Threshold Concepts: Unstuffing the Geoscience Curriculum
This paper will discuss current thinking on threshold concepts as presented in the literature, and as debated and discussed at the recent 2nd Biennial Threshold Concepts conference in Kingston, Ontario. At present, threshold concepts in the geosciences are largely undefined. As geoscientists we may have some ideas about what we think they might or should be, but are we, as experts with considerable knowledge and experience, really best placed to identify the concepts that are so fundamental to student learning? Or are threshold concepts better identified through their emergence from naturalistic enquiry with students and faculty alike?
The debate around threshold concepts is widening as educators and practitioners seek ways to decrease curriculum content and increase conceptual understanding. Threshold concepts are emerging as a mechanism by which curricula can become unstuffed', and a powerful and innovative means of gaining insight into students' conceptual understandings. The relationship between alternative conceptions and threshold concepts needs further exploration, but once established could help to identify effective means of confronting deeply entrenched alternative concepts. Engaging in dialogue and working collaboratively will enable the international geoscience education community to realise the potential that threshold concepts have to offer.