In the liminal space: Software design as a threshold skill

Lynda Thomas, Jonas Boustedt, Anna Eckerdal, Robert McCartney, Jan Erik Moström, Kate Sanders, Carol Zander

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In previous work we proposed the idea of ‘threshold skills’ as a complement to threshold concepts. The definition of threshold concepts assumes that theoretical knowledge is paramount: gaining the understanding of particular concepts irreversibly transforms the learners. We noted, however, that mastering computing, like many disciplines, requires learning a combination of concepts and skills, and we suggested that this required further investigation.

In this paper we examine the activity of designing software as a possible example of such a threshold skill. We looked at 35 software designs collected from students nearing graduation in computing courses, and see many of the characteristics of threshold skill and also of students being in liminal space. A close examination of the students’ designs leads to some useful implications for teaching this fundamental activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-351
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • Threshold concepts
  • Threshold skills
  • Professional education
  • Practice


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