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Crossing Over: Introducing The Threshold Project

Kim Costino, CSU San Bernardino Shawn Frederking, Yuba College Nika Hogan, Pasadena City College, SLI, 3CSN Jillyan McKinney, Granite Bay High School Chris Padgett, American River College

Creating a community of learners
• Think of a time when you were in a learning situation in community that went very well for you. What would it take to make today’s workshop that kind of successful learning environment for you?


Case Study #1
• The story of Johnny and Ralph
• As you listen, pay attention to assumptions about writing, college readiness, learning and student capacity and the messages students are receiving

What are ―Threshold Concepts‖?
• First identified by Ray Land and J.F. (Erik) Meyer, threshold concepts refer to concepts that are absolutely core to the ways of knowing and doing in a discipline; ideas that disciplinary practitioners use to see through and think with, ideas they use to ask questions and to problemsolve. If you don’t “get them,” you can’t move forward to really produce knowledge in a discipline. • Examples:
– History consists of a series of competing narratives (History) – Language use constitutes meaning; it shapes what we know and how we know and how we know it. (Writing Studies)

Characteristics of Threshold Concepts
• • • • • • Transformative Irreversible Integrative Provisional Troublesome Liminal
(Cousin, 2006)

Why Focus on Threshold Concepts for Intersegmental Conversation?
• They get at the heart of disciplinarity and knowledge-production and therefore help students become what Michael Wesch refers to ―knowledge-able,‖ rather than simply ―knowledgeable.‖ • Their emphasis on liminality challenges the idea of incremental learning that dominates discussions of alignment, but flies in the face of what we know about the recursive nature of learning.

How People Learn
1. ―Students come to the classroom with preconceived notions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information, or they may learn them for a test, but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom‖ (1).

How People Learn
2. ―To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application‖ (1).

How People Learn
3. ―A ‗metacognitive‘ approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them‖ (2).

How People Learn
2. ―To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application‖ (1).

Understanding & Transfer
• Transfer of learning requires ―learning with understanding‖; and • ―Learning with understanding‖ has two parts:
– Factual knowledge must be placed in a conceptual framework to be well-understood – Concepts are given meaning by multiple representations that are rich in factual detail

So, what does this have to do with threshold concepts?
• Intersegmental conversation is trying to get at alignment, which is really about helping students transfer their learning. • A focus on threshold concepts helps us to identify the core concepts that will need to be revisited across all levels of a student‘s education at differing levels of sophistication. • A focus on threshold concepts helps us to rethink G.E., which is the site of overlap for 2yr and 4-yr schools.

How can threshold concepts reframe our conversations?
• What do students need to learn here, here, and here?
• How can we reinforce and further develop student understanding of particular threshold concepts and the disciplinary habits of mind they foster across a student‘s educational career? How can we help them become more expert in these disciplinary habits of mind and ways of seeing and doing?

Communities of Practice
• Make room for recursivity • Create safety, connectedness for risktaking • Make room for growth • Shame resilience • Help us work productively with expertise

Our Values
• Meaningful, sustained, scholarly professional learning • Honoring and interrogating disciplinary perspectives (which are not static) • Honoring the whole person—building relationships

Your disciplinary beginnings
• Write about some key moments or events in your journey towards mastery in your discipline.

Structured Pair Share
• Share some highlights of your reflection with a partner. Make sure that each of you has had an opportunity to read or tell your story uninterrupted before you respond to what you’ve heard. • Once both people have had a chance to share, discuss what you’ve learned about each other: what were some commonalities? What were some surprises?

• After our break, we will have a chance to engage in some professional reading together. • Then, we will work together to apply these concepts, first to a case study and ultimately to a ―Threshold Project‖ of your own.

Read Together
• Please Read ―An Introduction to Threshold Concepts‖ and ―Talk to the Text‖ (keep track of questions, connections, insights, ah-ha‘s, etc.) • Share your notes with a partner

With your partner
• Come up with an explanation of Threshold Concepts that you could share with a colleague at the water cooler.
• Share your explanation with another pair.

Case Study #2
• World History Institute
• What would it look like to infuse an emphasis on Threshold Concepts and communities of practice?

How do we teach students to think, read, and write like historians?
• We introduced participants to the Reading Apprenticeship Framework
– Research-based classroom framework that helps teachers apprentice their students in disciplinespecific reading and problem solving – Developed by Strategic Literacy Initiative, WestEd – Routines designed to foster metacognitive conversations about how we read and problem solv—makes the invisible visible

• Dimensions: social, personal, cognitive, knowledge building

Dimensions of Reading Apprenticeship

• Consider a Threshold Project of your very own.
– Where is this conversation needed? – Why? – Who needs to be involved? – What resources would you need? – What roadblocks do you anticipate?

Working lunch
• Working independently or in a team (whatever makes sense), create a graphic illustration of your Threshold Project brainstorm.

We welcome your feedback!
• Thank you for supporting our learning by taking the time to fill our our evaluation. • Please be in touch!
– Nika: – Kim:

Today‘s presentation is made possible, in part or whole, due to active support from , the California Community Colleges‘ Success Network

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