Generating threshold concepts for impactful learning development: exploring a new perspective on our work
Keywords:threshold concepts, professional development, learning development practice
Threshold concepts (TCs) represent pivotal ‘eureka’ moments in learning, where a person makes a leap in understanding or ability ‘akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something’ (Meyer and Land, 2003, p. 1). Crossing these thresholds can be transformative, integrative, and irreversible, but also troublesome. Discussion of threshold concepts may provide a novel way of surfacing the core challenges of learning development work—whether in terms of helping students to progress or informing how we operate within the university context.
Research in learning development has identified ‘generic’ threshold concepts that students might need to support their studies. However, it is also worth considering whether we as learning developers can collectively identify threshold concepts that increase our impact when working with students, academics, and other stakeholders. This session contextualised the idea by first looking at threshold concepts for student development. This activity aimed to enhance participants’ understanding of threshold concepts.
Brown, M. E. L., Whybrow, P., and Finn, G. M. (2021) ‘Do we need to close the door on threshold concepts?’, Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 34(3), pp. 301–312. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10401334.2021.1897598
Dubicki, E. (2019) ‘Mapping curriculum learning outcomes to ACRL’s Framework threshold concepts: a syllabus study’, Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(3), pp. 288–298. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/J.ACALIB.2019.04.003
Edwards, C. (2011) ‘Investigation of the relevance of the notion of a threshold concept within generic learning development work’, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 3. Available at: https://doi.org/10.47408/JLDHE.V0I3.82
Kandlbinder, P. and Peseta, T. (2009) ‘Key concepts in postgraduate certificates in higher education teaching and learning in Australasia and the United Kingdom’, International Journal for Academic Development, 14(1), pp. 19–31. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13601440802659247
Kiley, M. (2009). ‘Identifying threshold concepts and proposing strategies to support doctoral candidates’, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 46(3), pp. 293–304. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14703290903069001
Meyer, J. H. F. and Land, R. (2003) ‘Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines’, in C. Rust (ed.) Improving student learning and practice: 10 years on. Oxford: OCSLD, pp. 412–424.
Thomson, P. (2018) ‘Threshold concepts in academic writing’, Patter, 26 February. Available at: https://patthomson.net/2018/02/26/threshold-concepts-in-academic-writing (Accessed: 1 September 2023).
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).