Threshold knowledge

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Threshold knowledge is a term in the study of higher education used to describe core concepts—or threshold concepts—which, once understood, transform perception of a given subject, phenomenon, or experience.[1]

The term was Introduced by Jan Meyer and Ray Land,[1][2][3][4] Meyer and Land also discuss the related idea of troublesome knowledge, ideas that appear alien or counter-intuitive.[1][3][4] The theory holds that:

... there are certain concepts, or certain learning experiences, which resemble passing through a portal, from which a new perspective opens up, allowing things formerly not perceived to come into view. This permits a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something, without which the learner cannot progress, and results in a reformulation of the learners' frame of meaning. The thresholds approach also emphasises the importance of disciplinary contexts. 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. Typical examples might be 'Personhood' in Philosophy; 'The Testable Hypothesis' in Biology; 'Gravity' in Physics; 'Reactive Power' in Electrical Engineering; 'Depreciation' in Accounting; 'Legal Narrative' in Law; 'Geologic Time' in Geology; 'Uncertainty' in Environmental Science; 'Deconstruction' in Literature; 'Limit' in Mathematics or 'Object-oriented Programming' in Computer Science.[2]

These ideas have been explored by several subsequent researchers in a variety of disciplinary contexts including:

The theory has also been criticised.[16]

The notion of threshold concept is related to the notion of bottleneck in the Decoding the Disciplines framework. It can be considered a special case of the latter.[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Meyer J H F 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.
  2. ^ a b Meyer, Jan; Land, Ray; Baillie, Caroline, eds. (2010). Threshold concepts and transformational learning (PDF). Educational futures: rethinking theory and practice. Vol. 42. Rotterdam; Boston: Sense Publishers. p. ix. ISBN 9789460912054. OCLC 649651179.
  3. ^ a b Meyer JHF, Land R (2005). "Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): Epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning" Higher Education, 49(3), 373-388.
  4. ^ a b Land, R., Cousin, G., Meyer, J.H.F. and Davies, P. (2005), "Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (3): implications for course design and evaluation", in C. Rust (ed.), Improving Student Learning − equality and diversity, Proceedings of the 12th Improving Student Learning Conference. Oxford: OCLSD.
  5. ^ Korosteleva, E. A. (2010) Threshold Concept Through Enactive Learnings: How Effective Are They in the Study of European Politics?, International Studies Perspectives, 11, 37-50.
  6. ^ Park EJ, Light G (2009). "Identifying Atomic Structure as a Threshold Concept: Student mental models and troublesomeness" International Journal of Science Education, 31(2), 233-258.
  7. ^ Baillie C, Goodhew P, Skryabina E (2006). "Threshold concepts in engineering education-exploring potential blocks in student understanding" International Journal of Engineering Education, 22(5), 955-962.
  8. ^ Davies, Peter; Mangan, Jean (December 2007). "Threshold concepts and the integration of understanding in economics". Studies in Higher Education. 32 (6): 711–726. doi:10.1080/03075070701685148. ISSN 0307-5079. S2CID 143662293.
  9. ^ Davies, Peter (January 2019). "The construction of frameworks in learners' thinking: Conceptual change and threshold concepts in economics". International Review of Economics Education. 30: 100135. doi:10.1016/j.iree.2018.05.002. S2CID 158978997.
  10. ^ Clouder L (2005). "Caring as a 'threshold concept': Transforming students in higher education into health (care) professionals" Teaching in Higher Education, 10(4), 505-517.
  11. ^ Bradbeer J (2006). "Threshold concepts within the disciplines". Planet, no. 17, 16-7.
  12. ^ Lucas, U., Mladenovic, R. (2007), "The potential of threshold concepts: an emerging framework for educational research and practice." London Review of Education, 5(3), 237−248.
  13. ^ Bulmer, M., O'Brien, M., Price, S. (2007) "Troublesome concepts in statistics: a student perspective on what they are and how to learn them", UniServe Science, Proceedings of the Assessment in Science Teaching and Learning Symposium, University of Sydney, September 28−29, 2007, 9–15.
  14. ^ "Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education". Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). 2015-02-09. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  15. ^ Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. University Press of Colorado. 2015. ISBN 978-0-87421-989-0. JSTOR j.ctt15nmjt7.
  16. ^ Rowbottom DP (2007). "Demystifying threshold concepts". Journal of Philosophy of Education, 41(2), 263–270. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9752.2007.00554.x
  17. ^ Shopkow L and Joan Middendorf J (2020). “Caution! Theories at play! Threshold Concepts and Decoding the Disciplines.” Threshold Concepts on the Edge edited by A. Timmermans and R. Land, 37-50. Leiden: Brill/Sense
  18. ^ Shopkow, L (2010). "What decoding the disciplines can offer threshold concepts." Threshold concepts and transformational learning, 317-331. Leiden:Brill.

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