Pedagogical Content Knowledge Research Paper Starter

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

(Research Starters)

Pedagogical content knowledge is an educational theory formulated by Lee Shulman in the 1980s. Shulman changed the thinking about teacher knowledge by making the claim that teachers' subject knowledge and pedagogy were being treated as separate entities and should be joined in the approach to teacher education. The article traces the history of teacher education, elaborating on Shulman's theory. Also covered are success stories and evidence that support pedagogical content knowledge as well as critics of the theory.

Keywords Epistemology; Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK); Pedagogical Knowledge; Pre-Service Teachers; Problem-Based Learning; Professional Development; Subject Content Knowledge; Teacher Cognition


The History of Research on Teacher Knowledge

Studies on teachers' knowledge can be traced back to the 1970s when researchers of information processing focused their studies on teacher planning and decision-making processes (Huang & Ariogul, 2006). The studies also compared the different processes of thinking between experienced teachers and student teachers (Huang & Ariogul, 2006).

In the late 1970s, researchers started to examine the thought processes that teachers engaged in as they planned and delivered their lessons. This research was referred to as teacher cognition (Huang & Ariogul, 2006).

In the 1980s researchers started to realize that teaching was more complex than it was once believed to be. Studies demonstrated that prior experience, practical knowledge, values, and the work environment were influential in shaping a teacher's teaching (Huang & Ariogul, 2006).

What is Pedagogical Content Knowledge?

The basis of the epistemology of pedagogical content knowledge comes from the understanding that educating is a complicated occupation that requires knowledge of many subject areas; a cognitive skill that must be developed. Historically, teacher education has revolved around what the teacher’s own specialty is. Now, however, teacher education philosophy has changed from single subjects to pedagogy, emphasizing universal classroom practices independent of subject matter (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). This shift in educational theory has led to a decrease in teacher content knowledge (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Lee S. Shulman is the President of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and former Professor of Education at Stanford University and Professor of Educational Psychology and Medical Education at Michigan State University. He is also a past president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and a former president of the National Academy of Education (Falk, 2006). Shulman's research and writings include a focus on the study of teacher education; teacher assessment; the psychology of instruction in science, mathematics, and medicine; and the logic of educational research (Falk, 2006).

In the 1980s, Shulman changed the thought about teacher knowledge by presenting the theory of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). PCK was originally conceptualized by Shulman in 1986 and can be described as a teacher's interpretations and alterations of subject matter knowledge for the purpose of helping student learning be more productive and effective (Rahman & Scaife, 2005). He claimed that educators' subject knowledge and pedagogy were perceived as separate entities (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Some teacher education programs focused on either subject matter or pedagogy (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). PCK blends content and pedagogy in teacher education. It attempts to create an understanding of how specific facets of subject matter are arranged and presented for education (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Pedagogical content knowledge is an essential component in understanding and assessing 'quality teaching' (Rahman & Scaife, 2005). Shulman claimed “that having knowledge of subject matter and general pedagogical strategies, though necessary, was not sufficient for creating good teachers” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1018). For educators “to be successful they need to address both content and pedagogy simultaneously” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1018). PCK focuses on how best to transform content for teaching. Shulman “suggests that in order to teach a subject, a teacher not only requires an understanding of subject matter but also an understanding of learners: their abilities, interests and learning styles” (Rahman & Scaife, 2005, ¶ 1). He even argues against the indiscriminate doctorate programs that exist for people studying education research and people studying to be education professors (Falk, 2006). He believes in the creation of a separate doctorate programs for education students who plan to be professors in teacher preparation programs (Falk, 2006). An appreciation of different teaching strategies classroom activities is also necessary (Rahman & Scaife, 2005). He maintained that educational theory should focus equally on content knowledge and ways representing the information to make it accessible and comprehensible to the learner (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Further Insights

Shulman and his “colleagues felt that teaching and teacher education had become too far removed from subject matter and claimed that a correlation occurs between subject content and pedagogy” (Lederman, Lederman & Abd-El-Khalick, 2007, p. 6). Specifically, he argued that the knowledge and skills needed for the proper teaching of one subject, such as English, are different than those needed to teach science, or social studies (Lederman, Lederman & Abd-El-Khalick, 2007). He claims that in teacher education, a teacher's first impulse is to complain about test results, rather than admit kids not only need teachers who have all the right values, but also understand their subject matter well enough to teach to kids (Falk, 2006).

Elements of PCK

PCK is a combination of the knowledge that informs the way in which teachers present their:

• Knowledge about subject matter,

• General pedagogical knowledge,

• Knowledge of learners and self, and

• Knowledge of curriculum and context (Rahman & Scaife, 2005).

Subject content knowledge includes substantive knowledge of the discipline a teacher will teach as well as beliefs about the subject matter (Rahman & Scaife, 2005). Pedagogical Knowledge refers to knowledge about teaching strategies, approaches, methods and techniques. Knowledge of Learners and Self deals with the awareness that teachers have of their students' prior knowledge, learning styles, and attitudes in relation to school (Rahman & Scaife, 2005). It also concerns a teachers' consciousness of their own educational styles and approaches. The final component of PCK is Knowledge of Curriculum and Context (KCC), which includes an awareness of school protocols and changes in course curricula and national requirements (Rahman & Scaife, 2005).

There are eight attributes of PCK:

• Content

• Environment

• Pedagogy

• Assessment

• Curriculum

• Socio-culturalism

• Nature of subject

• Classroom management

These attributes of PCK are not arranged in a hierarchical manner because they are inter-related (Veal & MaKinster, 1999). The development of one can influence the others. For example, the knowledge of how to make a good assessment and when to give it to students may require a combination of attributes such as content, pedagogy and curruculum (Veal & MaKinster, 1999). The development of PCK requires teachers to synthesize different types of knowledge.

PCK in action is a complex...

(The entire section is 3456 words.)