A threshold concept refers to core concepts in a subject where understanding them is key to transforming the way the students understand a whole subject, allowing them to move on in their learning (Meyer and Land, 2003, Cousin, 2006). This is sometimes referred to as “troublesome knowledge” (Meyer and Land, 2003).
There is so-called “troublesome knowledge” in every subject. There is also a lot of research available that is subject-specific on what these particular topics are, as well as the possibilities of crossing those thresholds for students. What does seem to be missing is a more practical format for addressing student learning when it comes to troublesome knowledge. As active learning encourages deep learning, there is a need, therefore, for a mix of teaching approaches to address the diverse learning styles in a class (Houghton, 2004) (Nicola-Richmond et al, 2018).
I am proposing an interactive session where I can assess colleagues’ knowledge of these topics, based on their own experience and research. I will then be showing how I am currently helping students address threshold concepts in my subject of Physics. I will highlight various media used for interactive engagement by students with the topic, formative assessment and feedback delivery (both tutor and peer-based feedback). These include interactive videos I created for the lesson, both using YouTube and H5P, online tests and a polling app to collate responses and provide feedback. I got to see students develop their meta-learning abilities during this process (Timmermans and Meyer, 2017). The focus is on the way in which these readily available tools have been used in my classes, as well as the evaluations made by myself and the students.
My conclusion on the sessions actually being effective in learning was based on actual feedback I gained from the students. The outcome of the surveys showed that the lesson was enjoyable, in spite of initial reservations. There were requests for more interactive content and assessments. The final exam result was in line with current research on active learning (Nicola-Richmond et al, 2018) (Freeman et al, 2014), as over 70% of the students in 3 cohorts scored highly in this topic. My conclusions and critical reflections are based on the survey and exam results of 100 students across 2 academic years.
The aim of the session is that subject tutors can gain further insight into threshold concepts and practical tools that can be applied to their subjects. This is to ensure greater participation/interaction by students with the material. This is not a full-fledged guide but should provide ideas for specific implementation.
Proposed Session Details:
1. Introduction – name, role, workplace, aim of session, threshold concepts in literature (5 min)
2. Colleague input on threshold concepts in particular subjects. Then align with literature (agreed or others topics given). (5 min)
3. Mention those in Physics – my experience (5 min)
4. Colleague input on how it was/can be tackled – Align with literature, need for engagement, curriculum adaptation. (5 min)
5. Discuss my experience and results, in line with literature (5 min)
6. Summarise tools involved and processes (5 min)
Session content: evaluation and reflection
This session is based on my own experience and current research. I would like to get colleague input on how e-learning can broach this issue as there is currently limited research in this area. Depending on participant comments, I am looking to publish the results. I will make my contact details so that anyone wishing to take it further can be involved in the publication.
Cousin, G., 2006. An introduction to threshold concepts. Planet No 17. [Online] Available at: https://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/Cousin%20Planet%2017.pdf [Last accessed 29/10/2017]
Freeman, S., Eddy, S., McDonough, M., Smith, M., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., and Wenderoth, M., 2014., Active learning increases student performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics, [online] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111:23, 8410 – 8415, Available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/23/8410.full [Last accessed 03/11/2017]
Houghton, W., 2004. Engineering Subject Centre Guide: Learning and Teaching Theory for Engineering Academics. Engineering Subject Centre: The Higher Education Academy. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/learning-teaching-theory.pdf [Last accessed 08/10/2017].
Meyer, J. and Land, R., 2003. Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines. Occasional Report 4. ETL Project, Universities of Edinburgh, Coventry and Durham. [Online] Available at: http://www.etl.tla.ed.ac.uk//docs/ETLreport4.pdf [Last accessed 29/10/2017]
Nicola-Richmond, K., Pépin, G., Larkin, H. and Taylor, C. (2018) Threshold concepts in higher education: a synthesis of the literature relating to measurement of threshold crossing. Higher Education Research & Development, 37:1, 101-114, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2017.1339181
Timmermans, T. & Meyer, J. (2017). A framework for working with university teachers to create and embed ‘Integrated Threshold Concept Knowledge’ (ITCK) in their practice. International Journal for Academic Development, DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2017.1388241
Resources for participants
Nkaepe Olaniyi posted an update in the session Threshold concepts: a practical, interactive guide to crossing the threshold [18-30] 7 months, 3 weeks ago
I’ve made a link to my presentation available:
Looking forward to the conference!