Learnings & Questions about Threshold Concepts

OK, I have now read everything I can find by Meyer and Land on Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (with the exception of one text which I am trying to get via inter-library loan, as it is pricey even for my endless book buying binge–Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge).

There are two other things (loosely) I learned about this framework:

  • While learners struggle with this sort of conceptual knowledge, once they “get” it, their transformative, irreversible, and integrative experience will change their conceptual framework, while it is bounded within a disciplinary terrain and there is a discursive nature that is demonstrated when we use a different language to describe the concept or its results (Land, R., Meyer, J. H. F., & Smith, J. (2008). Editors’ Preface. In R. Land, J. H. F. Meyer & J. Smith (Eds.), Threshold concepts within the disciplines. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
  • This framework is intended to assist “teachers in identifying appropriate ways of modifying or redesigning curricula to enable their students to negotiate such epistemological transitions, and ontological transformations, in a more satisfying fashion for all concerned” when these concepts are located within “disciplinary knowledge” (Meyer & Land, 2005, p. 386).
  • This framework is intended for higher education, though the authors want to see it spread to other sectors of education (Land, Meyer, & Smith, 2008).

With this, I now have a few open questions to explore as next steps:

  • How do disciplinary Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge fit if one has a postmodern or post-structural worldview?
  • This issue arose from a comment made in David Perkins’ article when he spoke about John Dewey and Neil Postman’s work (Perkins, D. (2008). Beyond understanding. In R. Land, J. H. F. Meyer & J. Smith (Eds.), Threshold concepts within the disciplines. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers).
  • Whose knowledge can be determined to be troublesome to whom?
  • This issue arose from a comment about a Foucauldian perspective and how power within a curriculum is wielded, used, and understood (Meyer & Land, 2003).
  • How is this framework something distinctive from Jack Mezirow’s work in Transformative Learning
  • The only reference to Mezirow’s work on perspective transformation that I located was in the original 2003 article (Meyer & Land). I found this a bit surprising, in that the transformative learning literature (based on Mezirow, Brookfield, Cranton, Taylor, et al.) is increasing (with courses on it within adult education, a conference, dedicated journal, and entire programs of study built upon it), and there seem to be many similarities with enough differences tocomplement one another.

OK, now to use this (as it does interest me) as the conceptual framework for my research design, which I now want to begin to develop. Has anybody used this framework in any research?

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