Threshold capabilities: Threshold concepts and knowledge capability linked through variation theory

Caroline Baillie, J.A. Bowden, J.H.F. Meyer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    72 Citations (Scopus)


    The Threshold Capability Integrated Theoretical Framework (TCITF) is presented as a framework for the design of university curricula, aimed at developing graduates' capability to deal with previously unseen situations in their professional, social, and personal lives. The TCITF is a new theoretical framework derived from, and heavily dependent upon, the ideas of the Threshold Concepts Framework (Meyer and Land 2003a; Land et al. 2006) and Capability Theory (Bowden and Marton 1998; Bowden et al. 2000; Bowden 2004). Capability theory is firmly based in phenomenography and variation theory, is concerned with the development of knowledge capability, but has had limited application in practice. The threshold concepts framework has enjoyed greater acceptance by a large range of academics in many fields. This acceptance has initially focussed on analytic studies of what constitutes a threshold concept-and the location and distribution of such concepts-in a given domain. In many instances subsequent attention has focussed on issues of pedagogy and assessment, including the design of curricula. We propose a merging of capability theory and the threshold concepts framework and argue that capability and variation theories provide the ideal mechanism for developing a strong pedagogical approach based on newly emerging knowledge of the critical features of threshold concepts within different domains. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)227-246
    JournalHigher Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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