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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Threshold concepts in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning : a phenomenological study of educational leaders in a Canadian research-intensive university Webb, Andrea Suzanne


This research study explored the lived experience of educational leaders in a research-intensive context as they engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in the University of British Columbia’s Faculty Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Leadership Program (UBC SoTL Leadership Program). The study was guided by two research questions: (1) What is the nature and substance of threshold concepts in SoTL and (2) What enhances or constrains educational leaders’ ability to navigate threshold concepts in SoTL? A qualitative phenomenological inquiry approach was employed over a nine-month period to explore educational leaders’ experience with SoTL. Data collection and analysis were informed by van Manen’s interpretive phenomenology and data sources included a questionnaire, participant observation in classroom sessions, interviews with members of the 2013-2014 cohort and past graduates of the program, and participants’ ePortfolios. The research questions sought to explore threshold concepts in SoTL as well as factors that enhance or constrain the ability of institution-level and Faculty-level educational leaders to navigate threshold concepts in the scholarship of teaching and learning in a research-intensive university. Seven themes emerged from the analysis as potential SoTL threshold concepts for the participants: conceptions of research, subjectivity, institutional culture, studentness, boundary crossing, teaching as scholarship, and the disposition of a SoTL scholar. The concepts were examined in light of four defining characteristics of threshold concepts. The first five of the themes exhibited significant evidence of the characteristics and were categorized as threshold concepts. The final two themes exhibited some of the characteristics and warrant further inquiry. Further data analysis indicated that educational leaders’ ability to navigate threshold concepts was enhanced and constrained by their understanding of the nature of SoTL and disciplinary and institutional cultures in which they undertake their daily work. These results offer important insights for understanding how threshold concepts are manifest in a SoTL based faculty development program for institution-level and Faculty-level UBC SoTL Leadership Program educational leaders and insights into how these concepts might have been navigated in such contexts.

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