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Threshold Concepts & Troublesome Knowledge. Ray Land University of Strathclyde Glasgow UK Jan H.F. Meyer University of Durham UK. ISSOTL 10, 22 October 2010. An eclectic approach. ‘....Land and Meyer may be seen as promiscuous mongrels who care not with whom they sleep...’ (Cousin 2006).

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Threshold concepts troublesome knowledge l.jpg
Threshold Concepts & Troublesome Knowledge

Ray Land

University of Strathclyde Glasgow UK

Jan H.F. Meyer

University of Durham UK

ISSOTL 10, 22 October 2010


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An eclectic approach

‘....Land and Meyer may be seen as promiscuous mongrels who care not with whom they sleep...’

(Cousin 2006)



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Real learning requires stepping into the unknown, which initiates a rupture in knowing...

By definition, all TC scholarship is concerned (directly or indirectly) with encountering the unknown.

Schwartzman 2010 p.38


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I am part of all that I have met; initiates a rupture in knowing...

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’Gleams that untravell’d world,

whose margin fadesFor ever and for ever when I move.

Tennyson ‘Ulysses’


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Overview initiates a rupture in knowing...

  • A brief introduction to thresholds

  • Extending the boundaries: recent scholarship

  • The expanding framework

  • Projects

  • Thresholds as a form of pedagogical research (Cousin 2008)

  • Thresholds as a tool of cultural analysis

    • The ‘Singing Revolution’: Crisis in post-Communist Estonian national identity (Kutsar & Kärner 2010)

    • Interdisciplinarity (Land 2010)


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1) An introduction initiates a rupture in knowing...


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There are… initiates a rupture in knowing...

‘Conceptual

gateways’

‘portals’


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…that lead to initiates a rupture in knowing... a new way of understanding, interpreting or viewing something, a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view…

without which the learner cannot progress


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PLACES initiates a rupture in knowing...


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2) Extending the boundaries: Recent scholarship initiates a rupture in knowing...


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Threshold concepts provide us with a new initiates a rupture in knowing... analytical lens to focus on critical, and perhaps previously neglected, aspects of variation in student learning


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…a lens through which to reconceptualise student progression and ‘stuck places’


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Deconstruction progression and ‘stuck places’

Object oriented programming

Equal temperament

Limit

Elasticity

Uncertainty

Reactive power

Scale

Otherness

Modularity

Hypothesis

Sa/V ratio

Caring

Pointers

Precedent

Proof

Laplace transform

Compactness

Signification


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The expanding framework progression and ‘stuck places’

3) The expanding framework

78 disciplinary/subject categories

11 theses and dissertations

78 discipilinary/subject categories

Links to video, ppt presentations and other TCF websites

Mick Flanagan

http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/thresholds.html


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4) Projects progression and ‘stuck places’

Engineering thresholds: An approach to curriculum renewal

(UWA, Caroline Baillie, 2010, A$ 200,000)


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5) Thresholds as a form of pedagogical research progression and ‘stuck places’(Cousin 2008)


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Transactional Curriculum Inquiry progression and ‘stuck places’

Glynis Cousin 2008

...the search for threshold concepts has the potential to open up discussions among subject specialists, students and educational researchers, creating forms of transactional curriculum inquiry between these three parties.


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...threshold concept research does not require the academic to learn another discipline; on the contrary, it requires that she goes more deeply into her own for the purposes of formulating the best ways of teaching and learning it.


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By staging the exploration at the site of the subject and of its difficulties, threshold concept research promises to harness an academic’s research curiosity for his subject with a new curiosity about how best to teach it; this promise carries with it an enhanced capacity for research and teaching to be dynamically linked.


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6) Thresholds as a tool of cultural analysis its difficulties, threshold concept research promises to harness an academic’s research curiosity for his subject with a new curiosity about how best to teach it; this promise carries with it an enhanced capacity for research and teaching to be dynamically linked.


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The ‘Singing Revolution’: its difficulties, threshold concept research promises to harness an academic’s research curiosity for his subject with a new curiosity about how best to teach it; this promise carries with it an enhanced capacity for research and teaching to be dynamically linked.

Crisis in post-Communist Estonian national identity

Dagmar Kutsar & Anita Kärner (2010)


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This is an attempt to look at society as a learning and teaching environment during an extremely intensive period of societal changes, when one socio-economic and political system collapses and is exchanged for another. The transitions are meaningful events, accompanied by uncertainties, learning the new, and changing identities and structures.

(p.384)


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During the transitional period, society is overwhelmed by a liminal space – no longer what it was and not yet what it will be. The liminal space is shared by the actors of transition, the institutions, groups and individuals all filled with a mixture of new and old cognitions, emotions, myths and behavioural patterns. (p.384)


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The Baltic Chain 23 August 1989 liminal space – no longer what it was and not yet what it will be. The liminal space is shared by the actors of transition, the institutions, groups and individuals all filled with a mixture of new and old cognitions, emotions, myths and behavioural patterns.

