Thresholdconcepts Apr10


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How do you decide when to design an intervention to support students online? Identifying threshold concepts and troublsome knowledge in your course perhaps.

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  • Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge – used here as a “sensitising concept”, to stimulate discussion about the way in which courses are taught. There may be aspects of Maths or History which are always tricky for students. But recognition that knowledge may also be troublesome because of the way it is presented in the course or because of students’ previous life experiences or previous courses.
  • Staff on both courses identified particular parts of the course with which students encounter difficulties
  • Thresholdconcepts Apr10

    1. 1. Tutoring the troublesome bits Dr Janet Macdonald Open University in Scotland Scholarship Development event, Manchester Apr 2010
    2. 2. <ul><ul><li>Threshold concept </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ a portal , opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. A transformed way of understanding or interpreting or viewing something, without which the learner cannot progress.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Meyer & Land 2005; Land, Meyer & Smith 2008) </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Knowledge as provisional, contestable and culturally situated Nettlesome Confused and bemused Insecure, transitional states Oscillating states, recursive movements A penny dropping moment Transfiguration of identity Changes who we are as well as what we know
    4. 4. Troublesome knowledge: 5 sorts of trouble… <ul><li>Ritual knowledge: routine, meaningless, rote </li></ul><ul><li>Inert knowledge: sits in the mind’s attic, lacking application </li></ul><ul><li>Conceptually difficult: hard to believe/understand </li></ul><ul><li>Alien knowledge: from a perspective which conflicts with the familiar </li></ul><ul><li>Tacit knowledge: acquired unconsciously </li></ul><ul><li>(Perkins, 2005) </li></ul>
    5. 5. Project aims <ul><li>To share perspectives on difficult areas of the course as experienced by students </li></ul><ul><li>To share resources and approaches to effective intervention (online) </li></ul><ul><li>To support tutors’ professional development </li></ul><ul><li>Should we be focusing tutor intervention on certain parts of the course? </li></ul>
    6. 6. Visit the wiki once a month to edit contributions as course proceeds. Try out new interventions. Face to face workshop to discuss course teaching Share interventions and activities to address problematic areas Enter all workshop outputs in a wiki Brainstorm problematic parts of course Sharing teaching approaches
    7. 7. Troublesome Mathematics and History <ul><li>“ A general lack of understanding of the specialist language of economic history and the apparent absence of human/moral dimension in discussion” </li></ul><ul><li>Conversion of units: I think that students concentrate too much on the numbers, instead of trying to visualise the situation.” </li></ul>
    8. 8. Where do students need to get to <ul><li>A strategy for survival </li></ul><ul><li>To know what really matters </li></ul><ul><li>To learn how to use material to create an essay </li></ul><ul><li>To understand alternative perspectives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To learn how to communicate appropriately </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To cope with unfamiliar knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To be able to synthesise: identifying important areas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To develop their historical imagination </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To understand the episteme of history </li></ul></ul>Cf Anderson & Day (2005)
    9. 9. Other issues <ul><li>Course design and assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Tutors’ own backgrounds/familiarity with concepts </li></ul><ul><li>Students’ varied backgrounds </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of integration between levels </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The problem is, the preparation given in 1st level History is nothing like the kind of detail needed for the students to approach A200. Added to which there is a diversity of levels of achievement of students who complete level 1.” (H1) </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Tutoring aims and intentions <ul><li>We need to motivate them – we need the ability to communicate that enthusiasm </li></ul><ul><li>I need to construct links, provide a strategy for survival </li></ul><ul><li>I guide them through the narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Develop an explanation, show them, work through examples </li></ul><ul><li>Need to equip them to feel they can do it too </li></ul><ul><li>Tutoring is about highlighting the important bits in a reasoning way </li></ul><ul><li>Demystify the scary bits </li></ul>
    11. 11. History tutoring strategies <ul><li>Role playing </li></ul><ul><li>Visual resources </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Counter factuals </li></ul>
    12. 12. Mathematics tutoring strategies <ul><li>Explanation </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstration </li></ul><ul><li>Real life examples </li></ul>
    13. 13. Tutoring challenges <ul><li>Most of my teaching is face to face…but the distance part of this is much much more demanding </li></ul><ul><li>Not enough students will let us help them </li></ul><ul><li>Why am I struggling with this: it may well be a problem with students </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe some knowledge is too troublesome? Do we advise them to ignore it? </li></ul>
    14. 14.
    15. 15. http:// /site/LDT-SCOT
    16. 16. Positive reflections on wiki community <ul><li>“ Sharing difficulties, teaching practice and resources is very helpful, especially to new and perhaps inexperienced [tutors]. I fit into this category..” M6 </li></ul><ul><li>I like this idea: but haven’t quite got around to preparing one myself. To have the prepared resources already available is great.” M4 </li></ul>
    17. 17. Less positive.. <ul><li>“ Explaining in print can be time consuming, especially with mathematical formulae etc </li></ul><ul><li>I hadn’t used a wiki before and sometimes felt hesitant that I may ‘spoil’ the page </li></ul><ul><li>“ Why don’t people contribute? I suspect that the basic issue is: what’s in it for them?” </li></ul>
    18. 18. Focusing tutor intervention? <ul><li>Significant or difficult areas of course </li></ul><ul><li>Tutoring aims and intentions </li></ul><ul><li>Tutoring strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Tensions </li></ul>
    19. 19. Troublesome thoughts.. <ul><li>How applicable are threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge to your own discipline? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you identify examples? </li></ul><ul><li>Where are the advantages in identifying them? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the implications for practice? </li></ul>
    20. 20. <ul><li>Learning Development Team, </li></ul><ul><li>Arts Faculty, </li></ul><ul><li>Maths, Computing & Technology Faculty </li></ul><ul><li>OU in Scotland </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>