Students new to a discipline specific education frequently encounter issues difficult for them to understand and act on. As they attempt to operate beyond their developmental level as a learner, they resort to reliance on limited past experiences and preconceptions or act frivolously or attempt to ‘fake it till they make it.” This proposal defines issues that beginning students find challenging as encounters with thresholds concepts. As developed by Meyer and Land, threshold concepts are learning experiences that are troublesome encounters that are not necessarily core concepts of a discipline, but those that have a propensity to be transformative of both the processes of learning and of the student him/herself. Experiencing a threshold concept is transformative in that it will fundamentally alter the way a discipline is viewed, and they are typically irreversible in that once they are understood, it becomes impossible to return to a previous world view. Threshold concepts tend to lend comprehension to the whole of a discipline and may also define disciplinary limits. By grasping threshold concepts individuals engage the ability ‘to become’, in that the knowledge structure of the subject becomes part of the being of the person. In this way, threshold concepts transform the life-experience of the student. This proposal will identify thresholds concepts within design learning experiences as encounters with issues such as uncertainty, abstraction, systems thinking, description, criticism, iterative thinking, and encounters with concepts like narrative, resourcefulness, ideas, and even the act of being honest about not knowing what to do. Further elaboration of each threshold concept will clarify how each issue is encountered in design education, followed by discussion of how a pedagogical structure that realizes threshold concepts as necessary to learning design better facilitates the transformative learning necessary to realizing a developmental pathway to becoming a designer.
Stephen Temple is an Architect, Associate Professor, and Director of the Summer Academy in Architecture in the Department of Architecture, University of Texas San Antonio. Professor Temple teaches architectural design, beginning design, and aesthetic theory, and has established a pedagogy of material engagement as the initial foundation design experience to recognize embodiment as primary to architectural design. Author of over 70 scholarly works, his research studies philosophy, psychology, phenomenology, and education psychology and theory as pedagogical precursors to learning creative design thinking. He is author of Making Thinking: Beginning Architectural Design Education (KendallHunt 2011) and Developing Creative Thinking in Beginning Design (Routledge 2019).