‘Once You Get the Threshold Concepts the World Is Changed Forever’: The Exploration of Threshold Concepts to Promote Work-ready Occupational Therapy Graduates


  • Kelli Nicola-Richmond Deakin University
  • Geneviève Pépin Deakin University
  • Helen Larkin Deakin University




Threshold concepts framework, occupational therapy, curriculum design, transformation, work-readiness


In the current higher education environment, there is a growing expectation that universities ensure students graduate with skills and attributes that enable them to be work-ready, particularly within the health and social care disciplines. One curriculum design approach that has been proposed as facilitating this transformation from student to professional is the threshold concepts framework. A recent study identified ten threshold concepts within the discipline of occupational therapy. These were: Understanding the models and theories of occupational therapy; Evidence-based practice; Clinical reasoning; Discipline-specific skills and knowledge; Practising in context; A client-centred approach; Occupation; The occupational therapist role; Reflective practice; and, A holistic approach. This study aimed to explore whether these threshold concepts were taught within an Australian occupational therapy program. Twelve occupational therapy educators participated in focus groups, and five themes emerged from the data. These were: professional identity; time; the impact of the learning environment; explicit versus implicit content and language; and, the value and understanding of the threshold concepts framework. The study found that the integrated use of threshold concepts may make them unique to the discipline. Findings also indicated that using the threshold concepts framework facilitates the transformation from student to occupational therapist. However, students may not acquire all of the threshold concepts prior to graduation. Practice-based learning was considered pivotal for threshold concept acquisition. This study explores the application of the threshold concepts framework, providing insights for educators who are seeking to produce graduates who are well-equipped for employment in complex healthcare environments.

Author Biographies

Geneviève Pépin, Deakin University

Associate Professor

School of Health and Social Development

Helen Larkin, Deakin University

Senior Lecturer

School of Health and Social Development


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How to Cite

Nicola-Richmond, K., Pépin, G., & Larkin, H. (2018). ‘Once You Get the Threshold Concepts the World Is Changed Forever’: The Exploration of Threshold Concepts to Promote Work-ready Occupational Therapy Graduates. International Journal of Practice-Based Learning in Health and Social Care, 6(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.18552/ijpblhsc.v6i1.417