2010 presentation - International Society for the

Report
Threshold Concepts & Troublesome
Knowledge
Ray Land
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow UK
Jan H.F. Meyer
University of Durham UK
ISSOTL 10, 22 October 2010
An eclectic approach
‘....Land and Meyer may be seen as promiscuous
mongrels who care not with whom they sleep...’
(Cousin 2006)
pax intrantibus, salus exeuntibus (1609)
Real learning requires
stepping into the unknown,
which initiates a rupture in
knowing...
By definition, all TC
scholarship is concerned
(directly or indirectly) with
encountering the unknown.
Schwartzman 2010 p.38
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world,
whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
Tennyson ‘Ulysses’
Overview
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
A brief introduction to thresholds
Extending the boundaries: recent scholarship
The expanding framework
Projects
Thresholds as a form of pedagogical research
(Cousin 2008)
6. Thresholds as a tool of cultural analysis
i.
The ‘Singing Revolution’: Crisis in post-Communist
Estonian national identity (Kutsar & Kärner 2010)
ii. Interdisciplinarity (Land 2010)
1) An introduction
There are…
‘Conceptual
gateways’
‘portals’
…that lead to a new way of understanding,
interpreting or viewing something, a transformed
internal view of subject matter, subject landscape,
or even world view…
without which the
learner cannot
progress
PLACES
2) Extending the boundaries: Recent scholarship
Threshold concepts provide us with a new analytical lens
to focus on critical, and perhaps previously neglected,
aspects of variation in student learning
…a lens through which to reconceptualise student
progression and ‘stuck places’
Equal Deconstruction Object
oriented
temperament
Limit
programming
Elasticity Uncertainty
Reactive
Otherness
power
Modularity
Sa/V Hypothesis
Caring
ratio
Pointers
Precedent
Scale
Proof
Laplace Compactness
transform
Signification
expanding
3) The
The expanding
framework
78framework
disciplinary/subject categories
Year No of
78
discipilinary/subject
categories
refs.
2003 2
2004 3
2005 6
2006 33
2007 35
2008 51
2009 53
Mick Flanagan
11 theses and
dissertations
2010 114
Links to video,
ppt
presentations
and other TCF
websites
http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/thresholds.html
4) Projects
Engineering thresholds: An approach to curriculum
renewal
(UWA, Caroline Baillie, 2010, A$ 200,000)
5) Thresholds as a form of pedagogical
research (Cousin 2008)
Transactional Curriculum
Inquiry
Glynis Cousin 2008
...the search for threshold concepts
has the potential to open up
discussions among subject
specialists, students and educational
researchers, creating forms of
transactional curriculum inquiry
between these three parties.
...threshold concept research does
not require the academic to learn
another discipline; on the contrary, it
requires that she goes more deeply
into her own for the purposes of
formulating the best ways of teaching
and learning it.
By staging the exploration at the site of the
subject and of its difficulties, threshold
concept research promises to harness an
academic’s research curiosity for his
subject with a new curiosity about how
best to teach it; this promise carries with it
an enhanced capacity for research and
teaching to be dynamically linked.
6) Thresholds as a tool of cultural analysis
i. The ‘Singing Revolution’:
Crisis in post-Communist Estonian national
identity
Dagmar Kutsar & Anita Kärner (2010)
This is an attempt to look at society as a
learning and teaching environment during
an extremely intensive period of societal
changes, when one socio-economic and
political system collapses and is exchanged
for another. The transitions are
meaningful events, accompanied by
uncertainties, learning the new, and
changing identities and structures.
(p.384)
During the transitional period, society is
overwhelmed by a liminal space – no longer what
it was and not yet what it will be. The liminal
space is shared by the actors of transition, the
institutions, groups and individuals all filled with a
mixture of new and old cognitions, emotions,
myths and behavioural patterns. (p.384)
The Baltic Chain 23 August 1989
Tallin -> Riga -> Vilnius, 600 kms
Togetherness was not always accompanied by
positive emotions. In the situation of rapid
societal change, individuals are often unable to
adapt as rapidly as changes occur. For that
reason, rapid change, even positive in essence,
brings emotional tensions and fears of loss of
cognitive control over the situation, which results
in feelings of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and
alienation. (p.386)
Well-being acknowledges the possibilities as well
as limitations for action. In general, the process of
societal transitions in Estonia was tense for
everybody involved in the manner of decreasing
their perceived quality of life. (p.386)
The Communitas, using Turner’s (1969) approach,
expressed the readiness for creation of the ‘anti’structure in Estonian society.
Springing forth from the ruins of the collapsing
totalitarian system and fed by opposition towards
it, the Communitas was destructive towards the
old system and its power structures.
