previous day
next day
all days

View: session overviewtalk overview

03:00-04:00 Session 9: Australia, New Zealand and China 1-1
Trish Powers (Torrens University Australia, Australia)
Threshold Concepts in the online learning space: A Study of Adult Learners' Transition, Attrition and Perseverance

ABSTRACT. Within diverse arrangements of time and place, technology is redesigning how education is purchased, experienced, engaged with, and ultimately used (Lebel & Beaulieu, 2011).This qualitative Australian study followed the experiences and perceptions of twenty-four adult learners in the 25 to 50+ years of age group, transitioning into their first trimester of higher education in the online study space. Located within the interpretivist tradition, informed by the principles of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), and examined through the lens of the Threshold Concept Framework (TCF), the study employed two sets of open-ended semi-structured interviews of one hour or longer, and the participants’ illustrated reflective journals. The concept of threshold crossing may relate to any significant transition in the learning journey. Internet-connected devices now constitute portals or conceptual gateways across a range of designed learning spaces (Nortvig, 2014; Roth & Erstad, 2013). However, there is a paucity of research focussed on the threshold concepts (TCs) faced by this cohort as they transition into the online space, and the triggers, interventions and processes that may support or hinder persistence or attrition at this early stage. Rather than employing the traditional discipline-based approach, the Threshold Concepts Framework (TCF) was reconceived as a lens in a broader sense, and from a more pragmatic perspective: a spatial framework for the liminal cognitive e-learning space. Employing this reconceived TCF and concentrating on liminality, troublesome knowledge and transformation, an experiential threshold concept ‘Becoming an Online Student' was identified. This study is globally significant for three main reasons. Firstly, due to the COVID pandemic, the delivery of higher education has changed. Secondly, due to the multiple roles and responsibilities adult learners face, there is increasing demand for this accessible and timely education, and thirdly, the numbers of adults studying in the higher education online space is burgeoning (Department of Education and Training, 2018). This study contributes to an understanding of these challenges.

Maria Northcote (Avondale University College, Australia)
Acknowledging the affirmative: Evidence of supervision learning thresholds in thesis acknowledgements

ABSTRACT. Mantai and Dowling (2015) refer to the Acknowledgements pages of higher degree research (HDR) theses as “an under-utilised yet rich data source” (p. 106) and Hyland (2004) recognises the way in which thesis Acknowledgements have the potential to “reveal academic preferences” and “point to the processes of its [the thesis’] creation” (p. 305). Using a matrix analysis technique (Miles & Huberman, 2013; Patton, 2015), this study mines the Acknowledgements section of a sample of 120 Masters and Doctoral theses to investigate HDR graduates’ views of their postgraduate supervisors to augment our current understanding of the learning thresholds of HDR supervisors.

Based on the conference sub-theme of “Troublesome not tricky: not all that challenges is a threshold”, this paper considers the more constructive nuances of threshold concept theory in relation to the learning thresholds of postgraduate supervisors. Instead of furthering the discussion that threshold concepts have become synonymous with learner difficulty, the question posed is: What do the affirmative and joyous experiences of postgraduate supervision have to offer threshold concept theory associated with the pedagogy of supervision? This study layers the viewpoints of HDR graduates’ positive experiences about supervision alongside some of the more negative experiences of supervisors that typically incorporate “darker themes”, “threats”, “ordeals” and “disorientation” (Carter, 2016, pp. 1139, 1145) as well as “barriers”, “power conflicts” and “tensions” (Ismail, Majid, & Ismail, 2013, pp. 165, 168).

This study’s findings do not discount the challenging aspects of HDR supervision, as represented in earlier research. Instead, an intertwined representation is offered of the challenging “living through” experiences of the HDR supervisor with the rosier “looking back” views from HDR candidates at the completion stage of their studies. A collection of light and dark learning thresholds, acquired by HDR supervisors while developing a pedagogy of supervision, is offered for consideration.

04:45-05:45 Session 10: Australia, New Zealand and China 1-2
Dai-Ling Chen (Huaiyin Institute of Technology, China)
The hidden threshold: the teacher’s bounded autonomy and tacit learning

ABSTRACT. Passing through a threshold concept following the prefabricated gradational stages might not be as straightforward as it seems, especially with a tacit learning pattern against the socio-cultural environment. Predicated on autonomy from Self-Determination Theory, the teacher-researcher aims to investigate how 68 Chinese college students demonstrated their translation competence as the threshold concept in response to the teacher’s ‘bounded’ autonomy and discipline in teaching the class of English-Chinese interpreting current events. Perceiving the fundamental ideological difference between the West and China, the teacher used the media literacy approach adapting to the Chinese context in the process of interpreting. Given the restrained teaching area, the difficulty of students’ translation competence manifestation lies in not linguistic abilities but contextual knowledge leading to analytical skills and open attitudes. Using univariate analysis, it was found that students’ demonstration of translation competence based on media literacy stages significantly affected their final performance (ρ = 0.000, i.e. ρ < 0.001). Students’ reflection on translation learning showed their preference for using the media literacy approach mainly because of exposure to media messages contributing to their contextual comprehension of the texts. Their academic performance in the final, however, revealed that 39 out of 68 students were stuck in contextually comprehending messages. To probe into the reason for the discrepancy, according to the findings from qualitative content analysis of students’ responses to the three themes, students’ contextual understanding had three characteristics: 1) neutral description; 2) Confucian world view of achieving mutual benefits after resolving conflicts; 3) the inclination to adopt discourses from Chinese news media. Threshold-crossing tended to be confined to insufficient access to media messages from various perspectives and the uncritical learning pattern under the socio-cultural circumstances. The teacher’s bounded autonomy connected to reciprocal reserved teaching-learning thus brought about a hidden threshold concept which is difficult to be measured.

