Transformed understandings: Subjective interpretation and the arts

Kirstine Moffat, Anne McKim


This article focuses on two key stages in 2012 and 2013 research  on threshold concept theory in a foundational BA course, ARTS101. Meyer, Land, and Baillie (2010) write of the need to identify the  critical points where students get “stuck” so that their learning  experiences may be a journey towards a new, “transformed” place  of understanding (pp. ix-xii). We identified ‘subjective  interpretation’ as a complex and crucial threshold concept in the  arts and humanities. This multifaceted concept covers understanding the role and function of perspective, point of view, and voice in the critical appreciation and analysis of texts and other media. Our article outlines our research goals and how we constructed and revised the ARTS101 course to ascertain the points at which students were ‘stuck’ and to help students develop new and enlarged understandings. Drawing on our teaching experiences, assessment results, and students’ written and verbal responses we conclude that subjective interpretation is a  troublesome concept that students at times struggle to master, but that carefully designed and aligned teaching, learning and assessment activities can assist in the journey to understanding (Meyer, Land, & Baillie, 2010). Once students have made the ‘learning leap’ they are increasingly able to locate their own viewpoint within a range of critical interpretations.

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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v19i2.97


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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015