Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

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

Senior Lecturer

Phone: +64 3 479 7522

About Julie

Julie Timmermans Photo 2

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 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.