Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: Crossing thresholds: Identifying conceptual transitions in postsecondary teaching

Review by Mary Neil, Educational Development Program and Event Coordinator, Wilfrid Laurier University

In the article, Crossing Thresholds: Identifying conceptual transitions in postsecondary teaching, Wilcox and Leger present educational developers with an exploratory study designed to identify threshold concepts in the field of postsecondary education. Recognizing the importance of seeking input from educators with a range of experience, Wilcox and Leger collected written responses from 19 beginner educators and 8 experts (three educational developers and five master teachers) in postsecondary teaching. Through thematic analysis and using Meyer and Land’s (2003) definition of threshold concept, the authors identified four potential concepts in the field of postsecondary education: (1) assessment for/as learning, (2) learning-centred teaching, (3) accommodation for diversity, and, (4) context-driven practice.

Given the challenges in identifying threshold concepts in a field without a specific, defined knowledge base and where educator experience is diverse, Wilcox and Leger manage to present concepts that are overarching and relatable across disciplines and institutions. The authors argue that “By changing the focus to identifying and sharing ideas that matter, work with threshold concepts may legitimize postsecondary teaching, which in turn may engage more faculty members” (p. 9). Ultimately, this article offers a glimpse into some of the troublesome and transformative challenges in postsecondary education that may impact the development of educational development initiatives.

In initiating the discussion of threshold concepts in the field of postsecondary education, this paper calls for education developers to extend this discussion, given their advantageous position working with a broad diversity of educators. Wilcox and Leger clearly outline their method and provide the tools to implement similar studies across other institutions allowing further corroboration for their results, the addition of other threshold concepts, and the opportunity to flesh out any institution-specific perceptions and challenges. Further steps for this research may also include longitudinal studies following beginner educators as they reflect on and change their teaching practice in response to encountering threshold concepts over time.

Reference:
Wilcox, S., & Leger, A.  (2013).  Crossing thresholds: Identifying conceptual transitions in postsecondary education.  The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 4. doi:10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2013.2.7

Link to the article: http://doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2013.2.7 

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