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Friday Teaching Academy: Threshold Concepts

An exploration of a tool that I have found very useful this year in guiding curricular choices.
by Bruce Emerson on 15 March 2014

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Transcript of Friday Teaching Academy: Threshold Concepts

List 5 concepts that are important to this class or activity
Pick a class, job site, or skill set where you have had some experience facilitating the learning of others
“A concept is an abstract idea generalized from particular instances or evidence, so involves an inductive process or thought” (Sheuerman, R.). By contrast, a fact is something known to be true, it’s a piece of information. To oversimplify the difference, facts are memorized where as concepts are understood.
Concepts
and
Facts...
First Activity
groups of 3+
Share 1 or 2 with group and
affirm that there is agreement about
identity - concept, fact, or hybrid
Threshold
Concepts
Does understanding this concept change
your core understanding of the material
being learned?
Is this concept difficult for students to
integrate into their understanding?
Is this concept hard to remember or tough
to make sense of or both?
How does not understanding this concept
affect their success on evaluations in the
future?
Examples:
Newton's Laws: Ideas about the impact
of the presence or absence of forces
graphs/plots contain valuable information
the derivative is a slope
value and hue are important features
of colors
biochemistry in the body and brain can affect
emotions
Examples:
What we believe we see and what is actually
there are often significantly different:
(conceptual vrs perceptual)
In every functional relationship (in math)
there is the possibility of added informational
value from the slope and/or the area "under the
curve". (meaning of derivatives and integrals)
The roots of our thinking processes and emotions
are, at their foundation, biological and biochemical.
(nature vrs nuture)
The current behavior of physical objects is entirely determined by the forces currently acting on them
(Newton's Laws)
pick one to explore
An Encounter with a troublesome idea....
Messing around with the "troublesome idea".....
Integration of threshold concepts into daily thinking...
Core Features:
Transformative
Troublesome
Irreversible
Integrated
Bounded
Discursive
Reconstitutive
Liminality
Liminality:
For me this feature has had a real impact on the organization of my curricular materials in my classes as well as on my understanding of processes in the college community. In some sense Liminality has been a threshold concept for me in my teaching.
Liminal states:

This space is likened to that which adolescents inhabit: - not yet adults; not quite children. It is an unstable space in which the learner may oscillate between old and emergent understandings just as adolescents often move between adult-like and child-like responses to their transitional status.

(Cousin, 2006b, p.139).
I'm just not here yet with this idea but I can imagine how it will affect every aspect of my life at the college.
http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/thresholds.html
This is the site that got me started...
Friday Teaching Academy
Threshold Concepts:
A new tool of curricular design!
Bruce Emerson, Physics
Thanks...
- to my students for engaging with my sometimes confusing efforts in class.

- to my colleagues for putting up with my ramblings.

- to Dawn for modeling complete commitment to personal growth and change

Transformative
it may be considered ‘akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something . . . it represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing . . . without which the learner cannot progress’ (Meyer and Land, 2003).
On mastering a threshold concept the learner begins to think as does a professional in that discipline and not simply as a student of that discipline - the learner begins to think like an engineer... like a chemist ... like an economist ...,
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