Category Archives: Graduate Coursework

My Professional Development in Fall 2016

Today, January 17, 2017, I revised and expanded the paragraph from my teaching biography on my professional development in Fall 2016, which was my first semester in the Education Ph.D. program, Instructional Technology track, at University of Central Florida:

After concluding my first semester as a Ph.D. student, I am a co-PI (principal investigator) on a microbiology attitudes validation study (Modification and Validation of a Biology Student Attitude Survey for Use with Microbiology Students) and a co-presenter on a social studies conference proposal (Correlating Subsidized Lunch Prevalence with Seventh-Grade Civics End-of-Course Exam Proficiency in Florida Schools). In August 2016, I presented The Implications of Mindsets for Learning and Instruction (poster) at the Association of Teacher Educators’ summer conference in Louisville, Kentucky. In Fall 2016, I worked extensively on a National Parks Service project in EME 6613: Instructional Systems Design (no publications or conference presentations forthcoming). As part of my summer volunteering and fall GTA work, I contributed to STEM Education grant proposals that my advisor and colleagues were working on (presentations and publications may be forthcoming in future semesters, pending grant approval).

My Teaching Biography

Here is a personal biography I wrote on January 14, 2017 to introduce myself to other students in the EME 7634: Advanced Instructional Design course at University of Central Florida. Here, I have detailed my teaching background, personal goals, and personal expectations, as I enter the second semester of the Education Ph.D. program in the Instructional Technology track.

(a) current work position and job title

My name is Richard Thripp (I go by “Richard”) and I am a first-year Education Ph.D. student in the Instructional Technology track at University of Central Florida, a Dean’s Fellow, and a Graduate Teaching Assistant to Dr. Richard Hartshorne. I earned my M.A. in Applied Learning and Instruction at UCF in 2016, my B.S. in Psychology at UCF in 2014, and an A.A. at Daytona State College in 2011. I am 25 and a lifelong resident of Ormond Beach, FL.

(b) your teaching/training experience

My teaching experience dates back as far as 2006, when I was a student worker in the Volusia County Library System and gave a series of three two-hour classes to senior citizens on how to use a PC, keyboard, and mouse, Windows 2000, Internet Explorer, and web email.

In Fall 2008, I took PHY2048: University Physics at Daytona State College and prepared several practice exams and solution sets for other students, which other students were very grateful for. This work helped me go from failing to passing in my grades on exams in the course.

In Fall 2009, I was the Supplemental Instruction Leader for BSC 1005: Survey of Biology for Non-Science Majors at Daytona State College, for which I led 33 one-hour review sessions with an average attendance of five students each, created a website with numerous supplemental and review materials including 146 pages of my scanned, handwritten lecture notes and six chapter review quizzes with answers, and distributed printed copies of the website’s URL to over 150 students in three sections of the course.

In Spring 2011, I was a Peer Tutor at the Daytona State College Academic Support Center (ASC), qualified to tutor remedial math, College Algebra, Precalculus Algebra, Trigonometry, and Survey of Biology, though I primarily helped remedial math students who were compelled by departmental policy to complete their e-homework at the ASC. (“Qualified” meant having received an A grade in the course, by the ASC’s criteria.)

Over the next few years, I tutored math, GRE preparation, and piano privately, while taking a year off and then working on my B.S. in Psychology at UCF. (I was tired of higher math and “hard” sciences at this time.)

In Spring 2016, I put together a sprawling online financial literacy course for my M.A. Capstone projects, completing over 25 modules with research-supported activities and pedagogical approaches, including over two hours of narrated video. To date, I find writing about personal finance more personally interesting and motivating than many other educational topics.

In Fall 2016, with three colleagues in EME 6613: Instructional Systems Design, I developed guidelines and rudimentary materials for the National Park Service to train facility management specialists and tradespeople to assess the conditions of historic structures within the park system, based in part on the ARCS model of instructional design (Keller, 1987) and the Learning-by-Doing model (Schank, Berman, Macpherson, 1999).

Also in Fall 2016, with training from Dr. Hartshorne, I graded and provided substantiative feedback on the following assignments produced by undergraduates in two sections of EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators: 20 group-based classroom wikis, 55 one- to two-minute individual educational videos, 58 individual lesson plans, and 56 individual PowerPoint-based interactive quizzes. I quickly learned how time-consuming it is to grade and give quality feedback to large numbers of students.

(c) assessment of how this course relates to what you already know about training and instruction

I still have to look up the definition of ontology / ontological when I see it (cannot remember it), and until a year ago, I could not remember the definition of pedagogy or epistemology. (Now, I remember them as “relating to teaching practice” and “beliefs about knowledge.”) Where I generally am an excellent writer and can produce impressive prose despite having deficits in my retention of educational theories, this course will (a) help further fill in the gaps for me and (b) sharpen my specialization in instructional design. Many ideas in the prior course (EME 6613), such as the differences between systematic design and subject-matter expert (SME) -based design, were ideas I had intuited in past years but never came across a vocabulary for. Consequently, with respect to what I already know about training and instruction, EME 7634 will correct, extend, and make the implicit explicit.