Dramatis personae - ‘the actors of transition’
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The ‘Communitas’
The ‘Others’
The (Soviet) nomenklatura
The ‘Teachers’
ii Interdisciplinarity
Ray Land (2010)
Threshold concepts and disciplinarity
TCs & CoP research has argued that disciplinarity
is a key determinant of academic identity
Probably most TC research to
date concerned with disciplinary
formation, and acquisition of
robust ‘WTP’ (Entwistle & McCune 2009)
Disciplinary identity
Disciplines have developed their own
conceptual worlds , their own WTPs
and their own learning thresholds
TCs part of the mapping & patrolling
of disciplinary boundaries.
Disciplines serve as bases of personal identity
(Mary Henkel 2000).
Disciplinary subjectivity determined by these
boundaries, as with urban and national identities,
eg a Glaswegian, an Australian
Disciplinary practice
‘The chains of habit
are generally too
small to be felt until
they are too strong to
be broken’.
Dr Samuel Johnson
1709 - 1784
The tidiness and enclosure of disciplines
‘Whereas disciplines can attain a high degree of
enclosure around self-defined concepts , methods
and questions, and leave aside matters not
convenient for ..[a].. disciplinary matrix, a
practically oriented public servant enterprise like
public administration should never adopt such a
prioritisation of tidiness above usefulness.’
Gasper 2010 p.53
‘It has to draw on various types of understanding
in order to tackle various types of pressing and
interconnected real issues; it links material from
different fields without unifying them.’
Gasper 2010 p.53
A ‘problematique of interdisciplinarity’
‘The complexity of policy cases frequently
exceeds the grasp of discipline-based knowledge ,
even when brought together from different
disciplines’
Gasper 2010 p.53
Disciplinarity and temporality
‘Much interdisciplinarity arises in response to
practical and immediate life problem situations,
where we cannot wait for discipline-gained
knowledge that is not yet available. Such work,
oriented to life problems, might not be
conventionally scientifically elegant, but it draws
on sophisticated craft skills of selection, synthesis
and judgement.’
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Uncertainty
Speed and acceleration
Complexity
Multiculturalism
Mobility of the population
Conflict (social, military)
Inter-generational tension
Need for ethical citizenship
Information saturation
Proliferation of knowledge
Globalisation
Internationalisation
Private /public sector tension
Increasing panic
Characteristics of
the 21st century
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Unpredictability
Risk
Need for flexibility and agility
Entitlement v responsibility
Scarcity of resources
Austerity
Sustainability
Need for prudence
Transparency & accountability
Discontinuity and rupture
Shifting paradigms
Poverty v affluence
Outsourcing of jobs
Youthfulness
Supercomplexity
Risk
Speed
Uncertainty
Contestability
‘A radically unknowable world’
Barnett 2004: 247-260
Forensics (criminal investigation)
Chemists, medics, police (SoCOs), lawyers, journalists, politicians,
media, civil administrators, criminologists, counsellors,
psychologists.
Public Energy Utilities (tidal barrier technologies)
Electrical Engineers, civil engineers, ecologists, biologists,
zoologists, financiers, economists, computer modellers, politicians,
media, lawyers, urban planners, rural & community development,
tourism, journalists, policy analysts, management scientists,
sociologists
Climate Change (global warming)
Environmental scientists, physicists, meteorologists, geologists,
geographers, economists, statisticians, computer scientists,
politicians, journalists, civil servants, policy analysts, sociologists
Post normal science
Philosophers and practitioners of science have identified
this particular mode of scientific activity as one that
occurs where the stakes are high, uncertainties large and
decisions urgent, and where values are embedded in the
way science is done and spoken. It has been labelled
‘post-normal’ science…The danger of a ‘normal’ reading of
science is that it assumes science can first find truth, then
speak truth to power, and that truth-based policy will
then follow.
Climate change is too important to be left to scientists least of all the normal ones. Hulme 2007
monodisciplinarity
monocularism:
the gaze of the Cyclops
The recognition and understanding of this is a Threshold
Concept.
Interdisciplinarity or Transdisciplinarity
presents another encounter with
Troublesome Knowledge.
It requires a significant ontological shift
It constitutes a form of transformational learning
‘Transformative learning involves
experiencing a deep, structural
shift in the basic premises of
thought, feelings, and actions. It is
a shift of consciousness that
dramatically and irreversibly alters
our way of being in the world.’
O’Sullivan et al, 2002, p. 11
Disciplinary relations
(Gasper 2010 p. 58)
UNFRIENDLY
FRIENDLY
NON-RELATIONS
Ignoring the other(s).
