Threshold Concepts in Academic Practice: Engagement with the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Anne Margaret Tierney


This paper investigates the existence and nature of threshold concepts as experienced by a group of twenty-one teaching-focused academics, from life science departments in UK universities. Individuals were invited to take part in the study and asked to fill in a survey about their roles as academics. Participants in the study were interviewed about their experiences with the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), using a graph generated from their responses to the survey as a mediating artefact. Interview transcripts were analysed and comments categorized according to Trigwell, Martin, Benjamin & Prosser’s (2000) Model of Scholarship. Threshold Concepts were identified in three out of four of Trigwell et al’s dimensions of scholarship, mainly at the level moving from the disciplinary to the mainstream context of education. In addition, other threshold concepts were identified that were outside Trigwell et al’s (2000) model of scholarship. These findings have implications for academics engaging with SoTL, their audiences, and academic developers delivering postgraduate teaching qualifications in higher education.

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