Getting the whole organisation on board
In today's fast-paced and competitive job market, higher education institutions face the critical task of preparing students for successful careers. However, integrating the 3E agenda—enterprise, entrepreneurship, and employability—into institutional approaches can encounter resistance. To address this challenge, the threshold concept approach emerges as a powerful tool that not only enhances student learning and engagement but also effectively builds staff alignment and overcomes barriers to adoption. By understanding the transformative nature of threshold concepts and their potential to reshape learning experiences, institutions can foster alignment among staff and increase student engagement.
What’s a threshold concept?
Threshold concepts are transformative, sometimes difficult-to-grasp concepts that reshape how a topic is perceived and understood. Once understood, they lead to new ways of thinking and open up new possibilities for learning and application within a particular domain.
Likely causes of resistance to the 3E agenda
Resistance to the 3E agenda may arise due to tensions between traditional academic focus and real-world application, concerns about resource allocation and time constraints, fear of venturing into unfamiliar territory, and institutional factors such as bureaucracy and resistance to change. These challenges can thwart the widespread integration of employability, enterprise and entrepreneurship into curricula, hindering the development of crucial skills, knowledge and behaviours needed for the modern workforce.
How the threshold concept approach builds alignment
The threshold concept approach plays a vital role in overcoming staff resistance by fostering alignment and shared understanding. By involving staff in the development, understanding and application of institutionally situated threshold concepts, a common language and purpose can be established. This alignment among staff members creates a cohesive educational environment where everyone works towards the shared goal of preparing students for successful careers. By acknowledging and addressing staff concerns, providing professional development opportunities, and creating supportive communities of practice, institutions can empower staff to embrace the 3E agenda.
How the threshold concept approach enables educators to build student engagement
The threshold concept approach not only aligns staff but also enhances student engagement. By recognising that students may understand concepts differently, educators can employ diverse teaching strategies and support mechanisms to ensure effective comprehension and application.
For example, taking a candidate threshold concept of entrepreneurial thinking, such as "Value is defined by others," educators can connect value creation to personal values and meaningfulness. By broadening the definition of value to encompass social justice, eco-justice and economic value, students are intrinsically motivated to make a positive impact on society. This fosters a sense of purpose and deeper engagement, as students recognize the transformative potential of their skills and ideas.
By emphasising the positive and diverse impact of value creation, the threshold concept approach instils fulfilment and meaning in students' educational experiences. They become active participants, seeking opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world contexts. This heightened engagement not only enhances academic performance but also cultivates proactive and entrepreneurial mindsets essential for future careers. Students understand that their work and entrepreneurial endeavours can contribute to social justice, environmental sustainability and financial prosperity. They develop critical thinking skills, a sense of responsibility and a desire to effect positive change. This is just one example of how using the threshold concept approach can enable educators to equip students with the tools to become active contributors to the workforce and agents of positive transformation.
Enhancing student engagement
By leveraging the transformative power of threshold concepts, institutions can overcome staff resistance, foster alignment and enhance student engagement in employability, enterprise, and entrepreneurship education. This approach enables educators to prepare students for the challenges of the modern workforce and empowers them to make a positive impact on society.
Dr Lucy Hatt is a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University Business School with a particular interest in entrepreneurship education and the value of the threshold concept approach to educators. She works with HE institutions to develop and evaluate a uniquely contextualised approach to the 3E agenda using the threshold concept framework.