Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Report from #ecil2014 - Exploring Threshold Concepts in Scholarly Communications as Portals to Doctoral Student Success

Next from the European Conference on Information Literacy, held in Dubrovnik, Sharon Mader talked about Exploring Threshold Concepts in Scholarly Communications as Portals to Doctoral Student Success. Mader was presenting emerging findings from a pilot study at the University of New Orleans, which aims to identify difficulties doctoral students have in understanding scholarly communication concepts. She is using a a threshold concept approach.

Mader started by explaining threshold concepts and talked about research studies which identify threshold concepts in "doctorateness" (stumbling or "stuck" points for doctoral students) and the recent work on threshold concepts in information literacy. She is using semi-structured interviews with both academics and students. She is asking about stumbling blocks and challenges that graduate students experience, strategies that are used to address the challenges, and asking what fundamental and transformative concepts, behaviours and attitudes the doctoral students need to master.

Mader is using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (pictured) as a basis in the interviews, so that the academics can reflect on which of the elements in this researcher framework the students found most challenging and which the academics' thought was most important. From the initial part of the pilot study (interviews with an academic, so far), cogntive abilities and self-management emerged as the most important and the most challenging concepts for students.

Mader identified that conversations between faculty, librarians and students is crucial. From these conversations with students and faculty, the threshold concepts should emerge, and then the curriculum needs redesign (the future plan) to address the issues and improve the quality of student learning. She referred to Cousin's article on using threshold concepts (see below)
Cousin, G. (2006) An introduction to threshold concepts. Planet. (17), 4-5.

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