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WIHEA Seminar Series

The Academy invites key external professionals from the Higher Education Sector to share insights into a range of high profile learning and teaching topics through a presentation and discussion.

The thrid seminar in the series will provisionally take place on Wednesday, 1 March 2017, further information and confirmation on date,times and venue to folow shortly:

WIHEA Seminar Series 2016-17

(previous seminars.....)

Threshold Concepts & Troublesome Knowledge: A Transformative Approach to Learning

Prof Ray LandPresented by Prof Ray Land
Director of The Centre for Academic Practice, Durham University
Tuesday, 29 November 2016

As Shulman observed (2005), ‘without a certain amount of anxiety and risk, there's a limit to how much learning occurs. One must have something at stake. No emotional investment, no intellectual or formational yield’.

The ‘threshold concepts’ approach to student learning advocates the idea that certain concepts or practices can act in the manner of a portal, through which a changed perspective opens up for the learner. The latter enters new conceptual terrain, which permits previously inaccessible ways of thinking and practising. These conceptual gateways are often the points at which students experience difficulty and can be troublesome as they require a letting go of customary ways of seeing. They provoke a state of ‘liminality’ – a space of transformation and transition from an earlier understanding or practice towards that which is required. This tends to be uncomfortable, and may leave the learner in a suspended state, or 'stuck place', in which understanding approximates to a kind of 'mimicry' or lack of authenticity. Clearly this does not always sit easily with notions of students as consumers and with satisfaction surveys.

This session provided an outline of the thresholds approach followed by an exploration of its implications for curriculum design and academic practice both in a research-led context and in an environment where, with the TEF looming, issues of learning gain and student satisfaction with their learning experience are increasingly prevalent.

Prof Ray Land, has been a higher education consutant for the OECD and the European Commission (EC) and has recently been involved in EC projects in Europe and Latin America. He is currently advisor to the Norwegian TRANSark project on architectural education and published widely in the field of educational research, including works on educational development, learning technology and quality enhancement. He is best known for his theory (with Jan Meyer) of Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. A recent edited book, Threshold Concepts in Practice (Sense 2016) is the fourth in a tetralogy on this theme. His latest publications with George Gordon have been Enhancing Quality in Higher Education: International Perspectives (Routledge 2013) and Teaching Excellence Initiatives: modalities and operational factors (HEA 2015). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

A video of the session is available here.

Further information on the theory is available at:

Leading Educational Change: Learning from other HEI’s

Prof Sue RigbyPresented by Prof Sue Rigby
Deputy Vice Chancellor for Student Development, University of Lincoln
Wednesday, 2nd November 2016

‘At a time of exceptionally rapid change in the university sector, innovation, excellence, enhancement and development of teaching and learning are under discussion almost daily. Especially in a research intensive environment engaging cross institutional enhancement can be challenging and yet there is so much to gain for both students and staff. This presentation explored; what approaches are effective when aiming for more than individual excellence in the classroom, how cross-institutional change can take place and what can we learnt from other institutions in terms of innovation and excellence in learning and teaching?

Professor Sue Rigby spoke of her long standing experience of working in different universities and leading educational change in a range of different ways. Until recently, Prof Rigby was PVC (Learning and Teaching) at the University of Edinburgh where she led teaching innovation. Since holding that role, Prof Rigby has moved to the University of Lincoln where she has become Deputy Vice Chancellor (Student Development) as well as more recently, a member of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Panel. Prof Rigby also chairs the national programme of projects looking into ‘Learning Gain’.

The presentation was very well attended and received excellent feedback, a video of the session is available here.