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Degrees of Knowing: Challenges for Student Learning in Indigenous Studies

Friday 5 July: Conference day three, 10:30am – 11:00am parallel session



Room 1 – 302-G20, Case Room  



Professor Susan Page
University of Technology Sydney, Australia



Threshold concepts are key ideas, not always explicitly taught, which foster students’ ability to think like discipline experts and development discipline mastery (Meyer & Land, 2006). One key aspect of threshold toncepts is the idea of liminality or the notion that students often spend time in a state of learning flux, oscillating between knowing and not knowing, as they grapple with new knowledge, sometimes called ‘troublesome knowledge’ (Perkins, 2006). Student resistance and racism–the residual effects of colonialism–are regular challenges for students and teachers in Indigenous Studies (Nakata, 2006; Hook, 2012). The showcase presentation draws on semi-structured interviews with undergraduate students enrolled in Indigenous Studies courses at three universities. The study used the threshold concepts framework as a mode of inquiry to explore the nature of potential learning challenges for students. The findings from this qualitative study suggest that students experience a convoluted and challenging liminal continuum from not-knowing to knowing as they learn in Indigenous Studies. While the learning experience can be emotional and difficult, there were also significant transformative shifts in understanding of themselves and the Indigenous curriculum, for students in this study. A cluster of pedagogical approaches seem to ameliorate challenges for student learners.



Hook, G. (2012). Towards a decolonising pedagogy: Understanding Australian Indigenous studies through critical whiteness theory and film pedagogy. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 41(2), 110-119.
Meyer, J., & Land, R. (2006). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Issues of liminality. In J. Meyer & R. Land (Eds.), Overcoming barriers to student understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge, (pp. 3–18) London: Routledge.
Nakata, M. (2006). Australian Indigenous studies: A question of discipline. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 17(3), 265-275.
Perkins, D. (2006). Constructivism and troublesome knowledge. In Overcoming barriers to student understanding (pp. 57-71). Routledge.


Presentation topic

Students – Learning

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