What on EARTH does this mean? Can anyone help?

(27 Posts)
TheEponymousGrub Mon 07-Oct-13 14:27:52

I admit, I am no kind of philosopher. Sometimes, a "concept" will seem to me like a bar of soap: I almost have it...but then, nope, it's gone. I conclude that I have the wrong shape of brain.

So now, I'm studying for a qualification in teaching (science) at higher-education level. The trainers (Staff Development) have laughingly pointed out that some of the reading material and the assignments are probably more "touchy-feely" than scientists are used to. But surely, surely...this is gibberish??

"One important caution is to be aware that a threshold concept can be a form of disciplinary property and as such, its presentation in a curriculum may carry an inherent tendency to invite congealed understandings.”

My understanding is definitely congealed! Can anyone tell me what disciplinary property is supposed to be? Please let it be a typo...

Habbibu Mon 07-Oct-13 14:30:03

At first reading it looks like A Lot of random autocorrect. It's probably jargon, though, and poor writing for a training material. What's the broader context?

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 14:37:12

Let me guess. I am not a Scientist.

threshold concept = something that is not quite a complete concept but very near to one, at the 'threshold' of being a concept.

disciplinary property = belonging to one Scientific Discipline.

congealed understandings = understanding has 'dried up'. Congealed as opposed to 'fluid understanding'.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 14:42:12

So the quote could mean,

Be aware that incomplete concepts can belong to a Scientific Discipline. If these incomplete concepts appear in a curriculum, they may have a tendency to lead to misunderstanding.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 14:45:05

Oh and this is an ^important caution.

So make sure the concepts are complete if you are designing a curriculum. grin

Asking for the impossible then! This is interesting when you look at how people within Scientific Disciplines are collaborating to form more unified theories.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 14:46:26

that should read 'within different Scientific Disciplines'.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 14:53:49

Or 'threshold' could refer to a concept that only just falls within a particular Discipline. At the cross over between Chemistry and Biology for example.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 14:58:24

So it is like saying,

If you assign concepts at the threshold of a discipline, to a particular discipline this can limit understanding. These threshold concepts should perhaps be left out of the curriculum.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 15:15:17

On re-reading I think the latter explanation of threshold is true. I remember reading in New Scientist about how people from different Scientific Disciplines were getting together in Multi Disciplinary Web Chats to solve some very complex puzzles / problems.

UriGHOULer Mon 07-Oct-13 15:18:28

<falls in love with brambleandapple>

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 15:20:38

I suppose the statement you have quoted could be a comment on intellectual property being claimed by a particular discipline, or disputed between disciplines) limiting people's understanding.

Sorry for all the posts....I studied English grin.

TheEponymousGrub Mon 07-Oct-13 15:21:33

I am a scientist and I had concluded that must be the reason it's gobbledegook to me!

OK, "congealed understanding" MUST be a typo...for concealed.

The broader context is this thing called Threshold Concepts - which are simply (I think) important key ideas. Once a student grasps such a concept, his/her understanding of the field changes, so that it's like they've crossed a threshold.

And yes, "disciplinary" must mean refer to scientific disciplines. Yes! So now we have:
"NB! Be aware that any given "important key idea" may lie entirely within the province of one scientific discipline, and so, if you are teaching this stuff, there's a fair chance that your students won't have grasped the idea, and you won't be able to tell."

Does that seem right? Now it reads like something that...wasn't even worth saying.
Or I have the wrong shape of brain.

TheEponymousGrub Mon 07-Oct-13 15:22:43

Sorry Bramble, forgot to say thank you!
I'd like to hear what Habbibu says, too...?

Habbibu Mon 07-Oct-13 15:31:09

It's utterly hideous writing, and I applaud bramble's valiant working through. I guess that's probably what it means, though congealed understanding just really doesn't make sense, and why disciplinary property rather than discipline? Is in an in-house production or something they've bought in?

TheEponymousGrub Mon 07-Oct-13 15:42:36

It is a PUBLISHED and PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLE. <staggers>
Planet No. 17 December 2006 Section 1: Introduction to threshold concepts. G Cousins

Habbibu Mon 07-Oct-13 16:07:29

Ah. Which means it either makes sense within a very specific academic field, where the jargon used is well-known, in which case your trainers should have summarised it without the jargon for non-specialists, or, the peer reviewers fell for the emperor's new clothes thing, and decided it must all make sense. Either way, I don't think a specialist article in one field is ideal material for generic training in another, even in HE.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 16:17:52

www.gees.ac.uk/planet/p17/gc.pdf

Is this the article? Very woolly!

So a threshold concept is like a gateway to understanding then? So it is like saying if the student hasn't grasped it, it can be because this concept lies within the discipline (which the student does not yet belong to), so the concept presents a crisis point in understanding - don't understand this, you don't understand the rest.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 16:30:26

Could be a comment concerning having a content rich (spoon fed) curriculum versus teaching concepts, from which the understanding of, leads to knowledge.

Sorry I've not read all the article! Too much possibility of it being headache inducing.

Habbibu Mon 07-Oct-13 16:41:24

I would suggest that students may have trouble mastering threshold concepts because they are presented in abstruse language.

Have just glanced over it - may get DH (history academic) to look later and see what he thinks. I think the concept itself is quite useful, and I can see how identifying threshold concepts and making them a key focus in the curriculum is useful, but this article seems to be spinning that out rather more than is required. That said, I'm about to apply to retrain as a primary teacher, having been in HE, so this article has given me food for thought!

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 17:14:53

*It is not novel to point out that learning is a recursive process
but in the insistence that there needs to be a number of ‘takes’
and looping back on the conceptual material to be grasped, the
threshold concept perspective refreshes the critique of a
simplistic, linear, learning outcomes approach.*(Cousins)

Have you ever looked at studies of the Pirahã people by Daniel Everett? They have no recursion in their language, no narrative. Yet they function as a society.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 17:32:16

In Pirahã society anything outside the immediate present is not spoken about, is taboo, right down to their language having no recursion. How do they learn? What can they learn?

Very interesting, indeed, when considering any Theory of Mind.

GingerCurl Mon 07-Oct-13 19:27:39

The way I understand the paragraph that the sentence is extracted from to say that these threshold concepts can have specific meanings within a particular discipline and another meaning in another discipline. If a student is familiar with the concept and its meaning in one discipline does not realise or is unable or unwilling to accept the different definition applied within the discipline that s/he is learning, this may inhibit learning, ie her/her understanding is congealed or hampered by what s/he knows within the other field.

Not sure if that makes sense or not. hmm

Habbibu Mon 07-Oct-13 20:02:40

Ooh, that does, ginger. You should have written the article.

Bramble, that's so strange. Can't really get my head around it.

brambleandapple Mon 07-Oct-13 20:06:37

Habbibu I don't think many can. Truly mind blowing. grin

Habbibu Mon 07-Oct-13 20:12:25

But, I suppose all emergent languages must have been similar; simple transactional stuff. Are the Piraha quite isolated?

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