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A Framework for Supporting Curriculum Transformation with Threshold Concepts

Intended audience

Educational developers who wish to work with academic colleagues to embed threshold concepts into curriculum (re)design

Learning outcomes

  • apply a Framework for engagement (described below) to a threshold concept in post-secondary pedagogy, or another familiar field
  • articulate an approach for engaging academic colleagues in curriculum transformation using threshold concepts

Workshop description

Since ‘threshold concepts’ were proposed almost fifteen years ago by Meyer and Land (2003), they have generated a wealth of practical and empirical knowledge about what it means to teach and learn these transformational concepts, often referred to as “jewels in the curriculum”.

In our educational development work, conducted across various disciplinary, institutional, and national contexts, we have witnessed the appeal of threshold concepts (TCs). There is excitement as a teacher first identifies TCs and shares this ‘discovery’ with colleagues. A sense of puzzlement might then set in. How does this discovery change our lens for interpreting what we have been and should be doing? How do we teach threshold concepts? How might they be integrated into the curriculum? How will we know if students have learned them? How will students know whether they are grasping them? As educational developers, our intent is to guide academic colleagues as they grapple with such questions.

In this half-day workshop, we present a research-informed, evidence- and experience-based Framework with eight discrete activities educational developers may use to help teachers integrate TCs into course or program (re)design. The process begins with identifying TCs and moves through creating and integrating teaching, learning, and assessment strategies that support TC learning. Elsewhere, we have labelled the type of knowledge developed through this work ‘Integrated Threshold Concept Knowledge’ (ITCK) (Authors, 2016).

We unfold the TC Framework by presenting an ‘actionable literature review’ focused on distilling TC knowledge, such as study findings, methodological approaches, and pedagogical interventions that may be appropriated and adapted by educational developers.

The workshop unfolds in two parts:

  • Part 1: Participants will be led through the Framework, working with a TC identified from post-secondary pedagogy, or from another familiar field. Participants will receive feedback and guidance from the facilitator and other participants.

  • Part 2: Through guided discussion and activities, participants will formulate a context-specific approach to facilitate curriculum transformation. This approach will be based on considerations, such as sequencing content, preparing students to engage with threshold concepts, and creating opportunities for teachers to gain insights into variation in students’ trajectories of understanding.


Authors. (2016). Integrated Threshold Concept Knowledge (ITCK). In R. Land, J.H.F. Meyer & M.T. Flanagan (Eds.), Threshold concepts in practice (pp. 25–38). Rotterdam: Sense.

Meyer, J.H.F., & Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines. In C. Rust (Ed.), Improving student learning: improving student learning theory and practice—Ten years on (pp. 412-424). Oxford, UK: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

Facilitator biographies

  • Julie Timmermans

    University of Otago, Dunedin

    Julie became enthralled with threshold concepts while doing doctoral work in Educational Psychology. They have since shaped her ways of approaching teaching, research, and educational development. A most satisfying professional endeavour has been leading a multidisciplinary group of teachers as they explored threshold concepts in a faculty learning community. In early 2017, Julie and her family left their native Canada for professional and personal adventures in New Zealand.

Register Online
  • Key Dates
  • Call for Proposals Open 12 September 2016
  • Registration Opens 19 September 2016
  • Call for Refereed Paper Abstracts Closes 23 October 2016
  • Notification of Acceptance for Refereed Paper Abstracts 15 November 2016
  • Full Paper from Accepted Abstracts Due 6 February 2017
  • All Other Submission Types Due 20 February 2017
  • Notification of Acceptance for All Other Submission Types 10 April 2017
  • Early Bird Registration Extended till 12 May 2017
  • Pre-Conference Workshops 27 June 2017
  • HERDSA 2017 Conference 28 – 30 June 2017