Crossing Threshold Concepts in a Doctoral Learning Journey

By Hamidah Mohd Ismail and Faizah Abd. Majid.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

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Many research students at the doctorate level face difficulties crossing threshold concepts (Wisker et al., 2010; Kiley, 2007; Leshem and Trafford, 2007) which are described as a ‘portal of understanding’ that require integration of understandings in order to cross the thresholds (Meyer and Land, 2003). When research students successfully crossed threshold concepts, their ways of thinking and researching are transformed where they are able to integrate various concepts within their fields of study. Previous studies on threshold concepts focused mostly on hard discipline and involved students at the postgraduate level. Addressing this research gap, this preliminary study explored the challenges faced by research students in Education as they attempted to cross threshold concepts during their doctoral learning journey. Five participants were selected for this study and they had successfully completed their PhD studies in local universities. A multiple-case study was employed in order to extract in-depth understanding of challenges faced prior to crossing threshold concepts and data collection included a series of interviews with the participants. Four major issues were identified as challenges to crossing threshold concepts, namely identifying research topics and objectives, conceptualizing research, managing supervisor relationships and inadequate advanced academic writing skills. Findings from this preliminary study inform research on doctoral learning journey, particularly in providing support to research students’ learning achievement and suggest effective supervision at the doctoral level.

Keywords: Threshold Concepts, Research Students, Supervision, Doctoral Learning Journey

The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp.69-75. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 151.992KB).

Hamidah Mohd Ismail

Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

Hamidah Mohd Ismail is a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. She has been teaching English as a second language for 11 years at both secondary and tertiary level. She holds an M.Ed TESL degree from Universiti Teknologi MARA and is currently pursuing her PhD in the field of Education. Her main research interests are adult learning, learning strategies and TESL.

Assoc. Prof. Faizah Abd. Majid

Deputy Dean, Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

Faizah is a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. She has been teaching the English language for 15 years and has been seriously involved with the tertiary students for the past 11 years. She has keen interests in TESL and how adult learners learn the English language. These interests have led her into conducting various research on the adult learners' language learning strategies. She has also experiences in presenting at both local and international conferences. She has written several articles and published a few in the local and international proceedings and journals.