The “Conceptual Framework” as a Threshold Concept for Investigating Processes in Leadership Research


  • Noel Pearse Rhodes University



threshold concepts, conceptual framework, leadership process, teaching research design


A process perspective in research has been largely neglected, including in studies of leadership. This neglect is partly because of the dominant quantitative variance approaches to research that have been adopted in many disciplines. However, it is also because of the difficulties that researchers encounter in conceptualising and investigating their research from a process perspective. This process of conceptualisation is particularly challenging for post-graduate students. Threshold concepts are critical to student learning, providing gateways to understanding particular fields or disciplines. This paper adopts this idea of threshold concepts and relevant teaching practices to illustrate its use in post-graduate students' teaching and learning activities to develop a conceptual framework that can investigate a process. Several key topics are addressed: How conceptual frameworks are introduced and taught; Differentiating quantitative variance conceptual frameworks from qualitative process conceptual frameworks; and Explaining and illustrating how to conduct process theory in qualitative research using the case study method, grounded theory method, and critical incident technique.