June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
NSF Grantees Poster Session
How are Threshold Concepts Applied? A Review of the Literature
Funded by a recently awarded NSF RED grant, we aim to transform the curriculum and culture of a large electrical and computer engineering department with a model that foregrounds design and innovation to offer students a variety of pathways to a degree. We are developing a combination of approaches to create a program with disciplinary depth and a range of learning experiences, including a participatory design approach that involves not only curriculum redesign, but also engagement of faculty and students in industry and K12 outreach.
We begin with the goal of effectively employing the Threshold Concept framework to identify transformative sites to target for curricular revisions. Our first steps include a thorough literature review that both systematically canvases existing resources and summarizes and synthesizes themes that enable us to answer the following questions:
1. What research findings have been reported about threshold concepts across disciplines, in the field of engineering, and in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science in particular? 2. What are the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the threshold concepts framework, both in theory and practice? 3. Which methods are most effective for identifying threshold concepts? 4. How have threshold concepts been used to enact change?
In exploring these questions, we investigate the history and evolution of the threshold concepts framework, with attention to sociotechnical patterns, such as whether and how “professional” and “technical” concepts are delineated. In terms of methodology, we consider whether data collection prompts guide people away from the center of their discipline, or whether there is less of a dichotomy between social and technical than often portrayed in engineering education narratives. Finally, we are employing a participatory design process in which we are not only asking department stakeholders to identify sites of threshold concepts, but also to enroll them in a grass-roots, transformative effort. To that end, we explore ways that the process of understanding threshold concepts serves as an opportunity for dialog that can kick-start the culture shift of the department.
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