Michelle Lazarus (Monash University, Australia)
Charlotte Rees (Monash University, Australia)
Georgina Stephens (Monash University, Australia)
Incorporating shades of grey into higher education: Can we affect students’ tolerance of uncertainty/ambiguity through curricular practices?

ABSTRACT. Troublesome knowledge is a core characteristic of threshold concepts. Students’ responses to troublesome knowledge varies significantly, and may be impacted by their tolerance of uncertainty/ambiguity (ToU/A). ToU/A is defined as individuals’ responses to uncertain or ambiguous stimuli. Debate remains as to whether ToU/A is changeable (i.e. modifiable by context and experience), or static (i.e. a personality trait). We sought to explore to what extent, and whether, we could affect students’ ToA through our pedagogical approach in the context of a traditional anatomy education environment. We conducted a longitudinal qualitative study with 207 undergraduate medical students across three semesters of anatomy within the preclinical years. Data were collected from online discussion forums during semesters, and semi-structured interviews at the end of semesters. Our results suggest that ToU/A is modifiable, and that pedagogical approaches can positively, or negatively, affect students ToU/A development. Building on this, we are exploring practices and contexts in which opportunities for students’ ToU/A development are best placed within multiple faculties and disciplines. While this latter work is in the early stages, it is clear that pedagogical approaches in multiple disciplines can either foster or hinder students’ ToU/A, and that educator awareness of this is paramount. Ultimately, if we can improve students’ development of ToU/A earlier in their educational pathways, we may be able to expedite their progress through the threshold with less discomfort.

09:00-10:30 Session 11: UK and Europe 2-1
Anne Tierney (Heriot Watt University, UK)
Lillian Byrne-Lancaster (IT Carlow, Ireland)
Identity transformation: narratives of becoming a social care worker

ABSTRACT. Background: The presentation is based doctoral research exploring placement experiences influence their sense of becoming a social care worker (SCW). Although recognised as a corner-stone of Irish SCW education (Forkan and McElwee, 2002) it has attracted limited empirical research attention (Byrne-Lancaster, 2014, 2016, 2018; McSweeney, 2018; McSweeney and Williams, 2018). Methods: 13 social care students from 4 colleges were involved in two post-placement socio-linguistically structured (Labov and Waletzky, 1967) interviews; year 2 and in year 3. The interview explored what experiences contributed ontologically contributed to their sense of becoming a social care worker. Results: Analysis produced ‘small’ stories (Georgakopoulou, 2006 and 2007) of students crossing identity thresholds in a pre-CORU era of social care work education. Releasing stories from their oral tradition, the research contributes vicarious experience (Lincoln and Guba, 1985, p. 121) of ontological change and establishes ‘becoming’ narratives as an aspect of SCW socio-cultural knowledge. Using inter-story comparison (Frank, 2010 and 2012) three becoming narratives: enculturation, role taking, and disentanglement, two grand-narratives: mentorship and inclusion and one counter narrative: prohibited participation contributes to social care worker’s understanding of its human production (Holland and Lave, 2009). Intra-story thematic analysis (Reissman, 2008) identify social and bruit infrastructures, and agentic process associated with individual participants SCW identity formation which contributes pedagogical knowledge of interest to students, academics and practice educators.

Contribution: Findings contribute first-of a-kind knowledge to social care work’s socio-cultural knowledge, and will interest social care work practice and academic educators and those in related health, social and education professions. The presentation will also interest the threshold concepts community of practice as it extends the use of the theory into identity change.

Hilary Neve (University of Plymouth Peninsula Medical School, UK)
Sarah Barradell (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia)
Deanne Clouder (Coventry University, UK)
Andy Wearn (The University of Auckland, New Zealand)
(Roundtable) Understanding the complexity of professional touch: combining qualitative research synthesis with threshold concepts

ABSTRACT. Presenters: Hilary Neve & Sarah Meek

Touching and being touched are central to healthcare practice. Yet while there is a significant, diverse literature on professional touch, it is rarely considered from a theoretical perspective, or in a way that provides useful insights for health care professional educators. In order to identify key issues involved in understanding, developing and using professional touch, we combined the Threshold Concepts Framework (TCF) with a cross-professional qualitative research synthesis (QRS).

