Threshold Concept: Overcoming the Stumbling Blocks to Learning Design History and Colour Theory in Higher Education

By Arianne Rourke and Zena O’Connor.

Published by Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The notion of threshold concepts has become quite a ‘buzz’ word in education since it was introduced by Meyer and Land (2003) and applied to economics by Davies (2003) the same year. They offer a viable method for describing different levels of understanding a subject that has now been adopted across a variety of disciplinary areas. Threshold concepts according to Kiley & Wisker (2009), assists towards identifying core learning outcomes that represent seeing things in a new or transformed way. The five characteristics of threshold concepts put forward by Meyer and Land (2003) included that they are transformative, irreversible, integrative, bounded and counter-intuitive. Perkins (2006) later added that threshold concepts were also ‘troublesome’. The principles of threshold concepts will be discussed from two perspectives: firstly, in the teaching of design history whereby design prototypes are used to assist novices in the cognitively difficult task of recognising a designer’s work. Secondly, the principles of threshold concepts will be discussed within the context of colour theory where logic and ontological examination provide novices with new insight into an old construct.

Keywords: Threshold Concepts, Teaching Novice Learners in Higher Education, Teaching Design History, Teaching Colour Theory, Overcoming Barriers to Learning

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review, Volume 6, 2012, pp.23-31. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 349.802KB).

Dr. Arianne Rourke

Senior Lecturer, School of Art History and Art Education, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Dr. Arianne Rourke is a senior lecturer in the School of Art History and Art Education at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW. She coordinates the design history theory and aesthetic core courses in the Bachelor of Design program, and coordinates internship and research paper courses in the Master of Art Administration program. Her research is in cognitive load theory, visual literacy, learning style modalities, expert/novice differences, online teaching and learning, and examining ways of improving instructional design towards the long-term retention of learning. Dr. Rourke has published widely her experimental research in teaching and learning in higher education and has recently co-edited a book with Kathryn Coleman titled: Pedagogy Leads Technology, Online Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: New Pedagogies, New Technologies with Common Grounds Publishing. She is currently co-authoring a book with Dr. Zena O’Connor, Effective Use of Visuals for Learning in Higher Education, with Nova Science Publications. She holds the following degrees: BA (visual arts), AMCAE; BEd (art), SCAE; MA (history), UNSW; MA (Hons) Macq; MHEd, UNSW; EdD, UNSW, and is currently a candidate completing a MPhil at UNSW.

Dr. Zena O’Connor

Research Associate, Environment Behaviour Studies Research Group, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Dr. O’Connor is a research associate with the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, where she teaches online courses on colour theory. She is also an independent consultant researcher with Design Research Associates with the responsibility for design and management of commissioned research projects, including post-occupancy evaluation studies, market/competitor analysis, branding, market positioning, as well as environmental assessment studies. Her research areas include: colour theory and application; design history; environment-behaviour studies; post-occupancy evaluation studies; visual literacy research; and evaluation of cultural heritage.