Threshold Concepts & Variation Theory

Have you noticed that students find some disciplinary concepts or practices more difficult to come to terms with than others? Would you like to be able to design curricula that will help your students to understand difficult concepts—disciplinary threshold concepts—that are so often misunderstood?

Every discipline contains a certain number of “threshold concepts” so called because they are transformative and integrative in nature: once understood, they transform students' views of the subject area, and even lead to a shift in the learner’s sense of identity. Threshold concepts are vital for students' ongoing personal and professional development.

It is only through coming to understand threshold concepts that students can come to think like a subject specialist and adopt a disciplinary way of thinking about the world.




Disciplinary threshold concepts

Threshold concepts identify areas of the curriculum worthy of particular attention

Phenomenographic action research

Phenomenographic research identifies common student (mis)understandings of the threshold concepts

Variation theory & curriculum design

The variation theory of learning guides curriculum design to explicitly address student (mis)understandings

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The views expressed in the project do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.