Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Daniel Blackshields, Anthony Ryan, James Cronin, Bettie Higgs, Marian McCarthy, Shane Kilcommins, Deirdre Bennett, Walter O'Leary
4th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference and 6th NAIRTL Annual Conference
Building Capacity for Transformative Learning: Embedding Integrative Learning into Threshold Concept Pedagogical Design
Trinity College Dublin
Invited Lectures (Workshops)
Optional Fields

The creative teacher is one ‘ris[es] to the needs of the situation’ (Dewey 1997; p. 174). Meyer and Land’s (2003, 2005, 2006) seminal work on Threshold Concepts gives educators an important lens on the transformation of students’ disciplinary understanding. One key characteristic of a Threshold Concept is that it is likely to be ‘bounded’; a conceptual space with ‘terminal frontiers’ (2006, p.6). Meyer and Land recognise the danger of this being perceived as essentialist. In response they advocate a research-minded pedagogical design so as to avoid what Gardner calls ‘hyper-disciplinarity’. We pose the question as to how disciplinarians might embed integrative learning principles into a Threshold Concept curriculum design. Disciplinary thinking, offering different ways of conceiving phenomena, in themselves ‘reflect characteristics of the phenomenon itself and …characteristics of the social construction of that phenomenon’ (Davies, 2003; p 7-8). Therefore, the mental capacity of learners to communicate not only within but inter and trans-disciplines requires pedagogical strategies to i) take account of the ways with which different communities of thought conceive of phenomena and; ii) scaffold the ability to think across and merge disciplinary understandings. We propose that the characteristics of integrative learning such as acknowledging authentic, responsible learning experiences and authentic assessment both to the learner and to the world around them is crucial for building such mental capacity. The embedding of such principles into pedagogies may provide ‘a larger canvas from which to view the interconnectedness of our lives’ (Kegan, 1994) and the design of complex and creative solutions to complex and competing individual, institutional  and social problems. Drawing on a series of studies across the Sciences, Arts and Humanities, this research offers a series of case studies as a portal into the ‘liminal space’ of integrative learning in the context of threshold concept curriculum design.