April 2021 What I’m Thinking About

Considering Thresholds in UGME


Laura Farrell, Bruce Wright, Shavaun MacDonald

Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Time: 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Zoom ID: For connection details, please email ches.communications@ubc.ca.


Threshold concepts, first described in higher education literature, are core ideas within disciplines that are initially difficult to comprehend, but once grasped, irreversibly transform he learner’s perception of the subject. Threshold concepts, by definition, share common characteristics including being transformative, integrative, irreversible, bounded, and troublesome. There has been a growing trend to acknowledge threshold concepts in Health Professionals’ Education, with the suggestion that threshold concepts may offer new perspectives in curricular design, teaching, learner support, and assessment

In this WITA session, we hope to share our understanding of threshold concepts and discuss practical implications of further development of threshold concepts in Health Professionals’ Education. As threshold concepts become further characterized in a scholarly manner, we hope to promote a discussion on how they might add value to curricular design. In addition, we propose that threshold concepts may allow us to enhance our support and assessment of learners within competency based education, including UBC’s Undergraduate Medical Education curriculum with the current curricular mapping to milestones and exit competencies. Integrating threshold concepts into this model may help better support learners as they grapple with troublesome knowledge to acquire a qualitatively different view of subject matter, aiding in their pursuit of mastery.


Dr. Laura Farrell is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and a Scholar at the Centre for Health Education Scholarship within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Bruce Wright is the Regional Associate Dean, Vancouver Island, UBC Faculty of Medicine, and Head of the Division of Medical Sciences, University of Victoria.

Dr. Shavaun MacDonald currently works as a adult critical care physician in Victoria BC. She is the IMP year 3 clerkship site lead and is also a site program director for the UBC basic clinical year residency program in Victoria. Her academic areas of interest include curriculum development, medical ethics and deceased donation.

Accredited by UBC CPD




The University of British Columbia Division of Continuing Professional Development (UBC CPD) is fully accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Continuing Medical Education (CACME) to provide study credits for continuing medical education for physicians. This program meets the certification criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and has been certified by UBC CPD for up to 15 Mainpro+ Group Learning credits (1.5 per session). Each physician should claim only those credits accrued through participation in the activity. CFPC Session ID#: 192711-001

RCPSC Accreditation

The CHES Cutting Edge Speaker Series is a self-approved group learning activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.