Methodology and findings

Through an inclusion and exclusion process we identified 20 papers meeting our aims, published since 2010. Three orders of analysis were applied (Major and Savin-Baden, 2010).

Our first order analysis involved identifying examples of each of the 8 threshold characteristics (Meyer & Land, 2003; Land et al, 2005) in the overall article sample. Our second order analysis revealed the nuances of professional touch associated with each characteristic. Finally, we identified five third order themes: touch as dialogue; being changed by touch; multiple boundaries of touch; multiple meanings of touch and influences on touch. We will share quotes illustrating these.

Discussion and conclusion

This study suggests that professional touch is a threshold concept and provides new insights into its complexity. Touch occurs ‘in the moment’; achieving mastery requires learners to integrate a number of different, frequently troublesome, elements with little time to plan or reflect.

The aim of this roundtable session is to discuss how, given the lack of explicit learning around professional touch in most health professional programmes, these findings could inform curricula development and help educators support students to understand and use professional touch effectively. We will also discuss how combining the TCF with QRS could be applied in other settings and reflect on whether our findings may be particularly important in this time of Covid.

10:45-12:15 Session 12: UK and Europe 2-2
Julie Rattray (University of Durham, UK)
Larissa Kempenaar (Glasgow Caledonian University/Department of Physiotherapy and Paramedicine, UK)
Sivaramkumar Shanmugam (Glasgow Caledonian University/Department of Physiotherapy and Paramedicine, UK)
Design and delivery of a new pre-qualifying doctoral programme: The experience of liminality when threshold concepts are not, yet, defined.

ABSTRACT. While threshold concepts are commonly based on concepts identified by experts. What to do when you wish to develop a curriculum around threshold concepts but can not, yet, define what they are? In this pre-qualifying healthcare doctorate programme, we developed the curriculum and subsequent teaching, learning and assessment strategies along two strands: research methods and professional development. Existing threshold concepts of doctorateness commonly refer to researcher development (e.g. Trafford and Leshem 2009). Our challenge lay in identifying threshold concepts for the professional development of the pre-qualifying practitioner to doctoral level, which has received little attention in the literature. Furthermore, this is the first programme of its kind in integrating professional and researcher development at doctoral level within a pre-qualifying programme. We, therefore, had to anticipate potential troublesome and transformative knowledge without knowing where we and students might experience these. This meant liminality for staff in the development and delivering of the teaching, as well as anticipated liminality in students. We based our aims for the programme and subsequent ‘outline’ threshold concepts on existing literature of the needs of our profession, as well as practitioners’ and our perceptions of the absence of specific skills, behaviours, attitudes and knowledge in practice, to meet these needs. In our first delivery of the professional development module, we paid particular attention to facilitating liminality in a process of reflexivity and provision of safe uncertainty for staff and students. In this presentation, we would like to share our experiences and insights of the importance of safe uncertainty in liminality based on the first 2 years of running this programme. In addition, we want to discuss our observations of individual students’ threshold concepts, in relation to their epistemic, ontological and axiological stance.

Marina Orsini-Jones (Coventry University, UK)
Out of the comfort zone: the trouble with Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

ABSTRACT. This paper reports on six years of action-research and threshold-concepts-informed inquiry on the curricular integration of Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) projects into postgraduate courses on English Language Teacher Education involving participants based in the UK, at Coventry University, and overseas in China, Spain and the Netherlands. At Coventry University, COIL is defined by the following features: it involves a cross-border collaboration or interaction with people from different backgrounds and cultures; it requires students to engage in some sort of online interaction, whether it is asynchronous or synchronous; it is driven by a set of internationalised learning outcomes aimed at developing global perspectives and/or fostering students’ intercultural competences; it requires a reflective component that helps students think critically about such interaction.

The challenging nature of COIL (also known as telecollaboration and/or Virtual Exchange) is amply documented in the relevant literature (e.g. O’Dowd & Ritter, 2006). COIL takes students out of their comfort zone of the more ‘traditional curriculum’ and disrupts their expectations relating to their learning experience at Higher Education level. However, Coventry University is committed to COIL pedagogy because of the positive transformational impact it can have on the students’ experience, also evidenced in the relevant literature (Shulteis Moore & Shulka, 2015; Orsini-Jones & Lee, 2018). The troublesome ontological and epistemological issues that are emerging from the cycles of action research will be discussed. O’Dowd, R. & Ritter, M. (2006). Understanding and Working with Failed Communication in Telecollaborative Exchanges. CALICO Journal 23 (3), 623-642. Orsini-Jones, M. & Lee, F. (2018). Intercultural Communicative Competence for Global Citizenship: Identifying Rules of Engagement in Telecollaboration. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan Shulteis Moore, A., & Sunka, S. (Eds) (2015). Globally networked Teaching in the Humanities: Theories and Practices. New York (NY): Routledge.

Julie Rattray (Durham University, UK)
Isaac Calduch (University of Barcelona, Spain)
Threshold concepts and unexpected transformations

ABSTRACT. The Threshold Concepts Framework has been criticised as being too fluid because of the flexibility in the application of its characteristic features (O’Donnell, 2010; Rowbottom, 2007). The key exception to this fluidity is the transformative aspect, which has been characterised as non-negotiable (Baillie, Bowden & Meyer, 2013; Land, Meyer & Flanagan, 2016; Timmermans & Meyer, 2017).

