Threshold Concepts

Author: Sarah Kent 
April 2016

The notion of the threshold concept arose out of research by Jan Meyer and Ray Land, who define it as a core idea that’s conceptually challenging for students, who struggle to grasp it—but once grasped, it radically transforms the students’ perception of the subject. Although this material is difficult to learn, understanding threshold concepts is essential to the mastery of any field of study.

Since Meyer and Land’s foundational article in 2003, research surrounding threshold concepts has proliferated, leading scholars to new lines of inquiry, as well as criticisms in the study of threshold concepts. While some researchers focus on the application of threshold concepts in their individual disciplines, others are adding new branches to the theoretical framework of threshold concepts. 

This guide contains four sections:

  1. Primary characteristics of threshold concepts
    1. A brief explanation of each characteristic
    2. A bibliography of brief introductions to threshold concepts
    3. An annotated bibliography of the foundational essays, as well as subsequent essays on these primary characteristics
  2. Additional characteristics, based on subsequent research
    1. A brief explanation of each
    2. An annotated bibliography on these additional features 
  3. Criticisms of the notion of threshold concepts
    1. A summary and annotated bibliography of the critiques
  4. A selected bibliography of applications within a range of disciplines

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