Engaging head and heart in disciplinary learning: Insights from a threshold concepts-infused university programme


Deeper understanding of the factors that influence the course of disciplinary learning could help educators to facilitate the process more effectively. The Threshold Concepts Framework (TCF) encompasses cognitive, affective, and contextual aspects of learning, but has not fully examined the dynamics of the process. We explored students’ experiences in a TCF-aligned, cooperative learning programme in economics at a South African university. Through Interactive Qualitative Analysis, data was generated through focus groups, interviews, and written reflections. From the detailed descriptions of their learning, rendered in students’ voices, we abstract a representation of disciplinary learning as a challenging and transformative process, requiring that students engage with both head (cognition and metacognition) and heart (conation, affect, and identity). If the discipline as experienced aligns with students’ sense of self, learning is more likely to be meaningful, facilitating the engagement of their inner resources to sustain academic commitment and enhance cognitive and metacognitive development.

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