Threshold transformations have been characterised as having a predetermined process, being the same, or very similar, for all learners - once the learner engages with a threshold concept and successfully negotiates the liminal space to master the threshold concept, concrete disciplinary ways of thinking and practicing emerge. In that sense, although preliminal variation and liminal dynamism (Land, Meyer & Flanagan, 2016; Meyer & Land, 2005, 2006; Meyer, Land & Baillie, 2010; Meyer, Land & Davies, 2008) are generally accepted, postliminal variation has been little explored.

Some learners may experience different transformations that bring about unexpected ways of viewing the discipline or understanding the threshold concept. Such alternative visions have the potential to cause a real change in disciplines, as it is not only the learner who is transformed, but also the threshold concept itself. In other words, if the transformations were always the same, knowledge (and the disciplines themselves) would not evolve. However, it has generally been considered that there is only one valid transformation, the one accepted by the community of practice. Issues of knowledge privilege, power and hierarchy are strongly related (Ricketts, 2010; Timmermans, 2010). In general, when learners experience an unexpected transformation, they are considered to be stuck in the liminal space, although in fact they may have been transformed. How can we differentiate between stuckness and unexpected transformations? To what extent should we allow or accept as valid certain unexpected conceptions about a threshold concept?

13:00-14:30 Session 13: UK and Europe 2-3
Elia Gironacci (University of Warwick, UK)
Chenyan Shou (Durham University, UK)
Julie Rattray (Durham University, UK)
Research Title: How do undergraduate law students experience the learning threshold of law case reading?

ABSTRACT. Research about the Threshold Concepts Framework whilst extensive, has some areas that are less well explored. The experience of liminality, though well recognised as a significant part of the framework, is under-explored. This project seeks to extend our understanding of the experience of liminality, be it to expand its theoretical ground, or to raise questions about it. The study explores the experience of law students in reading law cases. Drawing on personal experiences of being a law student, law case reading has been identified as a potential learning threshold for law students due to its transformative and troublesome nature. The difficulties associated with law case reading are manifold – researching the cases, contextualising them, and then understanding the legal reasoning of various judges in them – making negotiating this liminal space complex. The study utilises interview data derived from interviews with law school teaching staff to gather opinions about the sources of trouble in case reading. Then, based on the analysis of these interviews, interviews with law school students, focusing on their experience of negotiating the liminality that they encounter in reading cases. The paper will explore not only the experiences of negotiating liminality but will consider the potential implications of this understanding for legal pedagogy.

Emanuel Mizzi (University of Malta, Malta)
Threshold concepts in the Maltese secondary school economics classroom

ABSTRACT. Meyer and Land (2003, 2005, 2006) introduced and elaborated upon the notion of a threshold concept to refer to concepts in any discipline that have a transformative effect on student learning. These concepts act like ‘conceptual gateways’ or ‘portals’, “opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something” (Meyer and Land, 2003, p.1). Academics in a number of disciplines are using the idea of threshold concepts to inform their pedagogy in ways that make sense within their own communities of practice and for their own students; “threshold concepts have found an immediate appeal as being a 'pedagogically fertile' and energising topic to consider” (Meyer and Land, 2005, p.373). This paper arises out of an ongoing PhD research study aimed at exploring teaching and learning in secondary school economics in Malta. The underlying conceptual framework for this study is critical realism, which offers an understanding of the world that is real but which may be differently experienced and interpreted by different observers (Bhaskar, 1979; Fletcher, 2017). This research consisted in interviewing and observing fourteen economics teachers, together with four focus groups interviews with students. Data was analysed by employing thematic analysis (e.g. Braun and Clarke, 2006), with the help of Nvivo software. This presentation discusses the emergence of threshold concepts as a theme. In particular, teachers and students referred to particular threshold concepts in secondary school economics, and how teachers assisted their learners in their crossing of the threshold. This study is relevant in that it applies threshold concepts to secondary school education, and in the underresearched area of business education (Davies and Brant, 2006).

Bert Zwaneveld (Open Universiteit of the Netherlands, Netherlands)
Hans Sterk (Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands)
Jacob Perrenet (Eindhoven University of Tevhnology, Netherlands)
Mathematical proving as a threshold in undergraduate mathematics education

