Vital but not thresholds: Differentiating professional domain essentials and threshold knowledge

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Threshold Concepts Conference

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The authors previously presented preliminary findings from their research using the threshold concepts framework to understand dispositional readiness in the field of teaching (Seventh Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference, 2018). Session attendees demonstrated considerable interest in our methodology of collaborative thematic analysis, informed by grounded theory. For this presentation, we will focus on these methods so that session attendees will be able to employ them. We have now completed the data analysis and will report on refinements, along with insights for transferability when adapting to other domains.
Threshold concepts studies have employed methodologies such as Delphi, in which researchers seek the perspectives of experts to determine a consensus around threshold concepts in the experts’ fields. In our research, we interviewed the learners directly and analyzed their reflective writings, in order to learn about their experiences as they transitioned into the professional role of teacher. By seeking the perspectives of the learners instead of the experts, we were able to discern direct and nuanced understandings of the learners’ experiences, and to gather insights into how they might be experiencing identity shifts as they prepared to join a community of professional practice.
Consistent with the conference sub-theme “Troublesome not tricky: not all that challenges is a threshold,” our presentation will describe the methods we used to differentiate threshold concepts from critical professional praxes. We coded our data thematically and iteratively, settling upon 10 themes that emerged from the datasets. We then assessed each theme for threshold characteristics, and found that seven of the ten could be considered threshold concepts.
This method of distinguishing between themes with threshold characteristics and other themes that are vital domain practices, but which do not rise to the level of threshold concepts, can be applied and adapted by researchers in other domains.


A recording of the presentation given at the Threshold Concepts Conference is available at the link provided.