Taylor, Mark and Share, Perry (2012) THRESHOLD CONCEPTS AND THE SOCIAL PROFESSIONS. In: National Academy’s Sixth Annual Conference and the Fourth Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference. Threshold Concepts: from personal practice to communities of practice, 2012, June 28 - 29 2012, Trinity College Dublin., Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


First, to examine whether it useful to think about the presence of a common “Threshold Concept” for professions where care is a predominant quality. Second, to offer a framework to help students in the social professions to make sense of a “Threshold Concept”, supporting them to bridge their learning experiences between the college environment and practice placements. A close reading of a number of “Threshold Concept” papers (e.g. Tanner (2011); Sibbett and Thompson (2008); Clouder (2005)) suggests that key elements of the transformative experience may be common across different caring professions: students need to experience and contain the burden of responsibility in caring for others and to recognise the uniqueness of every service user. Drawing on research conducted by us in the USA, Ireland and Denmark with undergraduate students, lecturers, practitioners and placement supervisors in the professions of Social Care, Social Pedagogy, and Early Childhood Education and Care, we will explore with workshop participants the impact that caring for others has on the formation of a professional identity and discuss whether a common “Threshold Concept” is evident across these professions. A useful place from which to help students bridge their college and practice placement experiences is to acknowledge Carey’s (1991) learning framework that identifies three processes - replacement, differentiation and coalescence - to enrich students’ comprehension of concepts. Unfortunately, we believe that “Threshold Concepts” papers to date for the caring professions have neglected the process of coalescence. In other words, students need help to link their understanding of different concepts and we discuss how a “Threshold Concept” such as care can be linked to other concepts to strengthen the formation of practitioners' identities in the social professions.

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