ABSTRACT. In 2015 the curriculum of the last three years of school secondary mathematics for students who prepare themselves for studying mathematics at a university, changed. In this new curriculum the three main parts are algebra, calculus and analytic geometry. Mathematical proving doesn’t get much attention. In 2018 the first students who were taught according to the new curriculum, entered the Dutch universities. Naturally, these students find mathematical proving new and hardtop get used to it. So, we decided to get a deeper insight in this phenomenon through a research about mathematical proving using the threshold concepts framework (TCF) (Meyer & Land, 2003, 2005). An example in mathematics, mentioned by many authors, is the concept ‘limit of a function’. This was also a result of our own research (Zwaneveld & Sterk, 2019), The first question we addressed is: can mathematical proving (proving for short) be conceived as a threshold concept? It will be not surprising that our answer is yes. In our contribution we shall present our arguments. There are several reasons for this question. Proving is not a mathematical object like an equation or a linear space. Neither is it a procedure like solving a linear equation, which is more a skill. Proving is a much more complex activity. We analyzed what proving really is about, more specifically, how it is treated in mathematics, mathematical didactical theories, and how we can connect it with TCF. We asked the students, at the end of their first year, as an obligatory reflection assignment, to fill in a questionnaire, comparable to the one used in our earlier mathematical threshold concepts research (Zwaneveld & Sterk, 2019). In this questionnaire the focus is on proving, e.g. why is it troublesome. Further, we asked how the students overcame their problems with proving.

15:15-17:25 Session 14: UK and Europe 2-4
Michael Allardice (University of Dundee, UK)
David Riley (Imperial College London, UK)
Why are we here?

ABSTRACT. The threshold concept phenomenon is intriguing and yet disturbing. On the one hand, we see threshold concepts have immediate appeal to our university and NHS staff taking STEMM-oriented MEd programmes. On the other hand, we find staff with a humanities-orientation can grow with, rather than grow out of, threshold concepts over years of reading and reflection. Ambiguities of the threshold metaphor seem to play a part in this, as do its detachment and promiscuity: its easy cohabitation with diverse commitments and perspectives – from learning to development, from the collective to the individual, from disciplines to vocations, from knowledge to affect or identity, from pathways and journeys to spaces, domains, levels, structures and stages, to liquids and flow. Is all this imaginable because batteries aren’t included? By being here, is it us who provide threshold concepts with life, energy and perpetual motion.

[Lightning Talk]

Hebatallah Shoukry (Heriot Watt University, UK)
Threshold Concepts in Graduate Apprenticeships

ABSTRACT. Graduate Apprenticeships are a ground-breaking initiative to create in-house degree qualified employees with key skills customized to the demand of their businesses. One of the benefits of graduate apprenticeships is the use of work-based learning approach, that ensures reflecting on practical applications in the business environment impulsively. Teaching core courses in a graduate apprenticeship program is considered as a challenge, not only because these courses are heavily centred around theory and concepts, but also due to the apprentice’s diversity in professional background, skills, qualifications and experience. Hence, one can regard these core courses have numerous potential threshold concepts, since they act like doorways once crossed enabling the apprentices to comprehend theoretical concepts not previously understood (Worsley, Bulmer, and O’Brien 2008). In turn, this enables the learner to progress to higher levels of learning (Breen and O’Shea 2016). Grasping the threshold concept transforms the students’ perception of the subject area, and they are better able to relate the topic to wider fields of study (Meyer and Land 2003, Loch and McLoughlin 2012). Therefore, we found that adding programming-based applications and examples to these core courses enhance the apprentice’s learning and understanding. For instance, we use different software programming such as Matlab, Python etc. when teaching mathematical core courses. This offers them with an interactive environment to explore programming based procedural and functional approaches to problem-solving. Moreover, our apprentices have been asked to validate their analytical results with the numerical ones. This assures the apprentices are confident with their results and assist them in visualising the mathematical concepts. Finally, based on this experience, we have discovered that this approach enhances the apprentice’s computational skills, improves their understandings in pure mathematical theories, and introduces new applications in their work-based area.

Linda Martindale (University of Dundee, UK)
Stella Howden (University of Dundee, UK)
Roundtable: Upsetting the balance: liminality and academic identity during the Covid pandemic

ABSTRACT. Aim To explore how academic teaching staff have encountered liminality provoked by the system shock of the pandemic and discuss the implications for enabling transformation towards excellence in teaching

This roundtable is for anyone teaching or supporting teaching in Higher Education (HE).

Introduction In a literature review carried out before the pandemic, liminal experiences associated with becoming an expert teacher in HE were identified. These liminal experiences were associated with disruption of being in a new context, impact of technology and evolving academic identity. The liminality was characterised by emotion, uncertainty, troublesome knowledge and dissonance, and they appear to have been amplified by COVID. This roundtable examines the potential for these to be a positive gateway to transformation.

Session structure The roundtable will be delivered in 4 parts:

- Presentation (5-10mins) of the literature review, including relevant literature relating to COVID and contextualisation to the system shock experienced in HE

- Guided discussion (20mins) about experiences of liminality and transformation as a teacher during the pandemic

- Padlet perspectives (5mins): participants to post their reflections and take home messages on a Padlet

- So what (15-20mins): summary of the Padlet then discussion about implications for supporting and developing academic staff as teachers moving forward, including tools and approaches we might use to notice liminality in colleagues and enable transformation

Take home Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on and share experiences of liminality and thresholds around academic identity associated with teaching practice through the pandemic. There will be space and time, to have a conversation, about how we may make use of liminal experiences as a positive and creative, a chance for transformation.

