Threshold Concepts and Professional Formation

This page supports a paper given to a faculty seminar at the University of Lincoln on 15 November 2011. The first part covers fairly familiar territory and so is addressed by reference to other papers on this site and an annotated version of the presentation I used. The second part was not dealt with in the session, but takes the argument into some rather more speculative thoughts about the management of liminality in the context of the education of professionals, drawing on my earlier discussion of Learning as Loss. That is taking longer than expected to prepare, and will be posted as soon as possible.

Threshold Concepts and Professional Formation

The basic argument of the session is set out in this paper on "Threshold Concepts in the Wild".

References for the presentation:

Entwistle, N (2005). "Learning outcomes and ways of thinking across contrasting disciplines and settings in higher education." The Curriculum Journal Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 67-82 (also available on-line; retrieved from 28 November 2011.)

Hassel H, Reddinger A, Van Slooten J (2011) “Surfacing the Structures of Patriarchy: Teaching and Learning Threshold Concepts in Women’s Studies” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Vol. 5, No. 2 (on-line, retrieved from  14 Nov 2011

Hudson L (1967) Contrary Imaginations; a psychological study of the English Schoolboy Harmondsworth: Penguin 

*La Fontaine, J S (1985) Initiation: ritual drama and secret knowledge across the world London; Penguin

Lave J and Wenger E (1991) Situated Learning: legitimate peripheral participation Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Meyer J and Land R (2003) Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines Edinburgh; Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses Project, Occasional Paper 4  [on-line, UK] available  (accessed 28 November 2011) [This is I think the first formulation of the definition cited as 2006 in the presentation.]

Murray S (2009) "Sandbars and Thresholds; helping students through troublesome knowledge" Paper presented at the 29th annual conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, University of New Brunswick, 17-20 June 2009. (for reference to the Tardis, but not just that!)

Perkins D (2008) “Beyond Understanding” in R Land, J Meyer and J Smith (eds.) Threshold Concepts within the Disciplines Rotterdam; Sense Publishers, (p. 13)

Perkins D (2010) “Threshold Experience” keynote given at 3rd Biennial Threshold Concepts Symposium, UNSW, Sydney 1-2 July 2010 (online, available retrieved 14 November 2011)

Plato (c. 360 BCE) The Republic (tr. B Jowett) on-line; available accessed 28 November 2011

*Singh S and Ernst E (2008) Trick or Treatment? Alternative medicine on trial  London; Bantam Press

Van Gennep A (1909) The Rites of Passage (trans.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960

Wenger E (1998) Communities of Practice; learning, meaning and identity Cambridge; Cambridge University Press

* These sources were not directly referred to in the presentation but provide some evidence base for points made in discussion.

Links arising from the discussion:

We got onto a brief mention of the venerable notion of frames of reference, in the context of Perkins' ideas about knowledge as object, tool or frame. My take on frames of reference is here. After the session, Aileen asked about more recent work in the field--of course it got transformed into the idea of discourses and hi-jacked by cultural theorists. Perhaps we can have it back now!


External links

To reference this page copy and paste the text below:

Atherton J S (2013) Doceo; [On-line: UK] retrieved from

Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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