The Superfoods of Online Learning: Threshold Concepts and Threshold Skills

Giles, Jessica (2016). The Superfoods of Online Learning: Threshold Concepts and Threshold Skills. Journal of Commonwealth Law and Legal Education, 11(1) pp. 26–43.



This article explains an action research project conducted at The Open University in the UK to assess whether synthesising teaching of threshold concepts with threshold skills could create ‘superfoods’ of online learning. The aim was to identify study interventions which had a high impact creating maximum benefit for students. The goal was to raise retention and pass rates for and to foster mastery in second year law students. The research was run initially within a tutor group context and ultimately rolled out on two second year LLB modules. The skills training was first trialled in face-to-face tutorials and was then combined with the development of substantive materials for online classrooms. 1
The initial focus was on a constructivist approach to design of materials across the spectrum of study skills. As the project developed it looked in particular at what are termed in this article ‘threshold skills’, that is skills which students found counter-intuitive and troublesome but which they needed to develop in order to be able to perform well and progress on the LLB. In the final iteration these were synthesized with threshold concepts to facilitate mastery. The sessions aimed to raise standards across the spectrum of student ability.

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