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).

Notes: Jason Palmeri, “Creative Translations: Reimagining the Process Movement (1971-84)” in Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy”

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Creative translations: Reimagining the process movement (1971-84). Remixing composition: A history of multimodal composition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 23-50.



In this chapter, Palmeri takes his remix history through the process movement in composition studies, focusing on the works of Flower and Hayse, Berthoff, and Emig and how these theorists articulated process as a multimodal, cognitive activity. In this, he identifies three key concepts for multimodal writing: that alphabetic writing is multimodal, we should recognize the limitations and affordances of modalities, and composition has much to gain from interdisciplinary work with other arts.

Keywords: composition, disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity, multimodality, pedagogy, process, technology


Henze, Brett, Jack Selzer, and Wendy Sharer. (2008). 1977: A cultural moment in composition. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor.

Shipka, Jody. (2005). A multimodal task-based framework for composing. College Composition and Communication, 57(2), 277-306.


“In an environment where distinctions between alphabetic writing, art, design, and music are breaking down (Manovich, New London Group), it is important that we help students gain a global understanding of creative processes that is not tied to any specific modality–an understanding that they can use to help guide their composing with diverse alphabetic, audio, and visual materials” (p. 28).

“Rather than seeing translation as a reductive process of moving from multimodal mind to alphabetic page, we can instead reimagine translation as a dynamic process of moving between internal multimodal representations of knowing (in the mind) and external multimodal representations (on the computer or the page)” (p. 33-34).

“Rather than requiring that students pursue the act of translation with the ultimate goal of producing an alphabetic text, we could teach students to engage in multimodal translation with the ultimate goal of being able to make an informed rhetorical choice about which modalities best enable them to persuasively present their thoughts to a specific audience” (p. 37-38).

“[W]e might begin to reimagine writing-across-the-curriculum programs as composing-across-the-curriculum programs–exploring, for example, ways that students might better learn scientific concepts if they both wrote about them and made videos about them” (p. 43).

“If we limit students to only alphabetic means of invention and revision, we may unnecessarily constrain their ability to think intensively and complexly about their work. As a result, I suggest that composition teachers consider including one informal, multimodal composing activity as a part of every major unit or sequence in their course” (p. 44).

Questions, Reflections, and Response:

(Re)Framing the process movement in terms of multimodal composition is interesting and provides compelling insights into ways that composition is taught and how it might build from drawing on this multimodal history. Palmeri draws on this large body of scholarship from some of the most well-known scholars in the field’s past, remixing it with digital pedagogy and multimodal composition. When Palmeri discusses the interdisciplinary work that can be made through studying other arts, especially in an age where those disciplinary boundaries are blurred, I find particularly interesting; I do wonder about the creation of a shared vocabulary and the idea of this allowing for transfer across modalities if there is a way to understand the modalities as separate and different and to draw on their vocabularies as a rhetorical decision–a part of the encounter with the affordances and limitations of that modality in the discursive communities that surround that mode.


Notes: Jason Palmeri, “Introduction: Reseeing Composition History” in Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Introduction: Reseeing composition history. Remixing composition: A history of multimodal composition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 4-19.



In introducing the subject matter of his book, Palmeri describes the “associative logic” (13) of remix, which shows the connections of seemingly disparate parts to gain insights through their juxtaposition. He does this in contrast to the prevalent narratives of composition’s history which discretely categorize the field’s epistemic ‘schools’ and organizes them into a narrative of progress.

Keywords: disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity, multimodality, remix, technology


Banks, Adam J. (2006). Race, rhetoric, and technology: Searching for higher ground. Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum.

Selfe, Cynthia L.(2009). The movement of air, the breath of meaning: Aurality and multimodal composing. College Composition Communication, 60(4), 616-63.


“In emphasizing the importance of ‘new’ audio and video technologies, scholars have inadvertently deleted from view many of the vivid multimodal scenes that flourished in our field’s past” (p. 5).

“My goal in recovering compositionists’ multimodal heritage is most pointedly not to protect our ‘turf’ or ‘claim’ on multimodality, but rather to articulate what specifically we have to bring to wider interdisciplinary collaborations” (p. 8).

“Certainly, emerging digital technologies open up new possibilities for integrating multimodal activities into the writing classroom, but it is important to remember that composition has always already been a field that has sought to help students draw connections between writing, image making, speaking, and listening” (p. 10).

“When the remixer enters the record store or video archive, she doesn’t seek to evaluate or categorize…. Whereas the critic would strive to sort art works into genres and periods, the remixer would seek to creatively recombine disparate materials–to make a new composition by juxtaposing samples from radically disparate artistic traditions and periods” (p. 13).

Reflection and Response:

I’m very interested in remixing as a methodology–a remix historiography. The idea of these disparate parts being selected and connections made between them to make a new composition is compelling–and one that I think compositionists have certainly come to value in recent years. I think it lends itself well to the idea that multimodal as an encounter with objects and that composing is made through the connections between the writer and these objects–and to play with these objects is to make explicit their role in composing. To adopt that into a history of composition is interesting.

Notes: Janice Lauer, “Composition Studies: Dappled Discipline”

Lauer, Janice. (1984). Composition studies: Dappled discipline. Rhetoric Review, 3(1), 20-29.


Lauer undergoes a discussion about the field of composition’s origins and key ideals, by not only going through a sort of history of the field, but by reflecting on analysis of how the research within composition had been conducted to its date of publication. She points to chief issues within composition, such as negotiating with already established disciplines within English studies, and navigates the benefits and costs of composition’s interdisciplinary reach.

Keywords: composition, disciplinarity, disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity multimodality, research methods, writing studies


Linda Flower and John Hayes, “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing,” College Composition and Communication, 32 (1981), 365-87.

Maxine Hairston, “The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing,” College Composition and Communication, 33 (1982), 76-88.


“Through this process, the field has been seeking warranted consensus about knowledge of written discourse. But the kind of consensus it reaches differs from that in technical fields. Farrell, distinguishing between social and technical knowledge, helps clarify the nature of the judgmental process. He explains that while both social and technical fields grant epistemic status to new work on the basis of consensual agreement, in technical fields, that consensus about methods of investigation can be more rigorously verified. But social fields like composition studies depend on attributions of consensus that act as preconditions for arguing the validity of any theory” (23).

“He implies another distinction that has important implications for this discipline. In social fields, advocates have two kinds of audience: 1) the epistemic court of experts and 2) larger affected populations for whom social knowledge exercises a rhetorical function, attempting to gain their acceptance of its conclusions and to induce their action” (23-24).


With writing existing across disciplines, what do writing methods look like and how can they remain responsive to fluid and expansive interests within the research of writing?

Are the benefits of remaining and embracing the multimodality greater than their costs? And, if so, what would be the articulation of the field centered on this–beyond collaboration?