June 15, 11:10 am-12:20 pm: Concurrent Sessions G

Text: 7th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference. Thorny Thresholds: Identity, Transfer, Assessment. June 13-16, 2018. Miami University

(G1) Developing Unique Curricula with Threshold Concepts

Location: McGuffey 117

Threading Transformative Experiences with Threshold Concepts through an Electrical and Computer Engineering Curriculum

David Reeping, Virginia Tech

This session will present the combination of threshold concept theory (Meyer & Land, 2003) with the design technique of personas (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2010, p. 182) from human-centered design for curriculum development in an Electrical and Computer Engineering department (see Reeping, McNair, Wisnioski, et al., 2017; Reeping, McNair, Harrison, et al., 2017). Challenges faced to this point in conveying threshold knowledge and designing experiences for students to navigate liminality will be shared. Attention will be placed on the question of managing the conflation between student outcomes and the learning of threshold concepts, especially in large-scale programmatic change.

Using a Threshold Concepts Framework to Support Curriculum Renewal in a Cross-Border Academic Partnership

Brian Foley, Trinity College Dublin

The context for this proposal is that of a developing cross-border academic partnership between a European research oriented university, Trinity College Dublin, and a growing Indian university, Thapar University. Of particular focus is a process of curriculum renewal at Thapar for which Trinity has been engaged as a support. A potentially troublesome but transformative scenario such as this suggests the deployment of a threshold concepts framework, with the work of Timmermans [2014] of direct relevance.
The overarching threshold concept uncovered by Timmermans was that of “facilitating a change process,” with ways of knowing and being that facilitate systemic change found to constitute a particular challenge in our context. As a review conducted by Trinity into Thapar processes successively migrated from the academic domain into the administrative, governance, and decision-making domains in search of portals to systemic change, a complex web of threshold concepts was encountered. It is proposed that the conference paper/presentation will focus on the identification of these category (ii) threshold concepts and the means of addressing them.

Making Is Thinking-Transcending Threshold Concepts in Architecture Education

Leif M. Hokstad, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

This paper reports of the challenge and experiences regarding how to foster innovation and creativity in students in architecture, and the development of a methodology. In these creative processes (Froud & Harris 2015), students are frequently hindered by the thresholds of liminality, lack of tolerance of uncertainty (Land 2016) and design fixations (Bilac et al 2008). In the Making is Thinking (MiT) approach all activities revolve around hands-on experiences, full-scale building, and creative methods. Students are challenged to practice lateral thinking (de Bono 1979) in order to break free from design fixations. Two different initiatives are described, a laboratory and workshop. These approaches and methodologies challenge preconceptions of calculated patterns, causality and linearity in the learning process. Instead, learners are offered the affordances of uncertainty and liminality as a fertile learning space. The purpose is to create and identify productive moments, and to develop a ´provocative competence´ (Barrett 1998).

(G2) Discovering Thresholds: Threshold Concepts and Liminality in Legal Education, Electricity and Magnetism, and Music Industry Education

Location: McGuffey 120

Threshold Concepts in Legal Education

Melissa H. Weresh, Drake University Law School

This presentation will explore threshold concepts in legal education. Beginning with a brief review of the progression of legal education in the United States, the presentation will propose the concept of malleability of law as a threshold concept in the foundational first year of American law study. Malleability will be defined as the degree to which legal principles can be accurately and ethically articulated both broadly and narrowly. This concept will then be examined against traditional criteria for threshold concepts (Meyer and Land). Attendees will be encouraged to explore how the concept is treated in legal education in other countries. Attendees will also be encouraged to explore how the concept functions as a threshold to other aspects of legal education, and how first-year educators could collaborate to make the concept more accessible to students. Finally, attendees will be asked to explore additional threshold concepts in legal education.

