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Threshold concept models offer a useful way of understanding aspects of design education. A threshold concept represents a gateway, or portal, to a more developed understanding and level of capability (Meyer, Land & Davies, 2008). Passing through a threshold can be transformative, irreversible, integrative and troublesome. Key transformations for design have been identified, such as gaining sufficient confidence in design thinking to enable solution concepts to be generated which are crucial to achieving capability as a designer.
Empathy has been recognised as a key skill by practicing designers, but one which is seldom formally taught in classrooms. Drawing on the experience of five workshops held with transport and engineering design students which aimed to broaden their empathic understanding, the authors discuss the extent to which empathy may be considered as a threshold capability.