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Guest talk

Prof. Dr. Ray Land

(University of Durham, UK)

Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge

 A transformational approach to learning

This presentation will outline the Threshold Concepts Framework (TCF), a discipline-based and transformative model of learning which can be used as a conceptual tool and analytical framework to inform programme design, and spur educational research initiatives. Threshold Concepts can be considered akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something and leading the learner to new conceptual and affective terrain.  Threshold Concepts represent a transformed way of understanding, without which the learner cannot progress, and invariably involve a shift in the learner's subjectivity. Threshold Concepts, it is argued, lead to a qualitatively different view of subject matter and, as the 'jewels in the curriculum', are central to the ways of thinking and practising within a discipline.

As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there is a transformed internal view of subject landscape, or even world view.  This transformation may be sudden or protracted, with the transition to understanding often involving 'troublesome knowledge'.  Depending on discipline and context, knowledge might be troublesome because it is ritualised, inert, conceptually difficult, alien or tacit, because it requires adopting an unfamiliar discourse, or perhaps because the learner remains 'defended', resisting the inevitable ontological shift that threshold concepts entail. Difficulty in understanding threshold concepts may leave the learner in a state of 'liminality', a suspended state or 'stuck place' in which understanding approximates to a kind of 'mimicry' or lack of authenticity. This session will explore how the framework might offer new perspectives in terms of how educators might design curricula, approach teaching and support learners.

Ray Land is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education and Emeritus Fellow of University College at Durham University. He has published widely in educational research, including works on academic development, learning technology and quality enhancement. He is best known for the educational theory of Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge, which he established with Prof Jan Meyer. He has acted as consultant for the OECD, the European Commission and the British Council and recently conducted projects in Europe, Latin America and India.  He has presented his research in over fifty countries across six continents. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  He is currently also a Gambrinus Fellow of the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019, 2.30–4.00 p.m. | Vogelpothsweg 78 (CDI building), room 0.22
Center for Higher Education (zhb)
Professorship of Higher Education

Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.


TU Dort­mund University has its own train station ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station ("Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 15 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop "Dort­mund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dort­mund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S".


The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.


The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.


Interactive map

The facilities of TU Dortmund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

Campus Lageplan Zum Lageplan