Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge 1 Linkage to ...
Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge A transformational approach to learning Ray Land, Strathclyde University, Glasgow UK University of York Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 25thth May 2011 Troublesome knowledge Real learning requires stepping into the unknown,
which initiates a rupture in knowing... By definition, all TC scholarship is concerned (directly or indirectly) with encountering the unknown. Schwartzman 2010 p.38 An eclectic approach ....Land and Meyer may be seen as promiscuous mongrels who care not with whom they sleep...
(Cousin 2006) pax intrantibus, salus exeuntibus (1609) I am part of all that Yet all experience is wherethro Gleams that untrave wh For ever and for eve
Tenny Threshold concepts Liminality Troublesome knowledge Episteme (the underlying game)
Causes of conceptual (or other) difficulty? The role of the teacher is to arrange victories for the students Quintilian 35-100 AD The prevailing discourse of outcomes, alignment and achievement has, from
critical perspectives, been deemed to serve managerialist imperatives without necessarily engaging discipline-based academics in significant reconceptualisation or review of their practice. (cf.Newton, 2000). Academics own definitions of quality would seem to remain predominantly disciplinecentred (cf. Henkel, 2000:106).
Notion that within specific disciplines there exist significant threshold concepts, leading to new and previously inaccessible ways of thinking about something. (Meyer and Land, 2003). Concept? a unit of thought or element of knowledge that allows us to organize experience
Janet Gail Donald (2001) Learning to Think: Disciplinary Perspectives James Joyces epiphany the revelation of the whatness of a thing. But threshold concepts are both more constructed and re-constitutive than revelatory, and not necessarily sudden. (eurhka!)!) Threshold Concepts
Akin to a portal, a liminal space, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. Represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner finds it difficult to progress, within the curriculum as formulated. Threshold Concepts As a consequence of comprehending a
threshold concept there may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view. Such a transformed view or landscape may represent how people think in a particular discipline, or how they perceive, apprehend, or experience particular phenomena within that discipline, or more generally. However the engagement by the learner with an unfamiliar knowledge terrain and the ensuing reconceptualisation may
involve a reconstitution of, or shift within, the learners subjectivity, and perhaps identity. Ontological implications. Learning as a change in subjectivity. (Pelletier 2007). Liminality a transformative state that engages existing certainties and renders them problematic, and fluid a suspended state in which
understanding can approximate to a kind of mimicry or lack of authenticity liminality as unsettling sense of loss First student: I understood it in class, it was when we went away and I just seemed to have completely forgotten everything that we did on it, and I think that was when I struggled because when we were sat in here, wed obviously got help if we had questions
but..when it came to applying it.I understood the lectures and everything that we did on it but couldnt actually apply it, I think that was the difficulty. from G. Cousin, Journal of Learning Development Feb 2010
Q. Did you feel the same as student 1? Second student: Yeah. I felt lost. Q. In lecture times as well? Second student: You know, I understood the concept for about lets say 10 seconds, yes yes, I got that and then suddenly, no no, I didnt get that, you know, suddenly, like this. from G. Cousin, Journal of Learning Development Feb 2010
Well, from not knowing what it is to knowing what it is, that is the big step one. So that can be knowing how to apply the concepts that we use. There are some things you learn, you suddenly think, wow, suddenly everything seems differentyou now see the world quite differently. from G. Cousin, Journal of Learning Development Feb 2010 Janus divinity of the threshold
epistemological ontological Characteristics of a threshold concept
East of Eden through the threshold Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide. They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way. John Milton (Paradise Lost, Book XII; 1667)
Pure Maths complex number, a limit, the Fourier transform Literary Studies signification, deconstruction, ethical reading
Economics opportunity cost, price, elasticity Design Confidence to challenge Computer Science programming, Y and Recursion Exercise Physiology metabolism Law - precedence Accounting - depreciation Biology, Psychology - evolution Politics the state Engineering reactive power, spin History Asiatic Conceptions of Time Comparative Religion Biblical texts as Literary Texts
Plant Science Photoprotection Health Science Care Physics Gravity Geology - Geologic Time Opportunity Cost Opportunity cost in any particular choice is, of course, influenced by prior choices that have been made, but with respect to this choice itself, opportunity cost is choice-influencing rather than choice-influenced Thus, if
accepted by the individual student as a valid way of interpreting the world, it fundamentally changes their way of thinking about their own choices, as well as serving as a tool to interpret the choices made by others. (Shanahan, 2002) Sampling Distribution They view statistics as a branch of mathematics because it uses mathematical formulas, so they look at statistics through a mathematical lens. What they are
missing is the statistical lens through which to view the world, allowing this world to make sense. The concept of sampling distribution is this statistical lens. My own experience discovering this lens was a revelation, akin to the experience I had when I put on my first pair of eyeglasses suddenly everything was sharp and clear. (Kennedy, 1998 p.142) Reflection (deep learning) (Schwartzman 2009) As a result of deep learning, one switches dynamically -- within the same field of consciousness -- among
thematic foci, with correspondent restructuring of thematic fields. The total set of elements in the field remains constant, while boundaries among the thematic focus, the thematic field, and the margin become fluid; and component elements shift between adjacent domains. The mechanism of dynamic switching among extant elements corresponds to reflection; the operation corresponds to refinement and clarification of one's extant meaning frame.