Liminal Spaces in Electricity and Magnetism

Sandra Serbanescu, University of Toronto

Pedagogy in Physics is dominated by Physics Education Research (PER). Reformed pedagogy means putting students in a state of cognitive dissonance by forcing them to confront misconceptions. Threshold Concepts (TC) are not misconceptions but rather troublesome knowledge, so widespread in Physics. A case study outlining specific aspects of liminality is presented. 88 (out of 180) students have participated. The interview questions were written following the well-known TC characteristics (Meyer and Land, 2003). As a result, five TCs have been identified. A standard pre- and post-course survey: Basic Electricity and Magnetism Assessment (Ding et.al. 2006) or BEMA was used. It clearly showed that about 30 students never left the liminal stages of the following TCs: “Electric and magnetic potentials,” “Electric and magnetic field lines,” “Boundary conditions.” This raises the question of the time dimension of liminality: can it be a permanent state for some students learning Electricity and Magnetism? Is it reflected in the course marks?

A Ticket to Ride: Threshold Concepts and Disciplinary Acculturation in Music Industry Education

Julie Viscardi-Smalley, Boston University

This dissertation-in-progress is aimed to identify bottlenecks and threshold concepts as perceived by “expert music industry professionals” while reflecting on their careers. Additionally, the possibility of “disciplinary acculturation” as a potential characteristic of threshold concepts is posited. Via interview, participant responses will ideally illuminate their perspectives on conceptual knowledge that they considered “difficult” or “troublesome”, strategies that they feel helped them to finally grasp these concepts and behaviors and attitudes or cultural attributes that might have also functioned as thresholds. For university professors, the identification, prioritization and utilization of bottlenecks and threshold concepts that apply to their individual disciplines could prove useful in postsecondary music industry education. The results of this research are applicable to curriculum planning to promote greater student achievement on both macro- (program creation, execution and evaluation) and micro- (course creation, planning, instruction and evaluation) levels in post-secondary music industry education in the United States and worldwide.

(G3) Assessing Learners' Transformations in Teacher Education and Engineering Programs

Location: McGuffey 121

Using Threshold Concepts to Assess Dispositional Readiness for a Professional Domain: A Case Study in Teacher Preparation Education

Michelle Holschuh Simmons, Monmouth College & Virginia Tucker, San Jose State University

Learners in professional preparation programs need to acquire, not only the knowledge and skills required in their field, but also the soft skills, or dispositions, that successful members of the profession possess. The presenters will report on using threshold concepts theory to illuminate transition markers regarding dispositions for students in a teacher education program (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2002). Their research study explored professional identity formation among student teachers, using evidence of transformative learning and identity shifts as manifested in discourse (Meyer & Land, 2005; Flanagan & Smith, 2008). Findings from the study contribute to a more nuanced understanding of discourse in threshold learning experiences and to the task of assessing readiness for full participation in a professional domain. Key themes derived from this study can inform the use of threshold concepts in the assessment of dispositions or soft skills in other professional preparation programs.

Graduate Attributes and Threshold Concepts: Are We Measuring What's Important?

Nancy Nelson, University of Calgary

A great deal of work has been done within the engineering community to identify the threshold concepts that students must master in order to transform from novice to practitioner. At the same time, engineering regulatory bodies have established a set of graduate attributes that help ensure graduating engineers are prepared to practice professional engineering. Students and recent graduates have identified that one of three areas in which they felt lacking in skills and confidence was solving the complex and multi-faceted problems encountered in the engineering work place. This seems to indicate that students have not fully transitioned through the liminal state associated with one or more discipline-specific threshold concepts. This paper presents a framework in which engineering educators can better assess students’ level of threshold concept mastery by identifying and monitoring those concepts as the key indicators used to track graduate attributes.

