Uncovering “Threshold Concepts” in Web Development: An Instructor Perspective.

Peter Alston, David Walsh, Gary Westhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The field of Web development has evolved and diversified significantly in recent years, and narrowing the gap between the requirements of academia and the demands of industry remains a challenge. Moreover, many faculty members often struggle with knowing “how much” of a particular subject they should teach to their students and at what level. This small-scale, exploratory study seeks to uncover the existence of “threshold concepts” withinWeb development. Threshold concepts are the fundamental concepts which, once mastered, allow a learner to progress to a deeper understanding of a subject. An online questionnaire was sent out to 24 instructors within UK higher education institutions who teachWeb development subjects. Nine participants responded to the questionnaire and interviews were conducted with five to discuss and expand on the responses provided, resulting in the identification of four areas that were perceived as difficult for students to grasp when learning Web development. Analysis of these areas suggests that threshold concepts do exist within the subject and we offer up two candidates for the field of Web development: basic programming principles and decomposition and abstraction. Designing a curriculum based on threshold concepts and less on the latest methods, tools, and techniques can go a long way in helping students to become experts in their chosen discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2:1-2:18
JournalACM Transactions of Computing Education (TOCE) - Special Issue on web Development
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2015


  • Web development
  • threshold concepts
  • higher education
  • thematic analysis.


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