Craig Allardice (De Montfort University (student), UK)
Michael Allardice (University of Dundee, UK)
Crossing the Threshold into Law as a Mature Student

ABSTRACT. There are many challenges that face mature students when they return to study, but one that is less well acknowledged is the liminal space many find themselves in when they move from being an expert in their own discipline to becoming a novice once again, while those around them assume they now have a new expertise in the discipline they are now studying. Making the move into a profession such as the Law, is one such threshold which many find challenging.

This paper will explore one mature students’ experience of crossing that threshold and entering the liminal space of novice while trying to balance the expectations of an employer, as well as family who are likely to assume more knowledge than the student feels they really have. Tied into this experience is the realisation that in the Law there are few straightforward answers and many more uncertainties than the wider public realise: what Melissa Weresh (2014) describes as the ‘Malleability of the Law’. Weresh links this malleability very closely to Meyer and Land’s (2003 & 2005) work on Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. Navigating the liminal space of new knowledge, significant uncertainty and external expectations of expertise is a tricky balancing act at the best of times, but add into the mix the juggling act many mature students face of family & work pressures and a pandemic, and the challenges become even greater. However, from that, learning can come and thresholds can be safely crossed with suitable support and teaching; and liminality can be embraced as an advantage to the learner who recognises its presence and accepts that there are some ladders on offer as well as snakes.

17:30-19:00 Session 15: USA and Canada 2-1
Susannah McGowan (Georgetown University, United States)
Barbara Rose (Miami University, United States)
Sheri Leafgren (Miami University, United States)
Scott Sander (Miami University, United States)
Brian Schultz (Miami University, United States)
Getting to the Hard Stuff: Talking and Walking Threshold Concepts to Advance Social Justice Learning in Teacher Education and Beyond

ABSTRACT. This session focuses on the process and products of development and implementation of threshold concepts (TCs) in a department of teacher education. The curriculum emphasizes social justice, equity, and changing inequitable educational practices.

Why TCs? Most students in our programs are White, affluent, and successful in their previous educational experiences. They often have difficulty understanding their own privilege and inequities that exist for others. Those difficulties exemplify troublesome knowledge and liminality, two core elements in TCs. TCs are also flexible and robust in application. For us, that applies to both self-reflection and self-awareness as educators, and our work with students.

Process and products. In year one of our three-year process, five teacher educators worked together within the structure of a cross-disciplinary university TCs program. Weekly meetings and extensive conversations yielded the following core TCs.

• Education is not neutral; teaching is political • Curriculum is more than standards, textbooks, or courses of study. • Curriculum is co-constructed. • Both teachers and students have empowerment/agency. • Teaching is/as intellectual engagement. • Teachers and students engage in critical-consciousness. • Teaching and learning honors humanity.

Subsequent work focused on two areas—engagement of the full faculty and community engagement. Early in year two, a faculty retreat introduced department members to TCs. Work continued throughout the year infusing concepts into licensure programs and in individual courses. Year three (recently completed) began with a faculty retreat in a nearby city that houses our urban cohort program and continued with ways to link community engagement with our TCs.

Our presentation. We will emphasize our (a) development of disciplinary TCs; (b) challenges and learnings; (c) connections to curriculum and community engagement with school and community partners; and (d) thoughts on what we have done that is transferable to other disciplines seeking to advance social justice learning.

Alison Murray (Queen's University, Canada)
Kyna Biggs (Queen's University, Canada)
Application of Threshold Concepts to the Science Taught in Art Conservation
PRESENTER: Alison Murray

ABSTRACT. The science component of art conservation programs has traditionally been challenging, especially for those students who do not have a scientific background. In North America, master’s students in art conservation need only three or four prerequisites courses in science. As a result, students may see science as intimidating. Teaching can be difficult for science educators also, as their backgrounds, for example in chemistry or materials science, do not usually include training in conservation treatment. Textbooks and other educational resources for teaching science in this very applied field are limited. Science educators are eager for more teaching tools. Applying threshold concepts to the study of conservation has given a framework for researching the critical topic of improving science education in art conservation. This paper will present an analysis of threshold concepts for teaching science to art conservation students. The main method of investigation consisted of interviews with science educators and conservators. Other techniques included: a short email survey completed by science educators; group discussions with teachers of science and conservation treatments attending a conference; and a one-question survey of students and conservators at various stages of their careers, during another conference. Examples of threshold concepts in this field include solubility and the application of instrumental methods of analysis. The discussion will include the differences between the results from science educators and those from conservators. The overall findings from these initiatives are guiding current educational initiatives and curriculum revision that includes the integration of science theory and its application.


