International focus on Threshold Concepts as an enabling tool for improved learning

International focus on Threshold Concepts as an enabling tool for improved learning

Published on: Tuesday, 10 July 2012

28th - 29th June 2012
Conference Programme

Trinity College Dublin was the setting for the recent gathering of world experts to discuss, amongst other topics, how the idea of Threshold Concepts can be used to advance student learning, not only within but between disciplines in Higher Education.

The two-day conference was organised by NAIRTL, the Irish National Academy for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, and attracted close to 300 delegates  representing sixteen countries on four continents; a truly international event!

A 'threshold concept' can be considered a portal, one that opens up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something, without which the learner cannot significantly progress. As a consequence of grasping a threshold concept the student may thus have a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view.

Threshold Concepts have been debated for less than a decade, but the idea has become increasingly significant to a great number of educators in Higher Education Curricula, and courses are being restructured to ensure that students are enabled to grasp the threshold concepts in their discipline. This creates a leaner curriculum, but one more suited to creating excellent and engaged practitioners.

The 2012 Threshold Concepts Conference is the National Academy's 6th Annual Conference and the 4th Biennial Threshold Concepts Symposium. Conference proceedings will follow this event in late 2012.

The National Academy is a collaborative initiative between five Higher Education Institutes in Ireland which proposes to support graduate students, researchers and academic staff to implement and advance effective research-informed teaching and learning practices for diverse audiences. The National Academy’s activities are extended to all Higher Education Institutes in Ireland and include the annual National Awards for Excellence in Teaching and the NAIRTL Grants Initiative.

This is the fourth biennial Threshold Concepts conference and builds on three previous international events held in Sydney, Ontario and Glasgow. The conference attracts a largely international delegation and this year’s conference is no exception with representation from South and North America, Australasia, Africa and Europe. The conference will travel to Durham, England in 2014, but the 7th NAIRTL annual conference will be held in Ireland in 2013. Please check the NAIRTL website ( for further updates on the location and theme of the 2013 conference.

For further information contact
Dr Catherine O’Mahony   
Acting Manager 
Distillery House, North Mall, Cork  
T: 021 4904682     
M: 086 3092892    

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