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Sleeter and Methods for Teaching

Hummingbird's picture

I was excited to read the Sleeter because it was one of the first readings we had that offered concrete examples and ideas for way teachers could think about their teaching. I especially appreciated the suggestion to learn about students' communities and get to know where their positionality in order to better support learning, particularly because this is something I've thought a lot about in the context of a theory called "threshold concepts." Threshold concepts as I've come to understand them are extensive, transformative, learning experiences that utterly challenge and shift the way we approach a body of content, a discipline, or our understanding of ourselves. 

The relevance of threshold concepts to Sleeter is the idea that threshold learning moments can happen and be supported by incorporating personal knowledge/expertise into theoretical and classroom learning. I've thought about this will a Bryn Mawr faculty member with whom I worked – and we discussed the way that students we've observed who've struggled to understand key concepts (within 360s specifically) have passed over that threshold with the support of personal connection-making:

“[...] the idea of student expertise was a way Carola and other professors encouraged the passing of thresholds. In the Space and Identity 3600, students were made experts when professors called on them to speak to experiences stemming from their major, hometown, or class year. For example, a student who was writing her thesis on one of the theorists discussed in Carola’s class was able to reword and explain the main ideas of that theorist in a more accessible way for the rest of the class. Because she had more recently passed the threshold of understanding this theorist’s work and applying it to her own interests, she was better able to facilitate that understanding for the class. Students who struggled to understand the connection between space and identity were eased across this threshold when Carola and the other 3600 professors were able to push them to connect the theory with their hometowns. One student – from Korea – passed the threshold when she was able to apply the ideas of space and identity to the buildings and culture of Seoul.” (

Reading Sleeter's suggestions to call on students' personal knowledge reminded me of this threshold crossing, and gave me a new framework for thinking about this kind of teaching.