Threshold Concepts as Focal Points for Supporting Student Learning

Jordan, Katy; Tracy, Frances and Johnstone, Keith (2011). Threshold Concepts as Focal Points for Supporting Student Learning. Bioscience Education, 18(1)



The Plant Sciences Pedagogy Project conducted research into undergraduate teaching and learning in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge and has translated the research findings into interventions to improve support for student learning. A key research objective for the project was to investigate how teachers within the Department support student learning in small group tutorials. This was undertaken using questionnaires, focus groups and interviews. During focus groups students reported that they valued tutors who were able to anticipate topics that they found difficult to master. The threshold concepts framework provided a medium for discussion about these troublesome areas in this discipline area and a number of threshold concepts were identified by interviewing teaching staff. The topics that emerged from this were used as focal points for development of new online resources for students. As threshold concepts are typically difficult to teach, they are challenging to one’s own practice as a teacher. Threshold concepts may provide a good focus for continuing professional development of teaching staff.

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