Conference Papers

Expanding horizons or ruining Disney? An investigation of students’ experience of threshold concepts in Childhood Studies

Meyer and Land (2003) identified ‘threshold concepts’ as being points in subjects which open the door to students’ understanding. A pilot study conducted last year indicated that Childhood Studies students were required to engage with a number of such concepts during their studies and that these altered their way of thinking about children and their experiences. However, this study also suggested some of these ideas represented ‘troublesome knowledge’ (Perkins, cited in Meyer and Land 2003 p.7) for students (e.g. gender as a social construct). These topics were considered emotionally taxing to engage with either be cause of the content or because the ideas did not fit students’ previously held beliefs about childhood. At these times, students reported being less willing to accept or engage with these ideas. The pilot study was limited in that it only consulted year 3 students. In order to help students of Childhood Studies navigate these topics, the present study engages with all three years of the BA Childhood Studies course. Focus groups have been used to explore students’ views of the topics being examined along with a roadmap drawing task. From this, the key threshold concepts for each year group are identified along with how troublesome these ideas are felt to be. The results are discussed in terms of how to develop the Childhood Studies course to best support students through this journey. In particular, consideration is given to helping students engage with troublesome topics in order to increase critical discussion in their work.
Smith, A., Young, N. and Swerdlow, T. (2015) 'Expanding horizons or ruining Disney? An investigation of students’ experience of threshold concepts in Childhood Studies', paper presented to The 11th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 25–26 June, viewed 20 January 2020, <https://educationstudies.org.uk/?p=7125>