Application of Threshold Concepts in Business Education
The introduction of threshold concepts is a way of addressing the concerns raised following the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), when media commentators argued passionately for an overhaul of business education. The plea for Business Schools to reform their approaches included many, but most notably – a greater emphasis on ethics and corporate governance and a move away from the siloed approach of producing the so-called “I-shaped” graduate to a “T-shaped” graduates – that is, a graduate with specialist knowledge that is capable to think outside of the silo through a more “interdisciplinary” approach to problem solving. This call for a change in emphasis necessitated the need to redesign the curriculum with an increasing focus on the non-disciplinary graduate attributes that are often crowed-out in the ‘busy’ business curriculum. This push for change greatly increased the relevance and role of threshold concepts as a tool for delivering effective change, even though threshold concepts did not enter directly into the conversation. The fact that threshold concepts constitute the building blocks to the attainment of the graduate attributes makes them an integral part of the strategy supporting the views promulgated in the aftermath of the GFC.
However embedding threshold concepts in the curriculum are far from being as simplistic as it may first seem. Threshold concepts cannot be embedded effectively without a reconceptualization of the curriculum that takes into account its various characteristics, for example, the approach to teaching and learning, the overall learning experience and the method and design of assessment. Attempting to make changes at fringes of the curriculum will result at best in marginal gains in student learning. There are a number of examples in this special issue that highlight the need to take a whole-of-course approach to redesigning the curriculum when embedding threshold concepts. Simply bolting on threshold concepts to existing subjects will have minimal positive effects when compared to a whole-of-course approach. It requires reflection and re-design of the entire curriculum such that the threshold concepts constitute the backbone to the entire degree program. Such an approach may result in a radically different course structure as one paper in this special issue highlights when applied to one subject.
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