Threshold concepts are the transformative moments that students undergo as they develop in their subject and ‘become’ specialists. A student successfully crossing a threshold by grasping a particular concept will think differently, speak differently and be able to make connections between other concepts in the discipline they are seeking to master.
For a brief (2-page) introduction to threshold concepts, see Glynis Cousin’s article for the GEES subject centre.
In all subject disciplines, there have been found to be certain concepts subject specialists believe to be central to mastery of that subject (Land et al., 2008). Threshold concepts can be described as ‘threshold’ ones because they have the following characteristics (Cousin, 2010):
Threshold concepts: further reading
The extract above is taken from Glynis Cousin’s excellent article in the Journal of Learning and Development in Higher Education on threshold concepts and what they can mean for co-creation and partnerships between academics and students:
Cousin, G. (2010). Neither teacher-centred nor student-centred: threshold concepts and research partnerships,Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Issue 2: February 2010. Available from http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/ojs/index.php?journal=jldhe&page=article&op=viewFile&path=64&path=41 [last accessed 6 August 2014]
Mick Flanagan has collected and organised a range of resources (book chapters, journal articles, conference presentations etc.) on threshold concepts on his web space at UCL: