The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

Embedding Threshold Concepts

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Developing First Year Undergraduates' Acquisition of Threshold Concepts in Economics

Meyer and Land (2003) have proposed that there exist in many disciplines threshold concepts, which can be considered akin to passing through a portal, or conceptual gateway, thus opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. Such concepts lead to a transformed way of understanding, or viewing something that may represent how people 'think' in a particular discipline, or how they perceive, apprehend or experience particular phenomena within a discipline. Once a student has internalised a threshold concept they are more able to integrate different aspect of a subject in their analysis of problems rather than dealing with new ideas in a fragmented fashion.

This project applies this approach to economics. The idea of a threshold concept presents important challenges for curriculum design and for learning and teaching. Programmes will be reviewed according to: (1) the sequence of content; (2) the processes through which learners are made ready for, approach, recognise, and internalise threshold concepts; and (3) the ways in which learners and teachers recognise when threshold concepts have been internalised. This curriculum development will embed threshold concepts in undergraduate programmes to promote deep-level transformative understanding. The development work will aim to identify and address the needs of students studying for an economics degree and students studying for other degrees such as business studies. We anticipate outcomes that will also be significant for practice in other disciplines.

Institutions: Coventry University, University of Durham, Staffordshire University and the University of the West of England
Project Leader: Peter Davies, Staffordshire University

Output: Reflective exercises, publications and further information on the Embedding Threshold Concepts web site

An event on Threshold Concepts was held in Coventry on Thursday 15 May 2008.