CIRI blog

Threshold Concepts Conference Draws Researchers & Educators from around the World

Published: Saturday, October 22, 2016 by Virginia Tucker

The Sixth Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference held at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June 2016 was the third threshold concepts conference I’ve participated in, and it was once again a lively time with attendees from countries around the world and a wide range of academic disciplines.

The conference showcased research papers on the theme of "Thresholds on the Edge" and inspired lively discussion sessions, both directly after the presentations and during the break-outs and social times. Papers presented addressed various aspects of the evolving threshold concepts framework, with the focus on those aspects that push us as educators and researchers to think beyond the edges of current understandings and our instructional practices. Guiding questions included: How is the notion of threshold concepts prompting us to reconceptualize our understanding of what it means to teach, learn, and design courses and curricula? How has integrating threshold concepts into our teaching pushed us to the edge of our knowledge, comfort, and identities as educators?

In a previous post, I commented on how I was looking forward to the meeting of minds in Halifax and to hearing about new research and new practices in curriculum design that involve applying the threshold concept theoretical framework. The paper I presented was on how I redesigned one of the courses I teach, INFO 244 Online Searching, based on threshold concept research completed as part of my PhD studies (Tucker, 2012). My paper was specifically focused on research that explored threshold concepts in the novice-expert space, specifically looking at search expertise (Tucker, 2014; 2016). The domain of search expertise is of significant interest in higher education as it has implications across academic disciplines: critical concepts connected to expertlike search behaviors are relevant to many academic subject domains.

The environment of the Threshold Concepts conferences is inspiring each time, and the gathering of people from different disciplines is also supportive for sharing new research and curriculum design projects. At my paper session, audience members inquired about the major points for teaching to novice-expert learning experiences and also about the online learning environment in which the iSchool conducts its courses. For the latter, there was considerable interest in the online setting for class discussions that are an essential learning activity in the searching course that was the case illustration in the study. Some of the comments from attendees were about the ways that students tend to put forth their ideas more fully in online discussions than in classroom discussions, in part because they have time to formulate their written posts and to respond after some think-time to questions posed and to others’ comments.

Last but not least, having the conference held in Halifax was a complete delight. The photos included here show the Halifax Central Library, just one of the sights worth visiting in this beautiful city. The conference dinner was held at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.


Tucker, V.M. (2012). Acquiring search expertise: Learning experiences and threshold concepts. Ph.D. dissertation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.
Tucker, V.M. (2014). Learning experiences in the novice-expert liminal space. Fifth Biennial International Threshold Concepts Conference, July 2014, Durham, England.
Tucker, V.M. (2016). Learning experiences and the liminality of expertise. In R.Land, J.H.F. Meyer, & M.T. Flanagan (Eds.), Threshold Concepts in Practice, (pp. 93-106). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Tucker, V.M. (2016, June). Curriculum on the edge: Designing for liminality in learning experiences. Sixth Biennial International Threshold Concepts Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Hi Virginia, Nice post. I work in a online learning company Dissertation Service UK and provide help to doctorate students in their research by answering their queries online. I even take seminars in Colleges. It would be interesting to know about the major threshold concepts that were discussed in relation to Online Learning Methodology in this conference. Thank You.
Hi Paul, I appreciate your interest in the conference. There were a few papers at the conference that stood out related to this topic. Boyd, Diane and Lonsbury, Justin (2016) Guiding on the Edge: Online and F2F Course Design as a Threshold Process. Northcote, M., Gosselin, K., Rickards, T., Reynaud, D., Kilgour, P., McLoughlin, C., Boddey, C. and Boddey, K. (2016) The Troublesome Edge of Teaching Online: Using Threshold Concepts to Design Professional Learning Curricula for Novice Online Teachers.

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