Vital but not transformative: Methods for differentiating domain essentials from thresholds

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Eighth Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference


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 conference presentation, we will focus on this methodology so that individuals working in other domains might be able to employ similar methods. In addition, we have now completed the data analysis and can report on refinements, along with insights for transerability 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 study, we interviewed the novices who were in the process of transitioning from student to teacher and did thematic analysis of their reflective writings. By seeking the perspectives of the learners instead of the experts, we were able to discern direct understandings of the learner experiences and to gather insights into how they might be expecting identity shifts as they prepared to enter a community of professional practice.
Consistent with the conference 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, settling upon ten themes that emerged consistently from the data. We then assessed each theme for threshold characteristics, and we found that seven of the ten could be considered threshold concepts.
This method of distinguishing between themes that we found to have characteristics of threshold concepts and other themes that are vital domain essentials, but do not rise to the level of threshold concepts, can be applied by researchers in other domains.


This paper was accepted for the Eighth Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference, which was cancelled due to COVID-19.



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