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Troublesome or Threshold?: the experience of difficult concepts in prosthetics

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Sophie Hill
Publication date2012
Number of pages278
Awarding Institution
Award date30/06/2012
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explores what is experienced as difficult, and potentially threshold,
concepts in prosthetics. Prosthetics and orthotics education is an under-researched area and this research assists in filling this gap. Consideration is given to the reasons why students have difficulties in learning certain concepts. Attention is also given to why every student does not experience the same concepts as difficult, another under-researched area.
Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis as both methodology and data
analyisis method, with interviews and questionnaires with staff and students for data collection, five difficult concepts were identified in prosthetics. Two concepts are suggested as troublesome but not threshold and three suggested as threshold concepts.
Curriculum design is suggested as an additional form of troublesome knowledge
affecting students’ engagement with, and their perception of the relevance of a
concept to their discipline. Tacit troublesome knowledge is much broader than the episteme of a discipline including mental images, memories, and shortcuts taken by experts. The variation in what is found difficult and by whom is suggested as being due to differences in the prior experience of students. In order to differentiate threshold concepts from other concepts it is suggested that they require both integration and ontological transformation together with procedural concepts and associated contextualised memories, and disciplinary concepts.
Several implications for practice are suggested. Curriculum design should be
considered, especially for supporting concepts, with learning experiences
contextually appropriate for the students’ discipline, an important consideration for multi-disciplinary modules. Due to differences in prior experience, learning activities should be created which both enable students to get to the starting point for the acquisition of, and then further develop their understanding of the threshold concept.
Finally further research into threshold concepts should consider a whole programme approach including both staff and students.