Tallin -> Riga -> Vilnius, 600 kms


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Togetherness was not always accompanied by positive emotions. In the situation of rapid societal change, individuals are often unable to adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that reason, rapid change, even positive in essence, brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of cognitive control over the situation, which results in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and alienation. (p.386)


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Well-being acknowledges the emotions. In the situation of rapid societal change, individuals are often unable to adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that reason, rapid change, even positive in essence, brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of cognitive control over the situation, which results in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and alienation. possibilities as well as limitations for action. In general, the process of societal transitions in Estonia was tense for everybody involved in the manner of decreasing their perceived quality of life. (p.386)


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The emotions. In the situation of rapid societal change, individuals are often unable to adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that reason, rapid change, even positive in essence, brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of cognitive control over the situation, which results in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and alienation. Communitas, using Turner’s (1969) approach, expressed the readiness for creation of the ‘anti’-structure in Estonian society.

Springing forth from the ruins of the collapsing totalitarian system and fed by opposition towards it, the Communitas was destructive towards the old system and its power structures.


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Dramatis personae - ‘ emotions. In the situation of rapid societal change, individuals are often unable to adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that reason, rapid change, even positive in essence, brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of cognitive control over the situation, which results in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and alienation. the actors of transition’

The ‘Communitas’

The ‘Others’

The (Soviet) nomenklatura

The ‘Teachers’


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ii emotions. In the situation of rapid societal change, individuals are often unable to adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that reason, rapid change, even positive in essence, brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of cognitive control over the situation, which results in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and alienation. Interdisciplinarity

Ray Land (2010)


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Threshold concepts and emotions. In the situation of rapid societal change, individuals are often unable to adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that reason, rapid change, even positive in essence, brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of cognitive control over the situation, which results in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and alienation. disciplinarity

TCs & CoP research has argued that disciplinarity is a key determinant of academic identity

Probably most TC research to

date concerned with disciplinary

formation, and acquisition of

robust ‘WTP’ (Entwistle & McCune 2009)


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Disciplinary identity emotions. In the situation of rapid societal change, individuals are often unable to adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that reason, rapid change, even positive in essence, brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of cognitive control over the situation, which results in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and alienation.

Disciplines have developed their own

conceptual worlds , their own WTPs

and their own learning thresholds

TCs part of the mapping & patrolling

of disciplinary boundaries.

Disciplines serve as bases of personal identity (Mary Henkel 2000).


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Disciplinary subjectivity determined by these boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian


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Disciplinary practice boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian

‘The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken’.

Dr Samuel Johnson

1709 - 1784


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The tidiness and enclosure of disciplines boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian

‘Whereas disciplines can attain a high degree of enclosure around self-defined concepts , methods and questions, and leave aside matters not convenient for ..[a].. disciplinary matrix, a practically oriented public servant enterprise like public administration should never adopt such a prioritisation of tidiness above usefulness.’

Gasper 2010 p.53


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boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an AustralianIt has to draw on various types of understanding in order to tackle various types of pressing and interconnected real issues; it links material from different fields without unifying them.’

Gasper 2010 p.53


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A ‘ boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australianproblematique of interdisciplinarity’

‘The complexity of policy cases frequently exceeds the grasp of discipline-based knowledge , even when brought together from different disciplines’

Gasper 2010 p.53


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Disciplinarity boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian and temporality

‘Much interdisciplinarity arises in response to practical and immediate life problem situations, where we cannot wait for discipline-gained knowledge that is not yet available. Such work, oriented to life problems, might not be conventionally scientifically elegant, but it draws on sophisticated craft skills of selection, synthesis and judgement.’


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Characteristics of the 21 boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australianst century

  • Uncertainty

  • Speed and acceleration

  • Complexity

  • Multiculturalism

  • Mobility of the population

  • Conflict (social, military)

  • Inter-generational tension

  • Need for ethical citizenship

  • Information saturation

  • Proliferation of knowledge

  • Globalisation

  • Internationalisation

  • Private /public sector tension

  • Increasing panic

  • Unpredictability

  • Risk

  • Need for flexibility and agility

  • Entitlement v responsibility

  • Scarcity of resources

  • Austerity

  • Sustainability

  • Need for prudence

  • Transparency & accountability

  • Discontinuity and rupture

  • Shifting paradigms

  • Poverty v affluence

  • Outsourcing of jobs

  • Youthfulness


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Supercomplexity boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an AustralianRiskSpeedUncertaintyContestability‘A radically unknowable world’ Barnett 2004: 247-260


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Forensics boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian(criminal investigation)

Chemists, medics, police (SoCOs), lawyers, journalists, politicians, media, civil administrators, criminologists, counsellors, psychologists.

