Students’ experiences of threshold capability development with intensive mode teaching

You are here

Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

This study focuses on the student experience of passing through critical transformatory thresholds, facilitated by intensive mode teaching. Intensive mode teaching (IMT) involves students engaging in facilitated learning activities or classes over longer periods each day, and over fewer days than is traditional in the discipline. Threshold concept theory and the related threshold capability theory provide a particularly appropriate theoretical basis from which to study the transformation of students’ learning in this mode. Threshold concepts are assumed to be transformative for students because they open new ways of thinking and knowing. With threshold capabilities students can apply threshold concepts to respond to previously unseen problems. Threshold capabilities are necessary for future learning or practice in a discipline and must be central to curriculum design. As IMT is becoming increasingly popular it is important to ensure that students’ experience of learning with IMT is optimal. We investigated students’ experiences of threshold capability in eight intensive mode units at four universities, including undergraduate and postgraduate units in business and engineering. The approach included an exploratory phase with students and teaching team members, rationalisation, and surveys based on identified themes. Students’ responses revealed that their experiences of threshold capabilities were not always as intended by academics. In some units, concepts that were not central occupied time that students could not readily afford. Students reported that factors that helped their learning included extended in-class discussion and group activities. The opportunity to ask questions was significantly more important to learning in intensive than other modes.

Keywords: intensive mode teaching, threshold concepts, threshold capabilities