«Conceptualizing Pedagogical Content Knowledge from the Perspective of Experienced Secondary Science Teachers Committee: Julie A. Luft, Supervisor ...»
According to Emily, “knowledge of science” and “knowledge of goals” are attached and these two components are the “object” in teaching science. Students and a teacher’s curriculum organization are influenced by these two components. She also compared “knowledge of students” and “knowledge of curriculum organization” to the “subject” within the situation of teaching. These two components are the factors that determine how to teach (teaching strategies), what to assess, and how to assess.
Emily put the remaining three components — “knowledge of teaching strategies,” “knowledge of assessment strategies,” and “knowledge of resources” — into a group that indicates “methods” for teaching science. She believes that the last group, named “methods,” helps her to achieve her teaching goals and helps her students to make sense of science content.
Figure 12. Emily’s conceptualization of PCK (Knowledge Components for Science Teaching)
The seven components that emerged were common to all four participants.
Whereas the seven components for each case were described in detail, it is necessary to look at them across the cases. Although these seven components are thought to be knowledge areas of teaching science, the result of this study clearly shows that they are actually components of PCK which is more specific. I also need to address that I
knowledge is necessary for teaching science in the secondary school setting.
In the following paragraphs, each component of PCK is summarized with a couple of salient quotes.
Knowledge of Science.
Most teachers emphasize “knowledge of science content” as the primary
knowledge area for science teaching. For example, as Roger stated:
Being a science teacher, science knowledge would be very important. If you are a Chemistry teacher then you would definitely need knowledge in the Chemistry field. You would also need to know how it applies to biology or other science areas and how to convey it at the level that your kids could understand it. (Roger,
The teachers described their scientific knowledge to be broader, but shallower, than the knowledge of scientists. This category also includes teachers’ knowledge of the nature of science, the scientific process, and of relationship among the various science areas.
Despite much research that dealt with “knowledge of subject matter” as a distinct category within the knowledge bases of a teacher (Carlsen, 1999; Grossman, 1990; Shulman, 1987), the results of this study show that the teachers do not separate this area of knowledge from the area of PCK within the situation of teaching science.
Furthermore, four experienced secondary science teachers in the study reported that a strong science knowledge background strengthens them as science teachers and
endows them as highly qualified teachers. As Emily stated:
My strength is my background knowledge in my subject, because I came with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry, when I started [teaching] Integrated Science for middle school, it was kind
Astronomy. My Physics was kind of weak so that’s why I decided to go back and get the masters in the Integrated Science — to make myself strong. Now when my students ask me a question, I feel confident that I can either, well at this level, it’s pretty much easy to answer whatever question. (Emily, first interview 12/03/03) Knowledge of Goals.
The teachers link their lessons to the goal of their science classes. They want their students to use scientific knowledge in their real lives and to understand better
how things work in the natural world. The following are examples of this area:
I know obviously that all students I have are not going to college.
They are not all going to be a doctors, but I think learning science helps you be a better problem solver and a better thinker and if you are that, then it helps you in any part of your life. (Wendy, second
My mission is to have every student to believe that they can think like a scientist, act like a scientist and then be a scientist. (Emily,
Knowledge of Students.
All of the teachers in this study spoke at length about their students. Not only did they know how their students preferred to learn, they also understood their students’ lives outside of school. The teachers considered students’ interest, different levels of their understanding, their weakness and learning difficulties, and their preexisting misconceptions in planning lessons and in their teaching practice. Most teachers agreed that “knowledge of science” and “knowledge of students” are the factors that determine the organization of curriculum and teaching strategies. The
following excerpts are examples of this area:
You really learn by working with kids. And when you get out into the classroom you find that the students have many diversified
their needs in the same time? So you have to pick and choose and have quality activities that will address all of their needs. (Shawna,
I think that our learners have a hard time grasping concepts and making those relationships and I would much rather take more time to cover them than hurry up and get through the material just because it has to be done in a certain part of time. (Shawna, second
Knowledge of Curriculum Organization.
Particularly, most teachers indicated that knowledge or skills in making the connections between scientific concepts, units, and even other subjects is essential.
The following are representative data on this area:
this concept and what we will build after it. I also think about related past concepts. For instance, my kids are learning levers and pulleys now. We studied in the spring the human body and we start talking about the skeletal system and the muscular system and I hope to help them understand that within the human body there are levers and pulleys, too. (Emily, first interview, 12/03/03) I understand the big picture of curriculum. It’s very difficult for the teachers to know what should be taught and when to teach it. And, I
kids have certain prerequisites and when you build units you can teach across all the subject areas. The textbook can be used as a resource. It should not be the primary factor. (Shawna, first
Knowledge of Assessment Strategies.
