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Thursday, June 28 • 2:00pm - 2:20pm
Identifying Threshold Concepts in Educational Development

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A collective endeavour is currently underway in the field of educational development to conceptualise “who we are and what we do” (Stockley et al, 2008). Given the mission of educational development to influence the quality and culture of teaching and learning at multiple levels of the university, establishing firm grounding for our work and identities is crucial and will help establish the credibility of our field (Sorcinelli, Austin, Eddy, and Beach, 2006). Meyer and Land (2003) describe threshold concepts as providing insight into the ways people know within a discipline, and Davies (2006) remarks that, once understood, these concepts enable people to be identified as members of a disciplinary community.  The notion that there exist threshold concepts that result in conceptual, epistemological, and ontological transformations (Meyer and Land, 2005, 2006) reveals their great developmental potential (Timmermans, 2010). Consequently, threshold concepts provide a powerful perspective from which to examine the ways of knowing and being of educational developers.

A multiple case study was designed to investigate what experienced educational developers identify as threshold concepts in their careers. The study sought to determine threshold concepts identified as common across participants to gain a portrait of the ways of knowing and being that unite educational developers across the profession. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four experienced educational developers from Canadian universities.  Cross-case analysis revealed three categories of common threshold concepts: Ways of knowing and being (1) that facilitate change in individuals and in groups, (2) that facilitate systemic change, and (3) of professionals. Study findings suggest that the ways of knowing and being of experienced educational developers are closely intertwined with the work they intend to accomplish and therefore begin to elucidate the “development” work of educational development. Study findings also provide novel insights into the nature and characteristics of threshold concepts.               

Davies, P. (2006). Threshold concepts: How can we recognise them? In J. H. F. Meyer & R. Land (Eds.), Overcoming barriers to student understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (pp. 70-84). Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Meyer, J. H. F., and Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines. In C. Rust (Ed.), Improving student learning: improving student learning theory and practice -- Ten years on (pp. 412-424). Oxford, UK: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

Meyer, J. H. F., and Land, R. (2005). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): Epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning. Higher Education, 49, 373-388.  doi: 10.1007/s10734-004-6779-5

Meyer, J. H. F., and Land, R. (Eds.). (2006). Overcoming barriers to student understanding. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Sorcinelli, M. D., Austin, A. E., Eddy, P., and Beach, A., L. (2006). Creating the future of faculty development: Learning from the past, understanding the present. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Stockley, D., Mighty, J., McDonald, J., Taylor, K. L., Sorcinelli, M.D., Ouellett, Lewis, K., Land, R., Gosling, D., Dawson, D., and Caron, A.  (2008, June).  Mapping Our Pathway Into the Field of Educational Development.  Presentation at the International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED) Conference, Salt Lake City, USA.  Abstract retrieved from http://iced2008.org/conference-program/concurrent-session-8/

Timmermans, J.  (2010). Changing our minds: The developmental potential of threshold concepts.  In J. H. F. Meyer, R. Land, & C. Baillie (Eds.), Threshold concepts and transformational learning (pp. 3-19).  Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Sense.


Thursday June 28, 2012 2:00pm - 2:20pm IST
Lecture Theatre 1 Hamilton Building, Trinity College Dublin

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