Public Energy Utilities(tidal barrier technologies)

Electrical Engineers, civil engineers, ecologists, biologists, zoologists, financiers, economists, computer modellers, politicians, media, lawyers, urban planners, rural & community development, tourism, journalists, policy analysts, management scientists, sociologists

Climate Change (global warming)

Environmental scientists, physicists, meteorologists, geologists, geographers, economists, statisticians, computer scientists, politicians, journalists, civil servants, policy analysts, sociologists


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Post normal science boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian

Philosophers and practitioners of science have identified this particular mode of scientific activity as one that occurs where the stakes are high, uncertainties large and decisions urgent, and where values are embedded in the way science is done and spoken. It has been labelled ‘post-normal’ science…The danger of a ‘normal’ reading of science is that it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, and that truth-based policy will then follow.

Climate change is too important to be left to scientists - least of all the normal ones. Hulme 2007


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monodisciplinarity boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian


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monocularism boundaries, as with urban and national identities, eg a Glaswegian, an Australian:the gaze of the Cyclops



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Interdisciplinarity or Concept. Transdisciplinarity presents another encounter with Troublesome Knowledge.



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It constitutes a form of transformational learning Concept.

‘Transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions. It is a shift of consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world.’

O’Sullivan et al, 2002, p. 11


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Disciplinary relations Concept. (Gasper 2010 p. 58)


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Disciplinarity Concept. and modern western thought(Norgaard 1994 pp 62-65)



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The Concept. paradox is that this is how we became disciplinarily-minded and adept at WTP in the first place. This was how our disciplinary identity was originally constituted.

To work effectively in interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary contexts our disciplinary subjectivity needs to be reconstituted.

Our disciplinary identity needs to be loosened, perhaps weakened.


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Need for a ‘required shift as from a nest of identity as an academic or professional of type T to a self-conception as pilgrim or seeker’.

Giri 1998 p.2002


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Disciplinary specialists find it difficult to leave the Eden of their discipline, to cross the boundary into Interdisciplinarity. If they can’t, we are left with a group of Cyclopses, each with a separate discourse, constituting a Tower of Babel.


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‘...ontological insecurity’ of their discipline, to cross the boundary into Interdisciplinarity. If they can’t, we are left with a group of Cyclopses, each with a separate discourse, constituting a Tower of Babel. (Giddens 1991)

‘ ...boundariless anxiety’ (Bergquist 1995)


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Blank spots & blind spots of their discipline, to cross the boundary into Interdisciplinarity. If they can’t, we are left with a group of Cyclopses, each with a separate discourse, constituting a Tower of Babel. Wagner 2010 p.33

Matrix of sociological inquiry

Phenomena under investigation

(ie class, gender, age, race, ethnicity)

(i.e.group, household, community, collectivity)


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‘I realised that I had missed an opportunity to round out my understanding of methodology by coming to grips with measurement as a valuable means of enquiry.My scholarly critiques of ‘white coat’ objectivism had allowed me to step around the judicious use of quantitative enquiry and I came to regret that gap in my knowledge, however much I was able to generate publications about the nature of knowledge and its politicisation’.

Disciplinary blind spots


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This is not written as a confessional, but a simple acknowledgement that critique is a very useful means for maintaining blind spots in our learning.

McWilliam 2010 p.45


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A caste-mark for life? acknowledgement that critique is a very useful means for maintaining blind spots in our learning.

‘Interdisciplinarity is more achievable when people act not as representatives of disciplines but of themselves, their experiences, values and insights.’ Gasper 2010 p.55


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Barriers to acknowledgement that critique is a very useful means for maintaining blind spots in our learning.interdisciplinarity

  • Organisational structures

  • Academic incentives point the other way

  • Cultures of communities of practice / bonding capital

  • Ontological insecurity / boundariless anxiety

  • Blank spots override blind spots

  • Low esteem of ‘the cafeteria curriculum’

  • Few mutual discourses / frameworks

  • Co-ordination costs

  • Too difficult - it too often fails

  • Suspicion of globalised ‘knowledge work‘ / managerial breaking of disciplinary tribes


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5 prerequisites for acknowledgement that critique is a very useful means for maintaining blind spots in our learning.interdisciplinarity(after Gasper 2010)


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learning for improvisation acknowledgement that critique is a very useful means for maintaining blind spots in our learning.

Through Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Lave and Wenger (1991) offer a constitutive role for learning; learning for improvisation; emergent processes from actual interaction; the improbability of behaviour based on prefabricated mental schemata; learning as negotiated and strategised; and, a socially constructed contribution to the community ...

The co-participant is legitimised by the community and in turn legitimises and perpetuates the community.

(Remtulla 2010)


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Interchange need not lead to consensus, indeed consensus sometimes hinders intellectual progress, but competing views should be formed in awareness of each other, not in mutual ignorance.

(Boulding 1986)


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Change spaces sometimes hinders intellectual progress, but competing views should be formed in awareness of each other, not in mutual ignorance.

  • Borderlands

    Monika Reif-Hulser, post-colonial theory

  • Third space

    Celia Whitchurch, organisation theory

  • Liminal space

    Jan Meyer & Ray Land, threshold theory, after V.Turner

  • Phase space

    Complexity theory, brings into the frame the environment as well as the system

  • Trading zones Klein 2004, ‘pidgin’, ‘creole’

  • Ecotones Ecology


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[email protected]


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