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Professional Development Guide

Guide for faculty that contains resources and recommendations for high-impact practices, faculty competencies, and more

How is this guide organized?

Skagit Valley College encourages faculty to seek out professional development opportunities that relate to the essential competencies as listed in the collective bargaining agreement.

To make the connection between professional development and essential competencies easy, this guide provides professional development resources organized by essential competencies.


All resources in this guide are backed by evidence and are proven to improve instruction. While educational trends come and go, there are research-backed practices, understandings, and skills that lead to better instruction.

The resources in this guide focus on those enduring practices, understandings, and skills

Threshold Concepts

For each competency in this guide, there is a list of threshold concepts.

A threshold concept, is a concept that, once understood, changes the way that a person understands a topic. As part of professional development, faculty can research and master educational threshold concepts to improve their instruction.

“A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress.” (2003, p1).

In education, threshold concepts are often discussed as the concepts students need to understand in order to excel in their discipline. For the purpose of this guide, threshold concepts are the concepts that faculty need to understand in order to excel in instruction. Myer and Land present five elements of threshold concepts:

  • Threshold concepts are transformative—once an individual understands a threshold concept, their view and understanding of the world changes. Not only is this change cognitive, it is ontological as well. Once a faculty member understands a threshold concept of education, they become a different teacher.
  • Threshold concepts are irreversible—once a faculty member understands an educational threshold concept, they don’t forget it. For example, once a faculty fully understands the concept of formative assessment, the faculty member does not teach without using formative assessment.
  • Threshold concepts are integrative—threshold concepts allow learners to make connections that were previously inaccessible to them. Threshold concepts are like glue for schema. They connect ideas and allow a learner to understand other concepts at a deeper level.
  • Threshold concepts are conceptually bound—threshold concepts border other threshold concepts and are connected, creating enduring schemas that define a discipline.
  • Threshold concepts can involve “troublesome knowledge”—threshold concepts often incite uncomfortable, emotional responses in the learner. This is because they oftentimes go against what the learner thinks of as intuitive knowledge. For instance, the outdated idea that students should be graded on a bell curve is oftentimes accepted as common sense, but the threshold concept of blank challenges this notion.

Want to learn more about threshold concepts? Read 1 Meyer, J., & Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practicing within the disciplines (pp. 412-424). Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

Watch this video about Threshold Concepts

Center for Engaged Learning. (2019, June 11). What are Threshold Concepts? Retrieved from

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