Overcoming Troublesome Knowledge in Threshold Concepts Learning: The Case of Theoretical Reasoning in Undergraduate Political Studies
Lo Coco, Laura
This paper investigates the challenges posed by troublesome knowledge in undergraduate politics learning. Theoretical reasoning is taken as the chief example of troublesome threshold concept in politics, and the problem of crossing the ‘liminal space’ is discussed. The pedagogy of games is offered as a model for overcoming the learner’s anxiety in crossing the threshold. A literature review on the pedagogy of games suggests that games make the liminal space less problematic. First, during a game the tacit rules of reasoning are uncovered and become the rules of the game itself. Second, the humorous environment reduces learners’ anxiety in dealing with troublesome knowledge. Reflective analysis on two episodes in an undergraduate class corroborates the finding of the literature, and highlights one further element of game and playfulness that makes the rite of passage more pleasant and productive: games are also a gateway for social cohesion and reciprocal trust, increasing the intimacy among students through playful teasing and imagination. The paper concludes that teaching styles that encourage reciprocal approachability are most effective in helping learners to comprehend threshold concepts.