Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Threshold Concept & Story telling.

Written by: on January 30, 2023

Threshold Concept

“…that knowledge should indeed be ‘troubling’ in order for it to be transformative, this book provides new perspectives on helping students through such conceptual difficulty in order to enhance learning and teaching environments (Meyer and land, 2006).” The barriers to understanding exits when intellectual and practical comprehension is absent. Basically, one can crosses the threshold (threshold concept) as he/she understands the concept and has the knowledge to apply the theory. According to Meyer and Land, the threshold concept is likened unto a portal of thinking that has not been used before. “It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress. As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there may be may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view (Meyer and Land, 2006).” A threshold concept is basically when the theory or concept is discovered, understood and moreover, being used or applied in real life situation.

Dr. Robert Coven in his TEDx Talks or presentation, “Breaking Through: Threshold Concepts as a Key to Understanding,” reiterated this point by saying that breaking through the threshold concepts is the “ah-ah moment.” Dr. Coven went on to emphasize that in order to break through the threshold, we must dig deeper by asking the right questions, reading between the lines and be looking for what is missing (Coven, 2018).

Rite of Passage

Based on the writing of van Gennep and Turner, Meyer and Land likened the ‘acquiring threshold concept’ in some area to a ‘rite of passage.’ “As a medical graduate commented, getting through medical school is like getting your hand caught in a meat grinder, it keeps grinding and scooping up more of you as it goes. You gradually get bundled into a processed package and pop out as a doctor (Meyer and Land, 2006).”

A rite of passage is defined as “a ritual, event, or experience that marks or constitutes a major milestone or change in a person’s life (Online Webster Dictionary, 2023).”

Storytelling and Threshold Concept

Back in the Pacific Islands, at one of the tiniest islands in Micronesia, I experienced something that is similar to this ritual, ‘rite of passage. It was at the end of my sophomore year in Jr. High School, I was told by the eldest men in village that I needed to move from my family home to the local house (called fal, or uut, pictured on the right) where only men gathered. This was the beginning of the ritual, I had to live there throughout the summer. This ritual is called, “fau-ke.” It is a fishing ritual where the young adults (teenagers) are learning from the older generations the skills that is necessary for a man to have. Discussion topics ranges from cultural values to fishing techniques. During this ritual, as we were taught how these techniques of fishing, we went out fishing every day.

It was during this time that we were taught the skills of everyday living that is necessary to have to survive on the island. The fal or the Uut was the classroom, the story telling was the means of imparting knowledge and the ocean was laboratory where we were experiencing what we were being taught.



Meyer. J and Land. R. (2006). Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. (1st Edition). London.

Coven, R. (2018, November). Breaking Through: Threshold Concepts as a Key to Understanding [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCPYSKSFky4.

About the Author

Noel Liemam

6 responses to “Threshold Concept & Story telling.”

  1. Cathy Glei says:

    Thank you for sharing about this rites of passage ritual from your village. Is the end of the sophomore year the typical time when young men experience fau-ke? In the context of the fau-ke (rites of passage experience), how do you see threshold concepts worked out in the young men? Thanks again for sharing your cultural connection.

  2. Noel Liemam says:

    Good morning Ms. Glei,

    It is normally when the village elders think that you are ready to be moved into adulthood. For me, it was during this experience that I started thinking to myself that I am no longer just a teenager, but I am moving into adulthood. It was then that I realized that I needed to have the sense of being responsible not only for myself, but my family, and my community. The main purpose of this ritual is to instill in a young man that your place in the community into a provider and a protector. Thank you for reading.

  3. Esther Edwards says:

    Young boys so admire the investment of older men into their lives. The fact that they are looked at as future providers and protectors says “we believe in you.”
    What a powerful way to build the courage and skill of boys at such a crucial age. Thank you for sharing your tribal tradition of fau-ke.

  4. Noel Liemam says:

    Ms. Edwards,

    Thank you for the comments. Indeed, this ritual is very important in my cultural because it was a way of declaring adulthood, which in means that the participants became adults and were ready to start a family on their own. In this ritual, it gets the involvement of the whole community, the whole island. It was not only for the boys learning and turning into adulthood, but for the young girls turning into adulthood as well. Once again, thank you for your comments.

  5. Very cool – thank you for sharing a bit into your history and your experience of participating in fau-ke. You know I had a lot of thought about the piece in the hero’s journey where a piece of information had to be “troubling” in order for them to move on to the next phase. Definitely I agree it is commonly true, that a pain point inspires someone to make a change but is it a hard and fast rule. I’m not talking about are there ever outliers – of course there are – but is it so common that you need to experience this.

    So I was really interested to read about your experience, leaving your family home and living with other men for a summer season. Was it hard? Did you know that was going to happen? It seems clear this was a big moment in your own hero’s journey so I’d be interested to learn more about it.

    Two questions:
    1. When you were invited (is invitation the right verb?) into the fau-ke, was it a welcoming and celebratory environment or was it a situation where you were treated poorly because of your age and ignorance in what they were going to teach you?

    2. Having only fished a handful of times, if I were to visit Micronesia, was is your top fishing tip for me to be successful?

    • Noel Liemam says:

      Thank you, Mr. Yuill, for your comments. Participating in the fau-ke is stage that almost everyone had to go through. And yes, you would be treated as an “apprentice” in the process therefore, showing respect is essential in the process so you could learn as much as you can.

      What we have in Micronesia is the Ocean, land mass is tiny, therefore, you can do a lot of different kinds of fishing ranging from bottom-fishing, net-fishing, spear fishing, trap-fishing, or trolling (fishing for tuna and bigger fish). Well, I would say try all kinds of fishing and bring your favorite fishing pole.

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