Reflective Article #4

The Liminal Space

“Fear not the unknown. It is a sea of possibilities.”

– Tom Althouse

Development without limits. (2020). Taking a leap.

The liminal space describes where we are positioned between “the familiar and completely unknown” – the point at which we encounter difficulty, are ‘stuck’ and experience uncertainty moving forward  (Liminal Space, 2019). It stimulates a sense of personal transformation, encouraging us to transition away from familiarity towards new opportunity by overcoming difficulty.

As described by Schwartzman, “Real learning requires stepping into the unknown, which initiates a rupture in knowing” (Meyer et al., 2010, p.ix). Through the liminal, we learn to perceive and understand things differently to overcome the barriers facing us (Meyer et al., 2010, p.xi). 

Personally, I feel the liminal space offers great opportunity to re-orient ourselves and reflect on our capabilities. It enables us to challenge our perceptions and grow as learners by exceeding our comfort zone, as it is our discomfort which drives us towards achievement. 

Although the liminal can be deeply overwhelming and confusing, it is a sign of active learning (Liminal Space, 2019). Students learn to reflect on what they know and question what they don’t, to propel them forwards (Meyer et al., 2010, p.ix). Essentially, a ‘re-authoring’ of self occurs as they grow cognitively and socio-emotionally within this space (Land et al., 2014). 

Facilitating critical thinking in classrooms enables students to navigate the liminal space. This can be achieved through role plays, open discussions, mind maps and viewing alternate perspectives to challenge their own (Land et al., 2014). 

“The most significant aspect of learning lies not in the outcomes of learning, but in the process of learning.” 

(Timmermans, 2010)

Therefore, as educators, it is essential we guide and support students through the liminal space by recognising that learning is a process – it won’t always be easy, but it is what builds our resilience to eventually achieve those ‘aha’ moments. 

Educator Hotspot. (2017). Liminal

To help make sense of the liminal space, I created my own mind map to articulate my thoughts.  It enabled me to piece together new information which was confusing at first, crossing the threshold of liminality towards understanding.  

For more information on the Liminal Space, click here.



Development without limits. (2020). Taking a leap (image).

Educator Hotspot. (2017). Liminal (image).

Land, R., Rattray, J., & Vivian, P. (2014). Learning in the liminal space: A semiotic approach to threshold concepts. Higher Education, 67(2), 199-217.

Liminal Space. (2019). What is a liminal space?.

Meyer, J. H., Land, R., & Baillie, C. (2010). Threshold concepts and transformational learning. BRILL.

Timmermans, J. (2010). Changing our minds: The developmental potential of threshold concepts. In J. H. F. Meyer, R. Land & C. Baillie (Eds.), Threshold concepts and transformational learning (pp. 3-19).


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