You are here

Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: offering new insights into learning through medical and nursing education research

Friday, May 1, 2015 - 12:30 to 15:45
Linda Martindale & Hilary Neve
CTA Room, Mackenzie Building


Threshold concepts theory offers insight into the ways that students manage and experience difficulties encountered in learning and is an area of growing interest in a range of academic and professional disciplines. In this presentation and seminar threshold concepts will be introduced and explored, including particularly the notions of troublesome knowledge, the liminal space and transformation. Evidence about threshold concepts in healthcare and research will be used to help those attending to consider which threshold concepts might be found in their own disciplines and areas of work. Using research and case studies from medical and nursing education, we will also explore the potential to use threshold concepts for carrying out educational research and to inform the curriculum.


Linda is a lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Dundee. Linda’s PhD research used threshold concepts to explore how undergraduate nursing students experience learning about research and evidence based practice, looking specifically at challenges and difficulties. This narrative research study focused on the sources of trouble that students encounter when learning about research and evidence based practice. It identified a range of factors affecting student learning including tacit knowledge, tensions between practice and classroom learning and difficulty with research discourse and terminology. Much of Linda’s teaching is in the areas of research and evidence based practice, at undergraduate and postgraduate stages, and she is also one of the dissertation co-ordinators in the School.

Hilary is Director of Small Group Learning, Social Engagement and Professionalism at Plymouth University Peninsula Medical School and a Plymouth GP.  She currently leads the development of the Problem Based Learning and the professionalism small group programmes within the undergraduate curriculum.  Her interests include professionalism and its assessment, ethical aspects of electives, social accountability and shared decision making.  She is particularly interested in how the notion of threshold concepts can help us design and deliver better learning experiences for students.  She has recently undertaken research identifying threshold concepts related to sociology, psychology and professionalism in medicine and a project exploring the hidden curriculum as a threshold concept.