Sharday Mosurinjohn (Queen's University, Canada)
Threshold Concepts in Religious Studies: A Qualitative and Theoretical Exploration of Threshold Concepts in a “Nodal” Curriculum

ABSTRACT. This talk will explore threshold concepts in North American religious studies undergraduate education. Since little work has been done on threshold concepts in religious studies, my aim is to identify what threshold concepts are central to it, and how they can guide curriculum design. I distinguish religious studies as a “nodal” discipline, in contrast to “sequential” ones, and describe how threshold concepts function differently in nodal vs. sequential curricula. Religious studies students can and do jump in at a variety of starting points – first-year “world religions” surveys, second-year thematic courses like “religion and film,” etc. The concepts that become the foundations of their learning – e.g. religion as a human cultural construction, concepts like “the sacred” belonging to both secular and religious contexts, etc. – do not fade into a background calculus that allows them to do higher-level work; rather, those concepts remain at the forefront of scholarly debate. Insofar as the religious studies student may start almost anywhere and continually circle back, I characterize it as a “nodal” curriculum. In contrast, in sequential curricula, students must cross at least some thresholds in a certain order. In professional and applied disciplines like engineering, students must learn to do one thing before the other to scaffold a structure that will not fall down (perhaps literally). Drawing on scholarship of teaching and learning, plus my own focus group data from religious studies faculty and students I explore the following questions: what is the most important learning outcome for a student taking their first (maybe only) religious studies course? What is the nature of religious studies and how can it best be represented in this course, assignment, or class session? And how must we account for the developmental processes of learners when employing threshold concepts in the design of our nodal curriculum?

19:15-20:45 Session 16: USA and Canada 2-2
Jason Davies (UCL, UK)
Rachel Yoho (University of Florida, United States)
Developing interdisciplinary teaching resources for lexically ambiguous threshold concepts

ABSTRACT. Lexical ambiguity, topics with different meanings in varying contexts, often intersect with core and threshold concepts in multiple disciplines. In this work, interdisciplinary approaches to teaching such lexically ambiguous topics, including quick, active learning-based activities and broad class strategies, were compiled with the goal of facilitating teaching across the disciplines. These strategies will provide novice to advanced instructors with food for thought and tangible ready-to-apply teaching techniques in their own disciplines. This work centers on teaching and learning resources developed and is grounded in the presenter’s extensive publication history on structure and function (particularly “function”), a popular lexically ambiguous threshold concept appearing many STEM and non-STEM disciplines. Additional multimedia resources developed containing strategies in a series of approximately three minute videos and annotated resources will be discussed and shared. These resources may be useful reference material for attendees to view and later share with colleagues.

Anne Marie Ryan (Dalhousie University, Canada)
Kerrianne Ryan (Dalhousie Uuiversity, Canada)
Transfer-mational Journey: Exploring Routes through Tough Places Across the Sciences

ABSTRACT. In our journey to understanding of threshold concepts, we found ourselves asking: “how do we, or should we, change our teaching in response to threshold concepts?” and “can we use strategies such as being explicit, to facilitate student journeys through the liminal spaces?”. In other words, if there are indeed concepts that prove particularly transformational yet troublesome, what does this really mean for our teaching? Based on our own experiences and the literature, we previously identified the possible existence of inter- or trans- disciplinary threshold concepts in science: concepts we proposed were common across the sciences, transformative in developing deeper understanding within and across the disciplines, yet ones with which students variably struggled. Among these concepts, we included pattern recognition, spatial and temporal scale, quantitative reasoning, visualizing and representing data, context, change through time, dynamic processes, systems thinking, uncertainty and complexity (eg. Ryan, 2014). The very nature of threshold concepts, especially those that are more complex or cross disciplines, means that explaining how to navigate them is challenging. To explore these potential trans- disciplinary concepts more fully, we examine the way in which these proposed trans-disciplinary threshold concepts are addressed (or not) either explicitly or implicitly, in a cross-section of textbooks available in open education format. Our aim is to better determine similarities and differences between individual disciplinary approaches in texts used by students in their learning. We present our findings on how or even whether these texts address these concepts, and the implications for student learning. We further explore and propose approaches to incorporating teaching and evaluation strategies for student learning of these concepts that may be incorporated in future iterations of these texts. We present our preliminary findings as we work towards further addressing the “so what?" and "how?” of teaching and evaluating threshold concepts spanning the sciences as they are presented in select open educational resources.

Ryan, A.M., 2014. Seeing deeply in space and through time: interdisciplinarity meets threshold concepts in earth and environmental science. In: Threshold Concepts: from personal practice to communities of practice. Proceedings of the National Academy’s Sixth Annual Conference and the Fourth Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference, 2014: 99-104.

Morgan Hanson (University of Southern Indiana, United States)
Negotiating Pedagogical Perspectives: Adapting Threshold Concepts for a Shared Language of Writing Instruction

ABSTRACT. Scholarship on threshold concepts and faculty professional development seems to have reached a consensus on a strategy for implementing threshold concepts into a program: create professional learning communities in which faculty discuss and articulate threshold concepts for their field, and then generate lessons, courses, and program outcomes based on those threshold concepts. While such a strategy probably works well within a homogeneous department, one with a common disciplinary vision, I believe that university departments that house first-year composition (FYC) courses largely do not have a shared vision for writing instruction due to the diverse specializations within the department. In many writing programs, FYC instructors hold degrees in literature and creative writing rather than in rhetoric, composition, and writing studies (RCWS). In a heterogeneous department, then, the disciplinary backgrounds and approaches to writing instruction can vary greatly. In order to implement threshold concepts as a shared language within a diverse department, a writing program administrator (WPA) must first understand the prominent RCWS theories and practices operating within the department.