(G4) Situating Threshold Concepts in an Assessment Ecology

Location: McGuffey 215

Barbara D'Angelo, Arizona State University, & Barry Maid, Arizona State University

Barbara D’Angelo will present the development and results an exploratory study on the assessment of threshold concepts in Writing Studies, specifically in a Technical and Professional Communication graduate program. The study was developed with a focus on the threshold concepts “writing is a social and rhetorical act” (Adler-Kassner and Wardle, ed., 2015) and “scholarship is a conversation (“Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education” (2016). in the context of an assessment ecology as advocated by White, Elliot, and Peckham (2015). She will conclude with the results of the study to present findings related identifying how and whether students are engaging in learning threshold concepts, are in a liminal state as they engage with each other and coursework, or are crossing the portal. Barry Maid will engage attendees in discussion related to the results of the exploratory study and the assessment of threshold concepts. The discussion will focus on whether results are relevant or generalizable to other writing contexts and/or disciplines. In addition, discussion will engage participants in discourse about the assessment of threshold concepts and how we, as a field, can integrate an understanding of the themes or patterns that may be identifiable as indicators of learning or traversing threshold concepts within an ecology of assessment. Finally, the discussion will approach the methodological question of using corpora of writing samples and their potential role in the research of threshold concepts.

(G5) “Jewels in the Curriculum”: Designing Courses with Threshold Concepts in Professional Writing, Comparative Rhetoric, and Literary Studies

Location: McGuffey 217

Redesigning Digital Writing and Rhetoric with Threshold Concepts

Angela Glotfelter, Miami University

This presentation will discuss a redesign of a 200-level foundation course on Digital Writing and Rhetoric in a Professional Writing major through the lens of Threshold Concepts (TCs), defined here as ideas “that bind a subject together, being fundamental to ways of thinking and practicing in that discipline” (Land, Cousin, Meyer, & Davies, 2005, p. 54). The speaker will address the multiple aims of the redesign, including 1) designing course outcomes and assignments that reflected TCs and current areas of research and inquiry within the field; 2) providing multiple times for students to encounter ideas through the curriculum, and 3) fostering metacognition to help facilitate transfer (Quick, 2012; Wardle, 2007; Beaufort, 2007; Gorzelsky, Driscoll, Paszek, Jones, & Hayes, 2016).

Finding the Threshold Concepts through Course Design

Rachel Schaefer, Miami University

This paper strategizes how to design a survey of American literature course to align with the Threshold Concepts of literary studies. Threshold Concepts are "important to the mastery of their subject" by their transformative, irreversible, integrative, bounded, and troublesome nature (Land et al., 2005; Cousins, 2006). Rather than re-invent methods used to instruct and evaluate student learning, this design highlights effective methods already in use and re-directs the focus towards the acquisition of Threshold Concepts with the goal of creating a course that engages and positions students more centrally in the classroom as creators of knowledge rather than connoisseurs of literature (Heinert and Chick, 2017). This presentation will 1) present Threshold Concepts in literary studies; 2) consider the relationship between Threshold Concepts and learning outcomes; and 3) highlight several assignment options that support the acquisition of Threshold Concepts and learning outcomes common to literary studies.

Recontextualization as a Threshold Concept of Intercultural Writing

Hua Zhu, Miami University

This presentation will discuss how to synthesize threshold concept theories and transfer studies to inform the design of a upper-division, intercultural writing class. The speaker will start with distinguishing threshold-concept-based framework from an outcome-based approach (Estrem 2015). In so doing, the speaker will address how threshold concepts—here defined as transformative, core concepts and epistemes of a discipline (Davies 2006; Perkins 2006)—could help teachers consistently operationalize complex theories such as comparative rhetorical thinking and doing in every stratum of a course and in their day-to-day teaching. In particular, this presentation pursues three lines of inquiry: It maps out threshold concepts in comparative rhetoric and draws out their pedagogical implications on an intercultural writing class, which involve both first language learners and multilingual students; Second, it discusses how the framework of threshold concepts may help teachers crucially define the philosophical assumptions of a composition course and choose their daily pedagogical tactics; Third, it attends to how, in a specialized academy, teachers may teach threshold concepts to develop students’ meta-awareness of writing (Berfort 2007, Gorzelsky et al 2017, Nowacek 2011, Wardle 2007) and facilitate them to reshape and transfer learned writing knowledge for a new, disciplinary context.