Notes: Sarah Barradell, “The Identification of Threshold Concepts: A Review of Theoretical Complexities and Methodological Challenges”

Barradell, S. (2013). The identification of threshold concepts: a review of theoretical complexities and methodological challenges. Higher Education, 65(2): 265-276.



Barradell overviews the ways that threshold concepts are decided and researched, proposing that a consensus methodology used with other methods may allow for threshold concepts to be appropriately identified within their disciplines.

Keywords: Threshold Concepts, Disciplinarity, Pedagogy, Higher Education, Curriculum Design, Interdisciplinarity


Tanner, B. (2011). Threshold concepts in practice education: Perspectives of practice education. Journal of Occupational Therapy 74.9: 427-434.

Taylor, C.E. (2008). Threshold Concepts, Troublesome Knowledge and ways of thinking and practising – can we tell the difference in Biology? In: Threshold Concepts in the Disciplines. R Land, JHF Meyer and J Smith (eds), pp. 185-197. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.


“Threshold concepts grew from a conceptual framework exploring ‘crucial topics or concepts that affect how the teaching is carried out and how understanding develops within that subject area'” (266).

“Threshold concepts may never be a ‘one-size-fits-all’; disciplinary differences regarding ways of thinking and practising professionally, academically, and pedagogically make sameness impossible and probably unnecessary” (267).

“[A] common interpretation of what a threshold is—and what makes it a threshold concept and for whom—needs to be established” (267).

“Representatives of the profession or similar wider community might have useful insights to offer given that disciplines are decided as much by professional issues, as they are academic ones…. These external concerns will influence the validity of the identified threshold concepts” (273).

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