Teachers articulated how they adopted a variety of assessment methods and procedures for ascertaining students’ understanding of science concepts. The
following are examples of this area:
activities and different types of assessment. It’s not quite successful because we get so caught up in dealing with those assessments that we forget performance assessment. So, I tend to build activities that will assess while we are doing. (Shawna, first interview 11/24/03) I assess them by their answers on their lab sheet, and there are conclusion questions and you can read from that. Plus they always have a problem and they always write a hypothesis to that problem
conclusion questions — they have to prove or disprove their hypothesis using data from their lab. So if they can tell me, “Yes, my hypothesis is right because when I massed the magnesium before I heated and after I heated it, it showed that it was equal
mean they have got to bring that in. But if they just say, “Yeah, I was right,” then they have no idea what they were doing. They copied from the person next to them. No. so reading the conclusion part is a good evaluation. (Wendy, second interview 5/18/04) Knowledge of Teaching Strategies.
Teachers indicated that this knowledge allowed them to adjust their lesson plans to the instructional needs of the students. Most teachers also felt this type of knowledge was a priority as they made connections to real-world applications. The
following are examples of this area:
When we first started with the levers and pulleys, it’s really neat because the kids are given the materials and they are given some
box here…. And then they start thinking about how to make a lever work. Then they start exploring, and they move into moving the load closer to the floor, moving it farther away — and that moment of “aha!” and then they start saying things like “Oh Miss, I always wondered why they have the handle on the hammer so far away from the head of the hammer.” “Oh, now I understand why the longer the screwdriver, the better it is.” “Now I understand,” and so they start pulling these things into their real lives (Emily, first
beginning to think that you really have to choose your labs wisely.
Otherwise the amount of time they consume versus the concept that they pick up is not efficient and just because you are supposed to have forty percent lab time doesn’t mean that you are getting the
subject and decide: “Is this going to be better with the lab or just basic teaching methods, lecture, notes and book work?” (Roger,
Knowledge of Resources.
Teachers believed their scientific knowledge to be broader, but shallower than the knowledge of scientists. Instead, the teachers suggested, they had a thorough knowledge of resources and materials — in and out of school — that could be used to teach different concepts or topics.
You have resources available to you, so you begin by using whatever is given to you the first years. And then you reflect on
something else comes along, either during your workshops or your professional development. (Roger, second interview 5/14/04) We get water kits from SAWS, the San Antonio Water System, and
conceptual details to convey this to readers. The actual form of the central chapters should be consonant with the analytic message and
This chapter discusses the findings of the study. The first section is the discussion that is generated by the review of the literature and the findings of this study. The next section includes the implications of the study in terms of research, policy, and practice. In closing, the last section includes suggestions for further research.
In this section, I highlight and discuss the findings generated in the study. The conclusions of the study are incorporated into the discussion. The main themes of the discussion are reflected in the titles of the sections.
The first point I will make pertains to Shulman’s work (1987). Shulman theorized the seven categories of knowledge that comprise the necessary base for teaching, including (1) content knowledge; (2) general pedagogical knowledge; (3) curriculum knowledge; (4) pedagogical content knowledge; (5) knowledge of learners and their characteristics; (6) knowledge of educational contexts; (7) knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values. This seminal paper has been influential in generating numerous studies on teachers’ knowledge particularly PCK during the past two decades. However, Shulman’s work did not provide elucidation of these categories. Given the many studies that addressed the complexity of PCK since Shulman’s introduction (Van Driel, et al., 1998; Loughran et al., 2001; 2004), it is clear that Shulman’s conception of PCK is still difficult to articulate.
The findings of this study may help to clarify Shulman’s notion of PCK. The findings of this study reveal that the PCK components shared in common by the four experienced secondary science teachers includes knowledge of: (1) science; (2) goals;
(3) students; (4) curriculum organization; (5) teaching strategies; (6) assessment strategies; and (7) resources. This study clearly shows that these seven components are interrelated within the context of teaching science and play a role as a class of knowledge that is central to science teachers’ work. Since this class of knowledge would not typically be held either by scientists or by teachers who know little of science content, I identify this class of knowledge as being PCK that differentiates science teachers from other professionals. Furthermore, it is apparent that the seven components of PCK for science teaching can be meaningful when transformed into a teacher’s instructional decisions and actions.
Therefore, on the basis of the findings of this study, the definition of PCK is much broader than “the unique knowledge required for teaching science.” It also encompasses “the application of that knowledge by science teachers in their pedagogical decisions and actions to improve students understanding of scientific concepts and to encourage students’ scientific inquiry through using effective instructional strategies, representations, and assessment strategies within diverse teaching situations.”
The third discussion is about the nomenclature employed in this study, with relation to the terminology used in previous studies. It is apparent that the PCK of experienced science teachers consists of many of the qualities described by educational researchers. Specifically, the teachers in our study demonstrated that their notions of PCK included the areas of teaching strategies, students’ learning and conceptions, curriculum and media, and assessment. The findings of this study are superficially congruent with those of Grossman (1990), Loughran et al. (2001), Marks (1990), and Tamir (1988). This similarity could be attributed to the use of interview protocols, which was a similar process that used by Grossman (1990), Loughran et al.