• Opening the Academic Gates: Using Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies as a Framework for Entering a Discipline

      Hanson, Morgan; Hanson, Morgan
      Topic/Problem Statement: Current theories on student learning express the inherent struggle with learning that students encounter when engaging with a new discipline in the university. One way to help students work through the troublesomeness that comes with learning about a new discipline is via threshold concepts, a framework first introduced by Jan H. F. Meyer and Ray Land (2003). In this poster presentation, I provide strategies for integrating threshold concepts of writing studies into course writing assignments (informal and formal) to increase participation in academic discourse and academic literacy and to minimize disciplinary gatekeeping. Context: I focus this presentation on a first-year composition (FYC) course (in this case, ENG 201), a Core 39 writing course at USI. I also study the English department’s program objectives for ENG 201 and Core 39 assessment rubric(s) to demonstrate how threshold concepts can further articulate the goals of the department and the university, thus enabling students to more effectively engage within USI’s academic community. Approach: In 2015, Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, along with other writing studies scholars, established threshold concepts for writing in Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies (NWWK). Building on the work of Jan H. F. Meyer and Ray Land (2003), Adler-Kassner and Wardle define threshold concepts as “concepts critical for continued learning and participation in an area or within a community of practice” (2). In this project, I take threshold concepts from NWWK, and I integrate them into formal and informal writing assignments to provide students with a more accessible way to work with key ideas in the field and departmental and university objectives. I provide strategies for creating reading responses that emphasize reflection on course content via a threshold concepts lens. I also demonstrate ways to include threshold concepts into major writing assignments to meet departmental and university goals for the course. Reflection/Discussion: Threshold concepts, with their accessible interpretations of major disciplinary knowledge, create a bridge for students to cross over the murky waters of entering into a new discipline.Through this approach, students gain confidence in writing and academic discourse and literacy, which allows them to ease into the work of the university. Moreover, students gain a new way to talk about writing, which can be used in other courses. To that end, then, instructors can take threshold concepts of writing studies and incorporate them into their own courses. Works Cited: Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth Wardle, editors. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Utah State UP, 2015. Meyer, Jan H. F., and Ray Land. Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines. Occasional Report 4. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 2003. ETL Project, www.etl.tla.ed.ac.uk/docs/ETLreport4.pdf.  Accessed 25 July 2017.