectives of my samples.  But I can talk about relatability – the perspectives of my samples might be shared by other entrepreneurs/educators in other circumstances – that would be reasonable.

It starts us thinking about things, entrepreneurship as an area of study, without attempting to put a definitive marker in the sand, or trying to ‘fix’ the concepts.

So I need to re-write my chapters – mainly the opening and closing sections, drawing out the key points in the context of this argument.  I need to move the literature on threshold concepts from the literature review to the methodology chapter.  I’m using the threshold concept framework as a methodological tool.

The focus needs to be maintained consistently throughout – it’s about finding the distinctiveness of entrepreneurship, setting its boundaries.  And if we see entrepreneurship like that, then what does that mean for teaching it?

It’s ok to re-use some headings repeatedly throughout – that helps create a thread through the thesis.

So a really useful session resulting in a clear thread which I can use to pull it all together into a coherent argument.