Illuminating the student experience within the liminal space: exploring data-driven learning design for negotiating troublesome concepts

Bethany Alden Rivers, John T E Richardson

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperpeer-review


This study explored how the Knowing and Reasoning Inventory (KARI)— a tool for profiling students’ epistemic beliefs —might be used by learning designers to promote students’ conceptual development. The Threshold Concepts Framework (TCF), developed by Meyer and Land (2003), provides a way of considering how students assimilate new knowledge through a process of reworking their existing conceptual frameworks. The liminal space between conceptual thresholds can be uncomfortable when the new concepts are troublesome for learners to incorporate into their meaning frames. A complexity for educators is that a student’s journey through the liminal space will be influenced by his or her beliefs about knowing and reasoning. The KARI is a quantitative web survey that draws on Baxter Magolda’s (1992) “ways of knowing” interview protocol and Kuhn’s (1991) argumentative reasoning interview protocol. KARI data were collected from 77 students at the University of Northampton in May 2014. Visualisations of these data were used during a structured workshop of university staff, where they were asked to: 1) identify a threshold concept from their discipline or area of interest, 2) list a set of activities or experiences to develop students’ understanding of the concept and 3) to consider how a student’s KARI profile may influence the design of these activities. While all participants were able to complete these three activities, findings from this study suggested that “threshold concept” is a threshold concept for some learning designers. Findings also suggested that some learning designers may not conceptualise learning activities as needing to be personalised for students. Finally, participants, at times, struggled to interpret the visualisations of the KARI data, making it difficult to consider the meaning of these analytics.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014
EventHigher Education Close Up 7 (HECU7) - Lancaster
Duration: 1 Jul 2014 → …


ConferenceHigher Education Close Up 7 (HECU7)
Period1/07/14 → …


  • Knowing and Reasoning Inventory
  • KARI
  • epistemological development
  • threshold concept
  • learning design
  • conceptual development
  • personalisation
  • learning analytics
  • visualisations
  • self-authorship


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