Uncertainty, Fear, and Anxiety: Learning Threshold Concepts in Liminal Space

Authors: Erin Fouberg*, Northern State University
Topics: Geography Education
Keywords: geography education, threshold concepts, liminal space
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Plaza Court 3, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Among teens in the United States, 70 percent report that anxiety and depression are a major problem among people their age living in the community where they live (Pew Research 2019). Anxiety stems, in part, from fear of the future. Studies in psychology and neuroscience find that uncertainty and inability to predict the future lead to anxiety. Students at a regional state university in the Midwest reported uncertainty, anxiety, inability to solve problems, and inability to understand why people do not get along as reasons for disengaging globally. Learning at the university level is an iterative process. Students learn new information, apply it, recognize mistakes, and go back to relearn information and deepen understanding. To gain understanding in any discipline, students must become comfortable with uncertainty, with what Meyer and Land (2003) call liminal space – a space of knowing and unknowing, of mimicry and uncertainty (2006). Drawing from research on threshold concepts and liminal space, this paper explores how actively teaching liminal space, uncertainty, and formative assessment to education majors in world regional geography impacted their engagement with threshold concepts, their willingness to enter liminal space, and their decision to actively engage with the world.

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