Planned autarchy
Distant well-wishers
LIMITED RELATIONS
Mutual ridicule of the
other(s) despite nontrade
Antagonism &
ignorance in
unhappy partnerships
Mercantilism (export
never import)
Trade = part of open
disciplinarity
Competition
Marriage & hybrid
offspring
Merger
INTENSIVE RELATIONS
Conquest
Friendly partnership
Multi-disciplinary
Shared activities
Disciplinarity and modern western thought
(Norgaard 1994 pp 62-65)
Atomism
systems consist of unchanging parts & a system is the sum of
those parts
Mechanism
Relations between the parts do not change; most things can be
seen as exogenous, constant, separate
Universalism
The same parts and inter-relations apply for all cases,
everywhere (cf Rowbottom 2007)
Objectivism
People acting on systems are not parts of the systems they seek
to understand and act on
Monism
There is one correct way to understand a system ; any plurality of
ways will merge into a bigger picture; various sciences will fit
together
Deconstructing terminology
Transdisciplinarity
Connecting fields,
transcending barriers,
though not making a
unified superformulation
Interdisciplinarity
Working at the crossroads
of practical demands.
Disciplines interacting
and learning from each
other.
Multidisciplinarity
complementary but noninteracting disciplines
The paradox is that this is how we became
disciplinarily-minded and adept at WTP in the first
place. This was how our disciplinary identity was
originally constituted.
To work effectively in interdisciplinary or
transdisciplinary contexts our disciplinary subjectivity
needs to be reconstituted.
Our disciplinary identity needs to be loosened,
perhaps weakened.
Need for a ‘required shift as from a nest of identity as an
academic or professional of type T to a self-conception as
pilgrim or seeker’.
Giri 1998 p.2002
Disciplinary specialists find it difficult to leave the Eden of their discipline, to
cross the boundary into Interdisciplinarity. If they can’t, we are left with a group
of Cyclopses, each with a separate discourse, constituting a Tower of Babel.
‘...ontological insecurity’ (Giddens 1991)
‘ ...boundariless anxiety’ (Bergquist 1995)
Blank spots & blind spots Wagner 2010 p.33
Matrix of sociological inquiry
Phenomena under investigation
Themes
of analysis
Jobs &
Work
Sociology
of Education
Sociology
of Religion
Medical
Sociology
Social control
Social
stratification
Status
attainment
Bases of
Integration &
Differentiation
(ie class, gender, age, race, ethnicity)
Social
relationships
(i.e.group, household, community, collectivity)
Social change
Political
Sociology
Disciplinary blind spots
‘I realised that I had missed an opportunity to round out my
understanding of methodology by coming to grips with
measurement as a valuable means of enquiry.
My scholarly critiques of ‘white coat’ objectivism had
allowed me to step around the judicious use of quantitative
enquiry and I came to regret that gap in my knowledge,
however much I was able to generate publications about the
nature of knowledge and its politicisation’.
This is not written as a
confessional, but a simple
acknowledgement that critique
is a very useful means for
maintaining blind spots in our
learning.
McWilliam 2010 p.45
A caste-mark for life?
‘Interdisciplinarity is more achievable when
people act not as representatives of disciplines
but of themselves, their experiences, values and
insights.’ Gasper 2010 p.55
Barriers to interdisciplinarity
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Organisational structures
Academic incentives point the other way
Cultures of communities of practice / bonding capital
Ontological insecurity / boundariless anxiety
Blank spots override blind spots
Low esteem of ‘the cafeteria curriculum’
Few mutual discourses / frameworks
Co-ordination costs
Too difficult - it too often fails
Suspicion of globalised ‘knowledge work‘ /
managerial breaking of disciplinary tribes
5 prerequisites for interdisciplinarity
(after Gasper 2010)
Networks
Inter-organisational linkages, meeting places, members,
patterns of informal contact
Roles
Bridgers and synthesisers.
Bridging capital
To counter bonding capital. ‘Inferior theories might sometimes
function better as bridges’ p.57 .
Mutual
frameworks
Need for shared discourses. Mutually accessible & acceptable
intellectual frameworks. Need for ‘action poetry’ (Perkins).
Ideally an ‘eco-system of enquiry’, a complex system of
concepts and models (Gasper).
Narrative
imagination
The capability to imagine the lives of others and to respond
positively (Nussbaum 1997)
learning for improvisation
Through Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Lave
and Wenger (1991) offer a constitutive role for
learning; learning for improvisation; emergent
processes from actual interaction; the improbability
of behaviour based on prefabricated mental
schemata; learning as negotiated and strategised;
and, a socially constructed contribution to the
community ...
The co-participant is legitimised by the community
and in turn legitimises and perpetuates the
community.
(Remtulla 2010)
Interchange need not lead
to consensus, indeed
consensus sometimes
hinders intellectual
progress, but competing
views should be formed in
awareness of each other,
not in mutual ignorance.
(Boulding 1986)
Change spaces
• Borderlands
Monika Reif-Hulser, post-colonial theory
• Third space
Celia Whitchurch, organisation theory
• Liminal space
Jan Meyer & Ray Land, threshold theory, after V.Turner
• Phase space
Complexity theory, brings into the frame the environment as
well as the system
• Trading zones Klein 2004, ‘pidgin’, ‘creole’
• Ecotones Ecology
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