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Harlow, A., Peter, M., Scott, J. B., & Cowie, B. (2014). Students’ perceptions of travel through the liminal space: Lessons for teaching. In C. O’Mahony, A. Buchanan, M. Rourke, & B. Higgs (Eds.), Threshold Concepts: From Personal Practice to Communities of Practice: Proceedings of the National Academy’s Sixth Annual Conference and the Fourth Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference (pp. 62–67). Conference held at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland: National Academy for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13003
This paper presents findings from a study in which educational researchers followed the progress of analogue electronics students over their first two years at university. In this study, the lecturer's main motivation was to examine how a teaching-focus on threshold concepts might help students grasp troublesome ideas and if those students who grasped the threshold concepts achieved higher scores in the end-of-course examination. The lecturer identified two concepts in the first-year course which students repeatedly found hard to grasp. He focused his teaching on these concepts in the first year, and revisited them, albeit indirectly, throughout the second-year course. Over the two years, the lecturer utilised a variety of teaching strategies to facilitate students' learning of the troublesome concepts. In order to evaluate the effects of these strategies on student learning, an educational researcher, in collaboration with the lecturer, explored students' perceptions about where they 'got stuck' and what helped them understand the selected threshold concepts. Data from student surveys, individual interviews, and focus groups contributed to insights about their experience of transition through the liminal space. The lecturer and researcher reflected on and analysed the lecturer's teaching strategies using video-stimulated reflective dialogue. Findings revealed that many students did not fully grasp the two identified threshold concepts in their first year, however, repeated experiences with threshold concepts through varied teaching strategies, and a diversity of learning contexts contributed to students' understanding. In the second year, the continuing students felt that they took the threshold concepts for granted and had ceased to regard them as troublesome. They reported that grasping these threshold concepts was necessary to progress in analogue electronics. Findings of this study indicate that travel through the liminal space can be supported by an explicit and sustained focus on threshold concepts.
National Academy for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning