Generating threshold concepts for impactful learning development: exploring a new perspective on our work


  • Steven White University of Southampton



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.

Author Biography

Steven White, University of Southampton

Steve White has been lurking in teaching, learning and research-related third spaces in HE for about 20 years. He worked in interestingly ill-defined roles while developing online MA courses and MOOCs for the University of Southampton, leading him to complete PhD research on the third space in HE. More recent roles have straddled Learning Development and Educational Development at Arts University Bournemouth and the University of Southampton.


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How to Cite

White, S. (2023) “Generating threshold concepts for impactful learning development: exploring a new perspective on our work”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (29). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi29.1101.

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