Reflectiveness (transformative learning) (Schwartzman 2009) As a result of transformative learning, in contrast, the contents of the field of consciousness change. Elements formerly not found in any domain of consciousness, possibly including component parts of elements formerly classified as nondecomposable, now occupy the thematic focus or reside in the thematic field; and some elements formerly found there are now relegated to the margin. The mechanism remains mysterious and corresponds to
reflectiveness; the operation, which results in a different population in the field of consciousness, corresponds to reformulation of one's meaning frame. Troublesome Knowledge When troubles come they come not single spies, but in battalions (Hamlet Act 4 Sc 5 ll 83-84) looking for trouble Knowledge is troublesome for a variety of reasons
(Perkins 2006). It might be alien, inert, tacit, conceptually difficult, counter-intuitive, characterised by an inaccessible underlying game, or characterised by supercomplexity. such troublesomeness and disquietude is purposeful, as it is the provoker of change that cannot be assimilated, and hence is the instigator of new learning and new ontological possibility. Troublesome knowledge ritual knowledge
inert knowledge conceptually difficult knowledge the defended learner alien knowledge tacit knowledge loaded knowledge troublesome language A Relation view of the features of Threshold Concepts
Type of feature Feature Mode Provocative Encounter with troublesome knowledge
Transformation Irreversibility Crossing of conceptual boundaries Changed use of discourse Liminal Post-liminal
A relational view of the features of a threshold concept Episteme: the underlying game a system of ideas or way of understanding that allows us to establish knowledge. ..the importance of students understanding the structure of the disciplines they are studying. Ways of knowing is another phrase in the same spirit. As used here, epistemes are manners of justifying, explaining, solving problems, conducting enquiries, and designing and validating
various kinds of products or outcomes. (Perkins 2006 p.42) knowledge practices (Strathearn 2008) Double trouble: games of enquiry Concepts can prove difficult both in their categorical function and in the activity systems or games of enquiry they support. Not only content concepts but the underlying epistemes of the disciplines make trouble for learners, with confusion about content concepts often
reflecting confusion about the underlying epistemes. (Perkins 2006 p.45) Intellectual uncertainty Intellectual uncertainty is not necessarily or simply a negative experience, a dead-end sense of not knowing, or of indeterminacy. It is just as well an experience of something open, generative, exhilarating, (the trembling of what remains undecidable). I wish to suggest that intellectual uncertainty is ..a crucial dimension of any teaching
worthy of the name. (Royle 2003 : 52) Venturing into strange places The student is perforce required to venture into new places, strange places, anxiety-provoking places . This is part of the point of higher education. If there
was no anxiety, it is difficult to believe that we could be in the presence of a higher education. (Barnett 2007: 147) Pedagogies of uncertainty it's ... insufficient to claim that a combination of theory, practice, and ethics defines a professional's work; it is also characterized by conditions of inherent and unavoidable uncertainty.
Professionals rarely can employ simple algorithms or protocols of practice in performing their services. How then does a professional adapt to new and uncertain circumstances? She exercises judgment. (Shulman 2005:1) Pedagogies of uncertainty That anxiety derives from the risk involved in putting forward ideas and defending them, from knowing that one must be prepared for class, from the fear of making a fool of oneself. The anxiety is either adaptive or
paralyzing. Managing levels of anxiety is a major responsibility of the teacher, but is also a responsibility of the collective. Because they all feel it, students must learn how to simultaneously challenge and support each other's thinking. (Shulman 2005:4) Pedagogies of uncertainty In these settings, the presence of emotion, even a modicum of passion, is quite striking--as is its absence in other settings. I would say that without a certain amount
of anxiety and risk, there's a limit to how much learning occurs. One must have something at stake. No emotional investment, no intellectual or formational yield. (Shulman 2005:4) Decoding the Disciplines 1. 2. 3. 4.
