Thresholds, maybe; concepts, yes?
16 Jun 2016
Reading time ~4 minutes
The areas of concern that came up during the session were not in the mold of previous standards v. framework debates, but instead centered on more philosophical questions about whether or not a threshold is quite the right metaphor for thinking about learning. Admittedly, I hadn’t thought much about the metaphor, and it was interesting to start considering questions like:
- Does the thresholds metaphor make learning seem like an all or nothing endeavor - i.e., if there is a threshold doesn’t that imply that all learners are situated either before or after a fixed point?
- Does this “fixed point” mindset evoke an overly linear depiction of research?
- When we talk about learning hurdles do we imply that everyone is racing toward some pre-determined destination?
I’m intrigued by these questions, as they relate to a question I have been musing on since the introduction of the Framework: given how often we focus our conversations on challenges, stumbling blocks, and now hurdles and thresholds - might it be refreshing (and potentially even useful) to start flipping the conversation to also focus on breakthroughs and progress points and big leaps forward. Perhaps if we approached the threshold metaphor with a focus on both the challenges and the breakthroughs it might be easier to see the framework in terms of pathways (plural) rather than as a singular, linear, universal.
I think this works for me as I continue to explore the Framework in my personal teaching practice, where I feel like the value of the concepts overshadows the potential complexities of the threshold aspect.
Along these lines, Andrea Baer’s very practical suggestion to:
"Take the pieces that work for us" on threshold concepts and theory #liw16— Ilana Stonebraker (@librarianilana) June 10, 2016
helped pave the way forward to what for me was ultimately the most valuable part of the presentation:
I really liked the connections that the presenter drew here between the “Decoding the Disciplines” approach and the framework. It seems that through this approach we’re likely to encounter many of the ideas (yes, perhaps even the thresholds) discussed in the Framework - better yet, we’ll discover them framed in a language that makes sense for teachers and learners in the discipline.
In brief summary, the 7 steps for decoding the disciplines are:
- Identify “bottlenecks” (both cognitive and affective) to learning and creating in the discipline.
- Unpack the processes experts have developed (and often internalized) to address and get through these bottlenecks.
- Model and demonstrate these processes for learners.
- Give learners opportunities to practice and receive feedback.
- Consider how learners will be motivated.
- Assess the effectiveness of the models through analysis of learners’ work.
- Sharing your results with other educators.
For me, this bears resemblance to an instructional design model, and defines a very viable step forward for those of us looking to explore how the concepts in the framework connect with research skills instruction.
References and resources mentioned in or discovered during the talk
- Adler-Kassner, Linda, Elizabeth A. Wardle, and Ray Land. 2015. Naming what we know: threshold concepts of writing studies. https://muse.jhu.edu/books/9780874219906/.
- Pace, D., & Middendorf, J., Eds. (2004). Decoding the disciplines: Helping students learn disciplinary ways of thinking. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 98. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- “Decoding-Disciplines.” 2016. Accessed June 16. http://citl.indiana.edu/resources_files/teaching-resources1/decoding-disciplines1/index.php.
This note is part of a short series of reflections on Library Instruction West 2016