In this ethnographic study of an English department at a regional university, I examine how instructor prior knowledge of RCWS aligns with threshold concepts of writing studies as articulated by Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle in their edited collection, _Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies_ (2015). I argue that WPAs need to take instructor prior knowledge and instructors’ ways of discussing RCWS theories and practices into account when integrating threshold concepts into program design (student learning outcomes, in particular) and faculty professional development. Moreover, I encourage WPAs to shift the language of Adler-Kassner and Wardle’s threshold concepts to match the local, departmental language of writing instruction in order to apply threshold concepts theory more effectively.

21:30-22:40 Session 17: USA and Canada 2-3
Matt Ravenstahl (FCPS, United States)
Brenda Refaei (University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, United States)
Ruth Benander (University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, United States)
Threshold Concepts Associated with ePortfolios

ABSTRACT. ePortfolios have the potential to provide users with an integrative learning experience, but implementation often falls short in actual practice because many administrators, faculty, and staff are unfamiliar with the threshold concepts associated with eportfolio learning and implementation. Faculty and staff must be comfortable with these threshold concepts if they are to help students learn. In learning these concepts there are also key bottlenecks that can make implementation difficult if instructors are not prepared. The threshold concepts associated with eportfolio implementation include defining the eportfolio, the practice of reflection, and the roles of students and instructors. We suggest that acknowledging and addressing the threshold concepts required for understanding eportfolios can help create a more effective implementation of eportfolios. In extended interviews with ten students, ten faculty members, and ten employers, these portfolio users identified the threshold concepts associated with eportfolios that will aid in effective implementation of eportfolios.

Matthew Ravenstahl (Durham University, United States)
Considering Art Education Through the Lens of Threshold Concepts and the Affective Dimension

ABSTRACT. This paper will argue the lens of threshold concepts highlights inherent qualities of the art making process that transforms the discipline of art education by promoting a reflection upon pedagogy that incorporates the epistemological and semiotic nature of art making (Ravenstahl, 2018; Ravenstahl and Rattray, 2019). I want to add to this current review of the status of threshold concepts by using examples of student art work to highlight the integral role of the affective dimension (Cousin, 2006; Land, 2014; Land, Rattray & Vivian, 2014; Rattray, 2016) in the crossing of thresholds achieved through a semiotic navigation of the liminal state. More specifically, the art work as a semiotic representation of experience and feeling that students were incapable of verbalizing and by their own words engaging or understanding (Eisner, 2008; Leavy, 2015). As each student created more artwork their awareness increased, and they developed an ability to comprehend and verbalize their perspective resulting in ontological shifts. I will further argue that when students are given the opportunity to engage the epistemic potential of the art making process the learning process increasingly involves the affective dimension. The students described in this paper experienced ontological shifts and were able to negotiate complex life experience by coming to terms with and navigating an affective liminal experience. Eventually the students demonstrated cognitive changes, specifically with language and an ability to accept aspects of themselves they were previously incapable of doing (Meyer and Land, 2003; 2005; 2006). Based upon these experiences I argue that the navigation of complex affective liminal space was the essential aspect of their transformative experience. In this context the affective dimension takes on a very important role.

Andrea Webb (The University of British Columbia, Canada)
Becoming and Being: Threshold Concepts in Teacher Education

ABSTRACT. This paper will discuss a current project that explores how to work with and support teacher candidates through a one-year, postbaccalaureate teacher education program. Specifically, Social Studies is one of the largest enrolling specialties in the Teacher Education Secondary program, with approximately 80 teacher candidates each year. The teacher candidates complete the program in 11 months, through three consecutive terms of intensive work. However, the nature and structure of the Teacher Education program means that candidates often have a fragmentary understanding of teaching. They struggle to make meaningful connections between theoretical concepts and classroom practice. Understanding the threshold concepts in teacher education will help the students successfully move through the liminal experience of becoming a teacher, and begin their careers.

Threshold concepts resonates with many educators as a heuristic tool that offers previously unarticulated insights into learning. This understanding lead to a qualitatively different understanding of the subject matter and is central to achieving mastery of the ways of a field; transforming learners into practitioners. Teacher education requires such intellectual, personal, and professional development. Candidates need to develop new, complex, and professional understanding of what education means; once grasped, they can develop as practitioners.

The ideas of troublesome knowledge, liminality, and transformation can provide a framework for understanding and supporting students as they make the epistemological and ontological shift necessary to work as a teacher. An understanding of threshold concepts in the teacher education curriculum would devote more time to fundamental and troublesome concepts. This interpretive phenomenological project, based primarily in interviews, was conducted in a number of the courses including: Teaching Methodology courses, seminars, and practicum placements. The identified threshold concepts have helped instructors better focus and structure student learning around these transformative and conceptually difficult ideas.