What is a bottleneck to learning in this class? How does an expert do these things? How can these tasks be explicitly modelled? How will students practise these skills and get feedback? 5. What will motivate the students? 6. How well are students mastering these learning tasks? 7. How can the resulting knowledge about learning be shared?
(Middendorf, J. and Pace,D. 2004) Ten Considerations for Course Design 1 jewels in the curriculum Threshold concepts can be used to
define potentially powerful transformative points in the students learning experience. In this sense they may be viewed as the jewels in the curriculum. 2 importance of engagement Existing literature regarding teachers who want students to develop genuine understanding of a
difficult concept points to the need for engagement eg. They must ask students to explain it represent it in new ways apply it in new situations connect it to their lives and NOT simply recall the concept in the form in which it was presented (Colby, et.al, 2003: p263) . 3
listening for understanding However, teaching for understanding needs to be preceded by listening for understanding. We cant second guess where students are coming from or what their uncertainties are. It is difficult for teachers to gaze backwards across thresholds.
4 reconstitution of self Grasping a concept is never just a cognitive shift; it also involves a repositioning of self in relation to the subject. This means from the viewpoint of curriculum design that some attention has to be paid to the discomforts of
troublesome knowledge 5 recursiveness The need for the learner to grasp threshold concepts in recursive movements means that they cannot be tackled in a simplistic 'learning outcomes' model where sentences like 'by the end of the course the learner will be able to....
undermine the complexities of the transformation a learner undergoes (postliminal variation). Consideration of threshold concepts to some extent rattles the cage of a linear, outcomes-based approach to curriculum design. 6 tolerating uncertainty Learners tend to discover that what is not clear
initially often becomes clear over time. So there is a metacognitive issue for the student (self-regulation within the liminal state) and a need for the teacher to provide a holding environment' (Winnicott 1960) 7 Dynamics of Assessment Implies need to reconsider the nature of stimulus,
protocol and signification in assessment practices Why do some students productively negotiate the liminal space and others find difficulty in doing so? Does such variation explain how the threshold will be, or can be, or can only be approached (or turned away from) as it comes into view? And how does it come into view? problem of signification of a particular understanding when the concept is outwith the domain of prior experience
need to monitor progress by revealing thought processes that generally remain private and troublesome to the learner (Cohen, 1987). in traditional assessment, a student can produce the right answer while retaining fundamental misconceptions (Marek, 1986). potential value of concept mapping to explore such variation (Kinchin and Hay 2006) 8
contestability of generic good pedagogy There is emerging indicative evidence that the good pedagogy of relating concepts to everyday phenomena, or simplifying them, can break down, eg depreciation, opportunity cost. 9 the underlying game (sub-liminal variation)
The need to recognise the games of enquiry we play (Perkins 2006). Disciplines are more than bundles of concepts. They have their own characteristic epistemes. Need for students to recognise the underlying episteme or game and develop epistemic fluency. 10
professional development Possibility of using thresholds framework to design more discipline-specific programmes of professional development. interdisciplinarity monocularism: the gaze of the Cyclops
expanding 3) The The expanding framework 78framework disciplinary/subject categories 78 discipilinary/subject categories
Year No of refs. 2003 2 2004 3 2005 6 2006 33 2007 35
2008 51 2009 53 Mick Flanagan 11 theses and dissertations Links to video, ppt presentations and other TCF
websites 2010 114 http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/thresholds.html References Meyer JHF and Land R 2003 Threshold Concepts and Troublesome
Knowledge Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising in Improving Student Learning Ten Years On. C.Rust (Ed), OCSLD, Oxford Meyer JHF and Land R 2005 Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (2): epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning Higher Education, May.
Land, R., Cousin, G., Meyer, J. H. F. & Davies, P. (2005) Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (3): implications for course design and evaluation, in: C. Rust (Ed.) Improving student learning: diversity and inclusivity (Oxford, OCSLD), 5364. [email protected]
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