A Liminal Pilgrimage

“Liminality and Light” by Monika Kostera. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA

As readers of this blog may be aware, I am currently undertaking a Doctorate in Education (EdD) at Canterbury Christ Church University. I am on Module 4 (of 7) which goes by the title of “Contemporary Issues in Educational Research” which was superbly faciliated by Dr Judy Durrant and Dr Peter Grimes. For the assignment of this module we are asked to write a “reflective journal of 4000 words on controversies and issues on an aspect of a theme of their choice“. I think most of us in the programme will be using this “reflective journal” to explore the feasibility of our eventual EdD research and thesis. What was particularly great about this module was the space and time that was afforded to us to think, cogitate and reflect on matters around the course as well as the eventual thesis. For me, this was a turning point as I really did have a tangible thesis in mind – I had lots of ideas bubbling away, but nothing was coalescing – and then the light bulb went up.

Much of the “reflective journal” is a critically reflective narrative of the “journey”. Journey, the very word itself, is overused and overwrought, especially on Reality TV shows like “The X Factor” and “The Voice UK“, and it is a word that I do not feel comfortable using. So, I began to look at other words and metaphors to describe this “journey”. One such word was “walkabout” which is rite of passage for Aboriginal males that, for me, had a kind of serendipitous nature to it. “Wayfaring” was another word I had considered. Eventually, I settled upon “pilgrimage” for a variety of reasons. The most obvious reason, is the connotation towards Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” and the 1944 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film “A Canterbury Tale” (a personal favourite along with “Educating Rita“), allowing me to be a little playful with the concept. The other reason is if you look at one of the definitions of “pilgrimage“, it goes on to say: “…any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose“. The “pilgrimage” I am undertaking, in this sense, is an intellectual one.

One of my favourite quotes come  Lawy (2006) care of Biesta (2004), which goes:

Education … is a matter of risk, trust and violence that cannot be reduced to an economic transaction. Learning is a dangerous and risky enterprise that necessarily involves some challenge to existing shibboleths and ideas, and is not something that can be planned or linked with specific and intended behavioural outcomes or objectives” (Lawy, 2006:327, citing Biesta, 2004).

This then brings us to Meyer and Land’s (2003) concept of “threshold concepts“, which I came across during my Masters, which draws in “liminality” and “liminal spaces”. I am conscious of the “intellectual changes” within me as I progressed from my Batchelor’s degree, to the Masters and, currently, the Doctorate, and that various doors or portals to my understanding and “intellectual curiosity” have been opened, though not always very easily – there has been struggle and internal conflict along the way. So this “pilgrimage” is not just an intellectual one; it is also a liminal one. Needless to say that I have ditched the original “working title” for the reflective journal (which may be used as the title for my Doctoral thesis) to one that tips a wink to Chaucer, Powell and Pressburger. The title of my reflective journal? Well that’s simple, it’s: The Learning Technologist’s Tale: A Liminal and Intellectual Pilgrimage.

This post represents the start of that liminal and intellectual pilgrimage.


Biesta, G.J.J. (2004). “Against learning. Reclaiming a language for education in an age of learning”. Nordisk Pedagogik, 24(1), pp. 70-82. Available at: [Accessed 2.2.2014].

Cousins, G. (2006). “An Introduction to threshold concepts”. Planet, 17, December 2006, pp. 4-5. Available at: [Accessed 2.2.2014].

Lawy, R. (2006). “Connective learning: young people’s identity and knowledge-making in work and non-work contexts”. British Journal of Sociology in Education, 27(3), pp 325-340. Available at: [Accessed 2.2.2014].

Meyer, J. & Land, R. (2003). Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines. ETL Project, Occasional Report 4, May 2003. Edinburg, Scotland: Universty of Edinburgh. Available at: [Accessed 2.2.2014].

2 thoughts on “A Liminal Pilgrimage

  1. Wayne,

    Once again a thoughtful and engaging post – in a world of stuff I scan and put away, I actually look forward to you popping in my inbox.

    I will comment on your content once I have digested, here I just want to say pilgrimage well.

    I may want to also chat with you about your degree – I am looking for alternatives to the Open University and your programme seems more aligned to my way of learning. Would that be okay?

    1. Hi Mariana,

      Many thanks for the kind words of support and encouragement. Would be very happy to talk to you about the EdD – I should point out that this is not an online course and that I have to physically attend 7 weekend residential sessions spread out over a period of 2 year.

      All the best,


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