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BA (University of Waterloo), MA and PhD (McGill University)

Senior Lecturer

Tel +64 3 479 7522

About Julie

Julie Timmermans

I am a teacher, researcher, and educational developer with experience facilitating learning in various universities and countries, including Canada, Japan, France, and now, New Zealand. In all my work, I am committed to enhancing student learning and academic staff's experience of teaching. I believe that the ideas which cause us intellectual and emotional discomfort might offer the greatest opportunities for development, and that learning is enhanced when environments are designed to allow people to explore the edges of their knowledge and understanding while being well-supported. I try to model this approach in my own teaching, research, and academic development practice.


While doing doctoral work in Cognitive and Instructional Psychology, I became enthralled with understanding more deeply the ideas and experiences that instigate transformation in learners' ways of knowing and being. My program of research now weaves together the related research areas of “threshold concepts” and “Decoding the Disciplines”. These two areas examine places where students often “get stuck” in their (disciplinary) learning and that may cause cognitive and emotional disruption. Once teachers are able to articulate the steps that they take as disciplinary experts to get through these difficult concepts, they may teach them more explicitly to students. Once students understand these concepts more deeply, they may perceive the discipline, and their emerging identities within it, in new and more integrated ways.

I am particularly interested in researching students' and academic staff's understanding and experiences of these “troublesome” disciplinary concepts. I would like to understand how students might best be supported through the “liminal space” between encountering new (and disruptive) ideas and integrating these ideas into new ways of thinking and being. I am also interested in applying the lenses of threshold concepts and Decoding the Disciplines to academic development practice. What concepts might be transformative in higher education pedagogy, shaping our practice and identities as teachers?


Current PhD students

I am particularly keen to supervise postgraduates in higher education who have research interests related to student learning development, transformative learning, academic (educational) development, threshold concepts, liminality, and Decoding the Disciplines. I am happy to co-supervise students with staff from other departments.

Past PhD students

  • Nick Baker, PhD 2022
  • Salmah Kassim, PhD 2020

Current EdD, Master's and Postgraduate Certificate

  • Aimee Grange, EdD
  • Jennifer Schack, HEDU502 project for the PG Cert

Past students

  • Timothy McLennan, MHEd 2022

HEDU 502: Supervision of postgraduate student projects


  • Timothy McLennan, 2020
  • Maya Bernardo, 2019
  • Lynette Murdoch, 2019
  • Sannah Aitcheson, 2019
  • Susan Wardell, 2018
  • Louise Beckingsale, 2018


Timmermans, J. A. (2024). Failure as a 'native informant': A potential threshold concept. In J. P. Davies, E. Gironacci, S. McGowan, A. Nyamapfene, J. Rattray, A. M. Tierney & A. S. Webb (Eds.), Threshold concepts in the moment. (pp. 3-14). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. Chapter in Book - Research

Timmermans, J. A. (2024). Foreword. In J. P. Davies, E. Gironacci, S. McGowan, A. Nyamapfene, J. Rattray, A. M. Tierney & A. S. Webb (Eds.), Threshold concepts in the moment. (pp. xi-xii). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. Chapter in Book - Other

Aravazhi, S., Timmermans, J., Smith-Han, K., Nicholson, H., & Flack, N. (2023, July). Dancing my PhD through the liminal space. Verbal presentation at the Threshold Concepts Conference, Port Macquarie, Australia. Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Timmermans, J. A., & van der Rijst, R. (2023). Interior design as an analogy for academic development. International Journal for Academic Development, 28(4), 379-384. doi: 10.1080/1360144X.2023.2278869 Journal - Research Other

Aravazhi, S., Flack, N., Nicholson, H., Smith-Han, K., & Timmermans, J. (2023). Emotions: A curse or boon to learning? Exploring student experiences of learning head and neck anatomy through dissections. Proceedings of the 10th Asia Pacific International Congress of Anatomists (APICA) and the 20th Australian & New Zealand Association of Clinical Anatomists (ANZACA) Conference: Reconnect, Ka Mua, Ka Muri. Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

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