College of Computing and Digital Media Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 7-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Computing

First Advisor

Craig Miller, PhD

Second Advisor

Serdar Turedi, PhD

Third Advisor

Amber Settle, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Theresa Steinbach, PhD


The Threshold Concepts (TCs) framework posits characteristics of critical concepts that enable a learner to see things in a new and unforgettable way that allows the incorporation of cognitive approaches and skills needed by professionals in the discipline. All previous research has been qualitatively oriented toward discovery of candidate TCs, without, so far, quantitative studies of the candidate TCs recognition within the professional ranks. An underrepresented group in previous research is that of Web development professionals.

This proposal describes initial quantitative research utilizing the TCs framework in the Web development area to measure the perception of candidate TCs by professionals in the field. This study developed and utilized a new survey instrument to determine how a national sample of current Web development professionals perceive a candidate TC and how their work experience and level of education impact their perceptions. The particular candidate TC, Separation of Content, Presentation, and Behavior (SCPB), and its appropriate identifying characteristics were selected from results of previous qualitative research.

An exploratory analysis using SPSS was done on results from an initial group surveyed and results from a later group were used for a confirmatory analysis using PLS-SEM. The exploratory analysis sought to reduce the contributing factors used to identify the TC, and these factors and their measures then were used with the latter group in the confirmatory analysis. The factors identified for use were the characteristics of Transformative, Troublesome, Irreversible, and Bounded. The PLS-SEM analysis confirmed that SCPB is perceived as a TC by working Web development professionals by virtue of it containing these characteristics, as the theory indicates. The study looked at work experience, in terms of years in computing and years specifically in Web development, and education, in terms of education level (degree(s) received, if any), degree in a computing field, and years since last in formal education. All of these indicated a significant influence on perception, either positively or negatively, except for the last item which did not exhibit statistical significance in this case.



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