A. Michelini

(more to say)

Keeping Students in Mind

“(1) that threshold concepts for writing (and perhaps other kinds of learning) across courses and disciplines may exist; and (2) that when these threshold concepts are made more explicit, students may be more likely to at least recognize, and perhaps even access, aspects of those concepts or the threshold capabilities that lead to them.”

Adler-Kassner, Linda. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies (Kindle Locations 2417-2420). Utah State University Press. Kindle Edition.

While reading about threshold concepts number six in Adler-Kassner’s book, I felt that threshold concepts were addressed in an appropriate and helpful way regarding student outcomes. In the quote above, Adler-Kassner states a concept that makes the ideas of WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum) and WID (Writing Within Disciplines) work. Writing is applicable and necessary for every subject, and many other subjects’ valued skills are applicable to writing and beyond. It reminded me of a seminar I once attended for work which had people from outside the Math department applying math skills in their classroom. I was intrigued and amazed. If students are strong in numbers, they can use that skill or strength and apply it to writing, and vice versa, via different means of course.

In the second half of the above quote, Adler-Kassner makes clear that if we tell students in detail what the threshold concepts are that they should be learning, they may be able to better absorb them. While this seems like a great idea, it was not quite satisfactorily teased out in the chapter and I would have liked to see more. What do you see as ways that “students are more likely to…recognize, and perhaps even access” threshold concepts when they are made more explicit or accessible?


  1. I love the idea of using Math in other subjects. I frequently use Math-skills like pattern recognition and problem solving in other areas of my life: writing, music, language, and building Ikea furniture.

  2. Good thoughts here, Abby. I too have wondered how to make these concepts explicit to students. Also, in making them explicit, what is the space for students to question these concepts, which are more contestable than, say, math concepts? I think your blog title, Keeping Students in Mind, is apt here in the sense that students will benefit from this disciplinary knowledge, but this is not a “Keeping students in place” approach. One goal is for students to be critical in their approach to writing.

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