Threshold Concepts 2 (Planning)

Researching and collating

Earlier this year, I started to research and collate threshold concepts (concepts that, once you “get” them, allow you to move to a higher level of understanding Meyer & Land, 2003) for KS4 Structure and Bonding.

I used this RSC article about threshold concepts in chemistry as a basis, and began to collate a list of misconceptions, using a variety of sources. My reading list is a work in progress, but I drew heavily on Taber’s RSC misconcpetion book, and had some useful pointers from John-Paul Riordan, who has researched pupils’ conceptual understanding of KS3 Physics.

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I now have a list of “tricky concepts” or perhaps even “key concepts” (I wouldn’t call them all threshold concepts), which I will add to as I teach the topic this year.


Tracking concepts

My next step is to plan these concepts into lesson sequences, and teach them explicitly; then revisit them, spacing and interleaving them among other topics/ concepts. After reading this blog, I decided to try tracking the concepts, as I go through the year, so that I know when each concept has been delivered, demonstrated (examples), practised and retrieved (via quizzing).

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These stages won’t take place within a single lesson, hence where the tracker comes in. I will interleave these opportunities to re-visit concepts into future lessons. This is something I already do, but I haven’t focussed specifically on threshold concepts before now, or kept track of them in this way.

Designing questions

The final stage has been to design (and gather) questions that test the concepts, so that I can use them as hinge questions (for example) or in retrieval quizzes.


Some of these questions, I’ve written myself. For some, I have taken ideas directly from the RSC misconceptions sheets; I’ve also used other sources, such as past exam questions (hence the reference numbers), after some pointers from helpful people on Twitter.

Knowledge Organisers and musical quizzes (and stuff)

I won’t only be quizzing/ retrieving the concepts themselves. I’ve also put together a knowledge organiser (available via James Theobald‘s collection here), because I use these regularly in lessons now for all topics.

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I’ll be starting the topic with a pre-topic (musical) quiz, which I have based around the concepts I’ve collated. And I have a few sheets that I’ve used in the past, which I’ll re-use and add to as I go through.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

post written by NKA





5 thoughts on “Threshold Concepts 2 (Planning)

  1. Pingback: Threshold Concepts (3) Teaching & spacing (…how long is a piece of string?…) | NDHS Blog Spot

  2. Have you read “Student Alternative Conceptions in Chemistry”
     Christopher Horton
    Worcester, Massachusetts
    I use the statements for Socratic questioning – works really well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Naomi. Yes- I refered to this when I came up with my original list of concepts. It’s a really in-depth catalogue, and you’ve just prompted me to go back and look at it again! I’ve also just found this researcher, who’s talking at ASE and I’ve been reading a couple of his papers on misconceptions and confidence. I’m just using them as I look at some ideas about confidence/ concepts. I’m going to make sure I get to his talk!


  3. Pingback: Threshold concepts (4) confidence and retrieval | NDHS Blog Spot

  4. Pingback: Hurdles and Bottlenecks (in ionic bonding) | NDHS Blog Spot

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