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Threshold Concepts: A Discipline-based approach to learning and design

Threshold Concepts: A Discipline-based approach to learning and design



Threshold Concepts: A Discipline-based approach to learning and design. ...

Threshold Concepts: A Discipline-based approach to learning and design.

A presentation by Colleen McKenna and Jane Hughes from HEDERA for the Disciplinary Thinking OER Workshop at the University of Bath 02/02/12.

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  • Note to workshop leader:The idea behind this workshop is that is could introduce the idea of threshold concepts to participants and take them all the way through redesigning a curriculum. Depending on the length of time given over to activities, we envisage that this could be anywhere from a half day to full day workshop.
  • Not to be read aloud…
  • Add in link to video.
  • . Participants could work in pairs or small groups for this exercise. If the session is small enough, they could be ask to be prepared to share their learning activity with the group, so flipboard paper or another medium could be distributed.
  • Draw on Cousin here.

Threshold Concepts: A Discipline-based approach to learning and design Threshold Concepts: A Discipline-based approach to learning and design Presentation Transcript

  • Photo: Andrei Ceru Threshold Concepts:A discipline-based approach to learning and design
  • Introduction• Aims Photo: Andrei Ceru• Background/context to threshold concepts research• Characteristics of threshold concepts• Threshold concepts in the field – What concepts arise in different disciplines• Threshold concepts and learning activities• Curriculum design
  • Session aims Overall aim:. The aim of this workshop is to help participants -• learn about ‘threshold concepts’ and ‘troublesome knowledge’• consider what threshold concepts might exist in their discipline• design a learning activity around a threshold concept in their field• Redesign an undergraduate curriculum with threshold concepts in mind
  • Activity: recalling a difficult learningexperience Think back to your time as a learner in your subject. Try to remember a key concept or theory that you Photo: Don Nelson struggled with. Please make some notes about the concept/theory and the experience of learning it.
  • Threshold knowledge as a portal Photo: Andrei Ceru‘A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress.’ (Meyer and Land, 2003)
  • Some characteristics of threshold concepts• Transformative – once understood, they should shift one’s perception of the subject• Irreversible – cannot be ‘unlearned’• Integrative – has the capacity to ‘expose a hidden interrelatedness’• Troublesome - potentially counter-intuitive. In grasping a threshold concept a student moves from a common sense understanding to an understanding which may conflict with perceptions that have previously seemed self- evidently true.’ (Davies, 2003) Photo: Kathleen Cohen
  • Troublesome knowledgePhoto: Andrei Ceru • knowledge that is difficult to teach and difficult to learn but which offers the learner a new perspective on the topic and, potentially, the discipline. • Troublesome knowledge might also require new use of language and shifts in understanding. It may also take a learner deeper into the subject. • Aim is not to elide or avoid, but rather to acknowledge troublesome knowledge. • Land, 2008 and Perkins, 2006
  • Liminal spaces• Suspended and transformative space that a learner occupies by moving from one state or position to another• Can be a space in which someone engages with previously held beliefs/certainties and renders them problematic• Often unsettling • Land and Meyer 2008; Land 2010 Photo: Andrei Ceru
  • Activity: initial responses Photo: Andrei CeruPlease watch the interview with Glynis Cousin.Glynis Cousin Interview – What is your initial response to Glynis’ account of threshold concepts? – Does anything in your background as a learner or a teacher resonate with her account of threshold concepts?
  • Threshold concepts in the disciplinesSubject Threshold ConceptEnglish literature Deconstruction; hegemony; significationEconomics Opportunity cost, the marginMaths Limit, complex numberElectrical engineering Frequency responseComputer science Object-oriented programming (OOP); memory/pointers, stateAcademic literacies Writing as a social practiceCultural studies; sociology OthernessAccounting DepreciationEngineering SpinPolitics ‘the state’ Land 2010; Land et al 2008; Meyer and Land, 2003
  • Activity: identifying threshold concepts in your discipline• Consider the threshold concepts on the handout from your discipline (or cognate discipline) – Do you agree with the categorisation?• Please identify up to 3 additional threshold concepts in your field.• Please discuss your findings with colleagues from similar disciplines. Photo: Andrei Ceru
  • Learning and threshold concepts• How can we use threshold concepts to design learning activities?• Please see handout with case study and examples.
  • Activity: designing a learning activity around a threshold concept• Please take a threshold concept from your discipline (from the handout or one that you’ve identified)• Spend some time drafting a learning activity (or a series of activities) around the concept• Share the idea with up to four other people. Photo: Kathleen Cohen
  • Threshold concept and curriculum design ‘The role of the teacher is to arrange victories for the students.’ Quintilian 35-100 AD • Cited in Land 2010Photo: Kathleen Cohen
  • Using threshold concepts to guide curriculum design• ‘Jewels in the curriculum’ – see the threshold concepts as points of transformation; build the curriculum around them• Allow space for confusion• ‘Recursiveness and excursiveness’ – Learners might have to revisit and doubleback while engaging with a threshold concept • (Cousin, 2006, drawing on Land et al 2006) Photo: Andrei Ceru
  • Curriculum design taskPhoto: Andrei Ceru • How could you use an awareness of threshold concepts for curriculum design? • Please take a curriculum (either from a single module, a year or an entire degree). • Consider where the core threshold concepts appear in the curriculum/curricula. • Are there ways in which you could reorganise the curriculum having identified threshold concepts?
  • References• Cousin, G. (2006) ‘An Introduction to threshold concepts’ http://gees.ac.uk/planet/p17/gc.pdf• Land, R. (2010) ‘Threshold Concepts and Issues of Interdisciplinarity’ .Third Biennial Threshold Concepts Symposium: Exploring transformative dimensions of threshold concepts: The University of New South Wales Australia, 2010.• Land, R.; Meyer, J. and Smith, J. (2008) Threshold Concepts within the Disciplines. Rotterdam: Sense.• Meyer, J. and Land, R. (2003)
’Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines’. ETL Project Report No. 4. http://www.etl.tla.ed.ac.uk/docs/ETLreport4.pdf• Perkins, D. (2006) ‘Constructivism and troublesome knowledge. In JHF Meyer and R Land (Eds) Overcoming barriers to student understanding: Threshold Concepts and troublesome knowledge. London: Routledge.Contacts: Jane Hughes and Colleen McKennaJ.hughes@hedera.org.ukc.mckenna@hedera.org.uk