‘Crossing frontiers without a map’—the role of threshold concepts and problematic knowledge in religious education and spirituality

Peter Mudge


Earlier research has examined the potential of pedagogies of disorientation or displacement for religious education and spirituality, within a pedagogical framework shifting from secure orientation through disturbing disorientation, and towards surprising reorientation (Brueggemann, 2007; Mudge, 2013a; M. Taylor, 1987). Such articles have noted that these three movements are cyclical and repetitive in nature, and challenge teacher and student transition in teaching and learning. Yet researchers have also asserted that it remains the prerogative of each individual as to whether or not they respond to the challenge of any disorientation or reorientation that confronts them.

This article focuses more specifically on the middle movement of “disturbing disorientation” within the disciplines of religious education and spirituality, what threshold concept theory refers to as “crossing the threshold or liminal zone”. In particular, it focuses on that pedagogical moment of transition into deeper and conflicted understanding of the relevant topic. It is concerned with the central issue of what transpires when students move from their “comfort zones” towards the more difficult transitions involved with threshold concepts (Land, Meyer, & Smith, 2008), a movement also referred to in the paper as a “threshold transition”. It also examines what particular thresholds were the most discomforting or disorienting for the author’s Masters students in religious education and spirituality. It does this in relation to analysis of some 600 reflection learning logs completed by the Masters students between September 2011 and November 2013 (Mudge, 2013b).

Taken together, the findings from this paper have the potential to make a constructive contribution to ongoing threshold concept research, to pedagogical frameworks within religious education and spirituality, and to challenge similar frameworks within associated areas such as theology, philosophy, and other disciplines.

Full Text: PDF

DOI: 10.15663/wje.v19i2.98


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


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