Identifying Threshold Concepts in Physics: too many to count!


This study used a variety of methodologies to outline the omnipresence of Threshold Concepts in Physics. We found out that interview methods searching for Threshold Concepts have to be discipline-specific. We pointed out that transformative thinking through recursiveness takes place in two directions. Quantitative methods borrowed from Physics Education Research may not work well when used to ascertain the experimental uncertainty as a Threshold Concept. 



Abbott, D. S., PhD Thesis, North Carolina State University 2003.

Allie, S., Buffler, A., Kaunda, L., Campbell, B., Lubben, F. “First-year physics students’ perceptions of the quality of experimental measurements†Int. J. Sci. Educ. 20(4), 447-459 (1998).

Allie, S., Buffler, A. “A course in tools and procedures for Physics Iâ€, Am. J. Phys. 66, 613 (1998).

Buffler, A., Allie, S., Lubben, F. “Teaching measurement and uncertainty the GUM wayâ€, The Physics Teacher Vol. 46, 538-543 (2008).

Cousin, G. “An introduction to threshold conceptsâ€, Planet No. 17, Dec. 2006

Davies, P. “Threshold concepts: how can we recognize them?†in J.H.F. Meyer and R. Land (eds.): “Overcoming barriers to student understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledgeâ€, Routledge, New York, 2009, pp. 70-84.

ISO (1993). International Vocabulary of Basic and General Terms in Metrology (VIM). Geneva, Switzerland, International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Statement taken from VIM3.9.

Land, R., Meyer J.H.F. and Smith J.: “Threshold Concepts within the Disciplinesâ€, Sense Publishers 2008.

Lippmann, R., PhD Thesis, University of Maryland 2003.

Mazur, E.: Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual (Addison-Wesley, New York 1996).

McDermott, L., C., Schaffer P. S. and the PER group, Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Washington: Tutorials in Introductory Physics (Prentice Hall Upper Saddle River, NJ 2002).

Meyer, J.H.F., Land, R.: “Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (1): Linkages to thinking and practising within the disciplinesâ€, in C. Rust (ed.) “Improving student learning: ten years onâ€, OCSLD Oxford 2003, p. 412-424.

Meyer, J.H.F. and Land, R. “Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplinesâ€, ETL Occasional Report 4.

Park, E. J. and Light, G. “Identifying atomic structure as a threshold concept: student mental models and troublesomenessâ€, Int. J. Sci. Ed. 31(2), 233-258 (2009).

Serbanescu, R.M., Kushner, P.J.K., and Stanley, S. “Putting computation on a par with experiments and theory in the undergraduate physics curriculumâ€, Am. J. Phys. 79(9), 919 (2011).

Stokes A., King, H. and Libarkin, J.C. “Research in Science Education: Threshold Conceptsâ€, J. Geosci. Ed. 55(5), 2007 (434-438)

Volkwyn, T.S., Allie, S., Buffler, A., Lubben F., “Impact of a conventional introductory laboratory course on the understanding of measurement†Phys. Rev. Special Topics –Physics Education Research 4, 010108 (2008).

Wilson, A., Ã…kerlind, G., Francis, P., Kirkup, L., McKenzie, J., Pearce, D., & Sharma, M, D. (2010). Measurement Uncertainty as a Threshold Concept in Physics. In Proceedings of the 16th UniServe Science Annual Conference, 29 September-1 October 2010, pp. 98-103. University of Sydney: Australia

Zander, C. Boustedt, J., Eckerdal, A., McCartney, R., Mostrom, J. E., Radcliffe, M., Sanders K.: “Threshold concepts in computer science: a multi-national empirical investigation†in “Threshold Concepts within the disciplinesâ€, Sense Publishers 2008.

Authors retain the copyright for their work, while granting the journal the exclusive right of first publication. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.