Refocusing threshold concepts: Surfacing and attending to student misconceptions as a necessary (and safer) form of liminal learning

Melinda Lewis, Jason M. Lodge, Rosanne Quinnell

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


If the core purpose of transformative education is to challenge and reposition knowledge through a range of opportunities, then surfacing and attending to forms of student misconceptions (for example, through confusion, disequilibrium) are a necessary part of learning and teaching. We have come to understand that arriving at a clear view of a concept may involve a process of working through a range of misconceptions about a phenomenon or experience that may or may not create a threshold experience in a learner. We argue that the journey through conceptual change and thresholds requires a more nuanced emphasis on liminal spaces, where misconceptions and thresholds may reside. We offer a revised thresholds concept generic model that helps to identify student misconceptions as cycles within and through pre-liminal, liminal and post-liminal spaces. Two practice examples demonstrate the application of this model: (1) teaching and learning botanical literacy through a technology-rich, real-time mobile app and (2) embedding and measuring cultural competence as a graduate learning outcome in Australian universities. Each context offers a specific emphasis on highlighting the need to make all liminal learning spaces safer, as learners surface and engage with conceptual change. The conclusion suggests that conceptual change in student learning offers a form of threshold misconception.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheory and method in higher education research
EditorsJeroen Huisman, Malcolm Tight
Place of PublicationBingley, England
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781787692770, 9781787692794
ISBN (Print)9781787692787
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameTheory and Method in Higher Education Research
ISSN (Print)2056-3752


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