Threshold concepts and teaching programming

Dermot Shinners-Kennedy
2021
This thesis argues that the urge to build and the adoption of a technocratic disposition have influenced and affected the pursuit and development of a deeper understanding of the discipline of computing and its pedagogy. It proposes the introduction to the discipline of the threshold concept construct to improve both the understanding and the pedagogy. The research examines the threshold concept construct using the theory of concepts. The examination establishes the conceptual coherence of the
more » ... eatures attributed to threshold concepts and formalises the basis for threshold concept scholarship. It also provides a refutation for critiques of threshold concepts. The examination reveals the inextricable links between threshold concepts and pedagogic content knowledge. Both rely on the expertise of reflective pedagogues and are situated at the site of student learning difficulties and their encounters with troublesome knowledge. Both have deep understanding of discipline content knowledge at their centre. The two ideas are mutually supportive. A framework for identifying threshold concepts has been developed. The framework uses an elicitation instrument grounded in pedagogic content knowledge and an autoethnographic approach. The framework is used to identify state as a threshold concept in computing. The significant results of the research are two-fold. First, the identification of state as a threshold concept provides an insight into the disparate difficulties that have been persistently reported in the computer science education literature as stumbling blocks for novice programmers and enhances and develops the move towards discipline understanding and teaching for understanding. Second, the embryonic research area of threshold concept scholarship has been provided with a theoretical framework that can act as an organising principle to explicate existing research and provide a coherent focus for further research.
doi:10.22024/unikent/01.02.86522 fatcat:a2scxbvunjf5jejrsrjwn4caay