(d) expectations and desired learning outcomes relative to this course

After concluding my first semester as a Ph.D. student, I am a co-PI (principal investigator) on a microbiology attitudes validation study (Modification and Validation of a Biology Student Attitude Survey for Use with Microbiology Students) and a co-presenter on a social studies conference proposal (Correlating Subsidized Lunch Prevalence with Seventh-Grade Civics End-of-Course Exam Proficiency in Florida Schools). I presented The Implications of Mindsets for Learning and Instruction at the Association of Teacher Educators’ summer conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I worked extensively on a National Parks Service project and on STEM Education grant proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of my summer volunteering and GTA work.

While these accomplishments all provided useful experience and were interesting in their own ways, the only one I consciously chose was mindsets, which my interest in has now waned. My desired outcome for this course and the Spring 2017 semester is that I focus heavily on topics that are immensely interesting and motivating to me. While I do want to shore up some of my weaknesses, I want to focus more on strengthening my strengths, even if it doesn’t make everyone happy. This means when given the choice of topic, I would probably pick topics that are STEM- or finance-related. As for the analysis techniques I choose to study in this course, I have not read enough to know which ones I like yet.

My expectations are that Dr. Atsusi Hirumi will be as helpful, entertaining, and rigorous as last semester.

(e) one interesting aspect about your life (hobbies, personal interests, unusual skill or trait)

One ironic aspect of my life is that I skipped two-thirds of 1st grade, was home-schooled by my father for Grades 2–12 (through a private school), combined Grades 2–3 in one year, and graduated high school at Age 15. Then, I took four years to earn a two-year degree (I managed to drop out twice during this time) and took a year off. I am a prospective educator whose only experience in K–12 is attending kindergarten, three months of 1st grade, and sitting in on 15 hours of a 5th grade class in 2011. However, I am more interested in being a postsecondary educator (viz., a professor) than a K–12 educator.

My academic and personal writings and presentations on a wide variety of topics are presented unseparated on my website,


Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2–10.

Schank, R. C., Berman, T. R., & Macpherson, K. A. (1999). Learning by doing. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory, Vol. II (pp. 161–181). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Brief Statement on First Semester of Education Ph.D.

I wrote this for my Facebook wall on 2016-12-07. Reposted on on 2016-12-11.

All done with schoolwork! My first semester being a Ph.D. student [Education Ph.D., Instructional Technology track at University of Central Florida] went well. Just need to focus more on my research in future semesters.

It was very interesting working with peers on designing facility management training materials for the National Park Service and studying the standardized test scores of Florida 7th grade civics students. For independent work in another class, I have also learned a lot about threshold concepts. As part of my assistantship, I graded over 100 assignments of undergraduates in EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators, and contributed key materials to several major grant proposals for joint work between the College of Education and Human Performance and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The shocking and sad part of the semester was that the son of my Master’s advisor and mentor, Dr. Bobby Hoffman, passed away. I cannot imagine losing a child who is only age 30… I know that as my father’s only child, it would tear him apart to lose me. Prayers be with Dr. Hoffman and his family in this holiday season.

Prospectus for Survey Research on Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process

This prospectus was completed 2016-11-30 for the course, IDS 7501: Issues & Research in Education, building upon my 2016-10-20 annotated bibliography and 2016-11-07 instrument search, as part of my coursework in the Education Ph.D. program at University of Central Florida.

This brief literature review and research proposal synthesizes the research on threshold concepts as applied to doctoral students, pioneered by Drs. Erik Mayer and Ray Land. Please feel free to cite this review. Feedback is welcome, via blog comments, my contact form, or Twitter.

PDF version | Microsoft Word 2016 version

Prospectus for Survey Research on Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process
Richard Thripp
University of Central Florida


This initial research prospectus first reviews the existing, primarily qualitative research on threshold concepts and doctoral students. Threshold concepts are skills that may be difficult to acquire, but their acquisition is transformative—much like learning to ride a bicycle. Frequently, threshold concepts such as designing a research study, writing a research report, and conducting a literature review are not explicitly taught to doctoral students. In fact, academics may not even consciously consider them, or may be dismissive toward students who have not yet acquired them. In this prospectus, the existing literature is used to guide the design of questionnaire-based research that quantitatively and qualitatively assesses threshold concepts in a broad sample of doctoral students at the University of Central Florida. Ultimately, this will contribute to our understanding of threshold concepts, the doctoral process, and the interaction between the two; guide further research including the development of a validated quantitative threshold concepts instrument; and perhaps suggest practices and workshops that may be implemented to reduce periods of uncertainty (liminality) among doctoral students, improve well-being, encourage productivity, and prevent attrition.

