Investigation of the relevance of the notion of a threshold concept within generic learning development work

Carol Edwards


Since the term 'threshold concept' was applied within economics (Meyer and Land, 2003), its relevance has been demonstrated within disciplines ranging from biology (Taylor, 2006); to communication, culture, and media (Cousin, 2006); accounting (Lucas and Mladenovic, 2006); and philosophy (Booth, 2006). Grasping a threshold concept has been described as 'opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something' and gaining 'a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view' (Meyer and Land, 20061, p.3).

In previous issues of this journal, Rust (2009) and Cousin (2010) have proposed that, by highlighting the relevance of threshold concepts within the course content of academic disciplines, we can support learning development work by academics within their departments. Cousin (2010) suggests that our acknowledgement of this particular contribution that academics can make to learning development work, may pave the way for more collaborative relationships between learning developers and academics. 

If threshold concepts are of such widespread relevance, and can be such powerful learning tools, it would be a shame if their potential were to be explored solely within academic disciplines. This article therefore swivels the spotlight back onto the field of generic learning development, and investigates the relevance of the notion of a threshold concept to study skills development across, rather than solely within, the academic disciplines.


Learning Development, Skills Development, Threshold Concepts

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ISSN: 1759-667X