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Threshold Concepts in Secondary Geography Education 1 A Threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible.

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Presentation on theme: "Threshold Concepts in Secondary Geography Education 1 A Threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible."— Presentation transcript:

1 Threshold Concepts in Secondary Geography Education 1 A Threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress. As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view. (Meyer and Land, 2006) Jonathan Slinger A report on research conducted as part of an MA degree in Geography Education at the Institute of Education, London.

2 What can a threshold concepts framework contribute to: developing geographical thinking? curriculum development? enhancing pedagogic practice? Research focus: 2

3 Threshold concepts approach has proven a productive framework in higher education geographys conceptual frameworks can serve as a resource (Lambert and Morgan, 2010) emphasis on a living geography importance of situated learning opportunities presented by new KS3, 4 and 5 curricula overemphasis on pedagogy at the expense of deeper learning Background to this research: 3

4 To what extent can a threshold concepts approach assist in: effectively promoting geographical thinking? democratising learning spaces? making explicit disciplinary practices and ways of thinking? assessing progress in disciplinary thinking? making sense of student conceptual difficulty? translating conceptually-led curriculum aims into learning sequences? Refining the research problem: 4

5 exploratory theoretical study therefore findings remain provisional and tentative reflection on own experiences and practice Methodology: 5

6 Likely to be: transformative probably irreversible integrative possibly bounded potentially troublesome (Meyer and Land, 2006) Characteristics of a threshold concept: 6

7 Knowledge can appear as: counter-intuitive, alien or incoherent ritualised, inert, tacit or conceptually difficult Difficulty can also inhere in: learner social learning context Sources of troublesomeness: 7

8 Episteme is a system of ideas or way of understanding that allows us to establish knowledge…. manners of justifying, explaining, solving problems, conducting enquiries, and designing and validating various kinds of products or outcomes (Perkins 2006) The discipline is viewed as an episteme: 8

9 Adapted and applied a model developed by Davies and Mangan (2007) a conceptual change model employs Meyer and Lands (2006) definition of threshold concepts as being transformative, irreversible, integrative, bounded and potentially troublesome Development of a theoretical model: 9

10 Thresholds are associated with types of conceptual change There are three types of conceptual change: 1.Basic 2.Discipline 3.Procedural These will be considered in turn Outline of the model: 10

11 A new concept is derived from reworking prior understanding. This can be in one of three forms: 1.Differentiation e.g. Migration forced migration voluntary migration 2.Coalescence e.g. powerlessness/exclusion are interdefined 3. Concept defined in terms of properties, now redefined in terms of relationshipse.g. river width In these ways, understanding of everyday experience is transformed through integration of personal experience with ideas from the discipline 1. Basic level conceptual change : 11

12 Understanding of other subject discipline ideas is integrated and transformed through the acquisition of a theoretical perspective (comprised of both the disciplines organising concepts and its procedures) 2. Discipline level conceptual change: 12 There are three types of conceptual change: 1.Basic 2.Discipline 3.Procedural

13 There are two levels at which discipline conceptual change might operate: 1.Students become familiar with an organising concept (e.g. scale). Most likely an iterative process over time. 2. Students employ a number of these organising concepts simultaneously to make sense of their world from a disciplinary perspective (i.e. thinking geographically) When these disciplinary concepts are employed together with procedural knowledge, the episteme (ways of geographical knowing) becomes available to the student. 2. Discipline level conceptual change: 13

14 The ability to construct discipline-specific narratives and arguments transformed through the acquisition of ways of practising. The thinking is geographical when certain types of procedures are applied in concert with the disciplines integrative organising concepts 3. Procedural level conceptual change: 14 There are three types of conceptual change: 1.Basic 2.Discipline 3.Procedural

15 Thinking procedurally might involve using particular modes of geographical thinking. These might include: spatial, systems, process, dimensional, relational, integrative, particular-synoptic and critical thinking Geographical enquiry might be a procedural threshold 3. Procedural level conceptual change: 15

16 Positive re-establishment of balance and dialogue between school subject and academic discipline Democratisation of knowledge practices Transactional curriculum enquiry rather than a teacher- centred or student centred approach Teacher concern with learning journeys Progression understood in terms of development of geographical thinking (might require new forms of assessment) Asserts professionalism of teacher as subject-specialist What are the implications of these findings? 16

17 Development of methodologies to investigate threshold concepts within geography education What is the nature of these threshold concepts? Investigating appropriate pedagogic practices and learning environments to foster geographical ways of thinking and practising Investigation of learner journeys How do we assess progression in geographical thinking? Understanding variation in the ways students negotiate thresholds Directions for future research: 17

18 Davies, P. & Mangan, J. (2007) 'Threshold concepts and the integration of understanding in economics' in Studies in Higher Education, 32, 6, pp Lambert, D. and Morgan, J. (2010) Teaching Geography 11-18: A conceptual approach, Maidenhead: Open University Press Meyer, J. and Land, R. (2006). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: an introduction in Meyer, J. & Land, R. (eds) Overcoming barriers to student understanding: threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. Abingdon: Routledge, pp Perkins, D. (2006) Constructivism and troublesome knowledge in Meyer, J. & Land, R. (eds) Overcoming barriers to student understanding: threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge, Abingdon: Routledge, pp References:

19 This paper is a summary report of research conducted and submitted in partial fulfilment of an MA degree in Geography Education awarded in 2010 by the Institute of Education, University of London. A full transcript of the original research is available on request from the author. A copy of the MA dissertation is also available in the Institute of Education library. Contact details: Jonathan Slinger Friends School Mount Pleasant Road Saffron Walden CB11 3EB United Kingdom 19


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