Keywords: threshold concepts, conceptual thresholds, doctoral studies, scholarly research, higher education, PhD students, liminality, troublesome knowledge, higher-order thinking skills, cognitive strategies, doctoral attrition, ontology, epistemology, beliefs

Prospectus for Survey Research on Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process

Threshold concepts (or, learning thresholds) are skills or ideas that may be troublesome to acquire, but doing so is often transformative—much like learning to ride a bicycle (Meyer & Land, 2005). The threshold concept framework (TCF) emerged in 2003 from Meyer and Land’s work on the U.K. national research project, Enhancing Teaching–Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses, and was refined by their research on economists, which revealed that understanding certain concepts, such as opportunity cost, is pivotal to progressing in the field (Flanagan, 2016). Acquiring a threshold concept can be counter-intuitive and messy, causing both cognitive and affective stress not unlike a rite of passage (Rhem, 2013), with a liminal space in between that can be long and uncertain (Meyer & Land, 2006), particularly because instruction may address it only tacitly, peers and overseers may not know or recall what not “getting” a threshold concept feels like, and the endpoint of liminality is only clear in hindsight.

In particular, Ph.D. students are supposed to be our next generation of academics. They are expected to have acquired extensive technical and soft skills even at the outset of their programs, particularly for programs requiring a Master’s degree. Unfortunately, many have not acquired skills which appear to be threshold concepts, such as advanced writing and research skills (e.g., Kiley, 2015; Johnson, 2015). Further, there may be other threshold concepts for doctoral students that the limited body of primarily qualitative research has not revealed. Little quantitative research has been employed, and no quantitative instrument has been validated for the threshold concepts field in general, even after 13 years of research and hundreds of academic journal articles. Moreover, in the context of doctoral students, the beliefs of people who have achieved or not achieved threshold concepts has not been systematically compared. This proposed exploratory study will form a portion of the groundwork toward these ends.

Literature Review

Continue reading Prospectus for Survey Research on Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process

The Search for a Threshold Concepts Instrument

Recently I’ve been learning about threshold concepts, which are portal-like concepts that may be troublesome to learn but represent an irreversible transformation once acquired. Learning to ride a bicycle is a great example. The crossing of a conceptual threshold might culminate quickly in an “ah-ha!” moment, or it might be drawn out over an extended period of liminality that is resolved gradually and perhaps not even consciously noticed.

Since deadlines are looming and I have assignments to complete, I’m searching for, ideally, a validated, quantitative (Likert-type scale) survey instrument to assess what respondents think qualifies as a threshold concept.

No such instrument seems to exist. Most research is simply qualitative, using interviews and many quotes from participants. The closest I could find to such an instrument is Manyiwa (2006), which doesn’t appear to have been validated, meaning, data collection and statistical verification has not been performed to determine whether it measures what it claims to measure.

I wrote the following email to Dr. Manyiwa seeing if he has any ideas for me. Most likely, I will just end up proposing an exploratory study (descriptive research) for the research prospectus in IDS 7501: Issues and Research in Education at University of Central Florida. I want to do the research on doctoral students at UCF. Research on doctoral students at UCF is not unheard of; for example, the coordinator for my Master’s program, Morgan McAfee, did her Master’s thesis in the same program, Applied Learning and Instruction, on attrition between Education Ed.D. and Education Ph.D. students at UCF.

Hello, Dr. Manyiwa,

I am exploring the literature on threshold concepts as applicable to research students in doctoral programs. While there are about 20 relevant articles, all of them focus on qualitative methods (interviews, open-ended questions, etc.). See my introductory concept map.

I started poking around for a quantitative measure (e.g., validated questions on a Likert-type scale), and found your article from 2006, “Threshold concepts in teaching and learning undergraduate marketing research.”

I was wondering how you came up with these questions? I’m a new Education Ph.D. student in the Instructional Technology track at University of Central Florida, and am writing a research prospectus for one of my first-semester courses. I think doing exploratory research on a variant of your questions tailored to a threshold concept relevant to doctoral students (e.g., writing a qualitative research report as identified by Humphrey & Simpson, 2012) might be useful, and I certainly find it interesting.

1. The  understanding  of  [concept]  is  very  important  for  gaining  new  insight  into the marketing research module (MKT2252)
2. I understand this concept very well
3. Previous knowledge is required to grasp this concept in the marketing research module (MKT2252)
4. The  knowledge  I  gained  prior  to  attending  this  module  prepared  me  for understanding this concept
5. On  the  face  of  it  (before  explanation  is  given),  this  concept seems  to  be counter-intuitive

I know the relevant source that advised your writing of the above questions was:

Davies, P and Mangan, J (2005), Recognising Threshold Concepts: an exploratory of different approaches. The European Association in Learning and Instruction Conference (AERLI) August 23-27 2005, Nicosia, Cyprus.

That paper does not have Likert-type questions and uses purely qualitative methods, though. It looks like threshold concepts are in need of a validated quantitative or mixed-methods questionnaire instrument.

I am familiar with Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets, where we have validated Likert-type questions such as “You have a certain amount of intelligence, and you really can’t do much to change it,” “Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much,” and “You can learn new things, but you can’t really change your basic intelligence” (Dweck, 2000, p. 177).

I don’t see anything similar for threshold concepts, but perhaps they are too broad, or, at this point, still too emergent.

Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any input.

Richard Thripp, M.A., ACB, ALB
Education Ph.D., Instructional Technology Student
Graduate Teaching Assistant | University of Central Florida
Secretary | UCF Student Laureates of STEM Teaching & Learning
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