Reflections as an ECR on ISBE2019 – Marian Evans

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ISBE EARLY CAREER FORUM November 2019

Reflections on ISBE 2019

My name is Marian Evans. I am a part-time lecturer in Enterprise at De Montfort University and I have just completed my PhD. I am also a practitioner, delivering qualifications and apprenticeships to adults in industry. Prior to this I was an owner of small entrepreneurial businesses in the manufacturing sector. My area of research focuses on small business decision-making from a cognitive perspective. I have been attending ISBE since I began as a PhD student in 2014 and have successfully presented a peer reviewed paper each year.  Hence, the ISBE conference is an important event in my calendar and has provided me over the last few years with encouragement, new friends and inspiration.

Reflecting on this year’s ISBE programme highlighted many interesting events and presentations that I needed to attend. The keynote session at the Boiler Shop kicked off the conference with a lively debate that set the tone for forthcoming events. I particularly enjoyed the discussion initiated by Margo Thomas and found her conversation about creating space for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups insightful and stimulating. I have been to ISBE conferences for several years now and found this year’s opening session to be particularly thought provoking.

My intention for ISBE 2019 was to focus on the Enterprise Education Track. Previously, as a practitioner and educator I have moved around freely, picking out individual presentations that were related to my area of research and teaching across a variety of tracks.  This year I decided to do something different and focus more on education, as my role in university has changed slightly and I felt I needed to review current best practice. I have also dipped into the Enterprise Education Track in previous years and found it very useful and informative.

The standard of presentation in the track was high. Deema Refai gave an interesting presentation on entrepreneurial space, superbly delivered and with perfect timing! Although the content of the presentation was specialised and complex, she presented her research clearly and made it very relevant to the ISBE theme. Similarly, Stephen Dobson and Ben Walmsley’s research on “In the spotlight”: exploring business and enterprise education through the lens of theatre and the arts” took a different approach, which was insightful and showed how you can use theatre and arts to deliver enterprise education. The value of these short presentations to educators means that it gives you opportunities to reflect on your own practice and review different ways of delivering programmes.  This is always useful and practical, as we all need to be reminded of fresh ways to educate new generations of students in our care.

New to the track for me was a workshop that addressed opportunities for psychology in entrepreneurship research. As a researcher who specialises in entrepreneurial cognition research, this workshop has been long overdue in the ISBE track events, so it was good to join in and participate in my area of research interest.  It was great to meet other like-minded researchers and share our work and collaborate. The AGM of the new community of interest allowed me to sign up and I am looking forward to networking and future events with other researchers.  Hopefully, this will stimulate further research partnerships in the UK.

I moved across into the Practitioner Learning Track for a few sessions as a presenter and observer.  This has been the track where I have delivered my research, chaired by Dr. David Higgins, Liverpool University, who has provided support and feedback on my work in previous conferences. As usual, the presentations covered a variety of interesting topics. Overall, an enjoyable session once again and I received some constructive feedback on my research for the future.

The temptation in ISBE is to make sure that you don’t miss anything that looks useful, but given the number of presentations this year, my approach to focus more on one track was the right thing to do, as it enabled me to drill down into the enterprise education tool box, rather than just collect lots of different ideas that were not clearly linked. I ended up with lots of snippets on different approaches which made me question practice, for example, Andy Penaluna’s presentation on the Welsh approach made me think how and what we deliver for enterprise and Catherine Brentnall and Jen Huntsley’s active presentation made me question how I question! Great inspiration from both papers!

An important part of the conference is networking, particularly useful for an ECR.  I was fortunate to listen to two presentations on concept mapping this year, which is my own area of research, so I was able chat and share research outcomes. This is so valuable, as it allows you to discuss problems, approaches and ideas. Also, it provides possibilities of replicating and developing areas of research interest. In addition to networking it is also good practice to discuss your work with publishers and any journal editors who are attending. The conference environment is friendly and informal, so it doesn’t feel too intimidating when you are a ‘no-name’! The social networking also allowed me to talk about my work and again, this gives you unexpected contacts.  Never underestimate the power of conversation to perceived strangers at a conference!

Finally, I would also recommend casting a careful eye across the workshops on offer. I attended one on case studies, which was informative and will be extremely useful, and another on how to present your research and get it ‘out there’ for others in the community to read. Both these workshops provided fresh ideas and supporting material. Any advice on taking your research further, and in particular, helping you to publish is a great opportunity.  Thank you ISBE 2019 for making this happen!

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