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«Conceptualizing Pedagogical Content Knowledge from the Perspective of Experienced Secondary Science Teachers Committee: Julie A. Luft, Supervisor ...»

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“Knowledge of self” as a teacher encompasses three facets, including knowledge of self as a resource, knowledge of self in relation to others, and knowledge of self as an individual. The “knowledge of the milieu of teaching” represents teachers’ understanding of how social settings interact with teachers’ actions, such as in the classroom, relations with teachers and administrators, and the political milieu.

According to Elbaz’s (1983) conceptualization of teachers’ knowledge, “knowledge of subject matter” serves as the medium within which knowledge of milieu is shaped and knowledge of self is expressed. However, this area of knowledge is difficult to define because of “the constant and inevitable overlap between the subject matter itself, the actual skills being taught, and the view of learning which guides teaching” (p.58). This statement includes implicitly the concept of PCK within the knowledge area of subject matter.

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milieu, and subject matter as static knowledge. Compared to those knowledge areas, ‘knowledge of curriculum and instruction” relatively develop with teaching experience. The “knowledge of curriculum” represents the teachers’ ability to identify a problem, determine students’ needs, organize and develop materials, and evaluate students’ learning. Finally, “knowledge of instruction” refers to a teacher’s understanding of learning theory, students, the teaching process, and beliefs about teaching and organization of instruction. However, this study has been criticized for its truncated conceptualization of teacher knowledge, which emphasized the practical knowledge that teachers use while disregarding theoretical knowledge background.

In a comparative study of expert and novice mathematics teachers, Leinhardt and Smith (1985) examined the knowledge required for teaching. They argued that teaching draws upon two bodies of knowledge: knowledge of lesson structure and knowledge of subject matter. In the definition used by Leinhardt and Smith (1985), “knowledge of lesson structure” refers to “the skills needed to plan and run a lesson smoothly, to pass easily from one segment to another, and to explain material clearly” (p. 247). On the other hand, “subject matter knowledge” is topic specific. This area of knowledge involves, for elementary school mathematics teachers, “knowledge of the concepts, algorithmic operations, the connections among different algorithmic procedures, the subset of the number system being drawn upon, the understanding of classes of student errors, and curriculum presentation” (p.247). For Leinhardt & Smith, complete systems of subject matter knowledge for teaching include “multiple representations, understanding of basic arithmetic principles such as the identity function, and multiple linkages across concepts that are used in any one aspect of arithmetic” (p.269).

The concept of PCK is included implicitly in the category of subject matter knowledge. Although neither Elbaz’s (1983) nor Leinhardt & Smith’s (1985) work explicitly identified the concept of PCK as an individual category comprising teachers’ knowledge bases, both studies served as a springboard for proposing the concept of PCK.

Researchers at Stanford University (Shulman, 1986b, 1987; Wilson, Shulman, & Richert, 1987) proposed a more comprehensive model of the professional knowledge base for teaching. According to the findings of the study, teachers draw upon many types of knowledge when making decisions in instructional planning and practice. Teachers use (1) knowledge of subject matter, (2) knowledge of curriculum, (3) knowledge of learners, (4) knowledge of educational aims, (5) knowledge of other content, (6) pedagogical content knowledge, and (7) general pedagogical knowledge.

Elaborating upon the concept of teachers’ knowledge bases, these researchers called special attention to pedagogical content knowledge because this unique knowledge of a teacher a blending of pedagogy and content represents “an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction” (Shulman, 1987, p. 8).

Grossman (1990) reviewed different definitions of “teachers’ knowledge base” with various components and incorporated them into four general areas of teacher knowledge which can be seen as the cornerstones of the emerging work on professional knowledge for teaching: (1) general pedagogical knowledge; (2) subject matter knowledge; (3) pedagogical content knowledge; and (4) knowledge of context (see Figure 2).

In Grossman’s (1990) model, “general pedagogical knowledge” includes knowledge and beliefs concerning learning and learners; knowledge of general principles of instruction; knowledge and skills related to classroom management; and knowledge and beliefs about the aims and purpose of education. “Subject matter knowledge” is composed of two elements: the content of the subject area and the knowledge of the structures of a subject. Grossman adopted Schwab’s (1978) notion to elaborate the latter knowledge into “syntactic” and “substantive” structures.

According to Schwab, the substantive structure includes the concepts, ideas, understandings, principles, and propositions that characterize the discipline. This structure influences the disciplinary perspectives of a researcher and the research questions he or she pursues. The syntactical structure refers to the methods researchers use to achieve their goals. Grossman agreed that subject matter knowledge influences heavily what and how teachers teach. Therefore, this knowledge is strongly related to teachers’ PCK.





Figure 2. Grossman’s model of teacher knowledge

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Defining PCK as knowledge that is specific to teaching a particular subject matter, Grossman asserted that teachers must draw upon that knowledge to formulate “appropriate and provocative representations of the content to be learned” (p. 8). In Grossman’s model, PCK is placed in the central part depending upon three other areas of knowledge subject matter knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, and knowledge of context. Lastly, “knowledge of context” is considered as one of the essential components of teachers’ knowledge, allowing teachers to adapt to specific students and the demands of school districts.

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Since certain aspects of teachers’ knowledge are discipline-dependent, it is necessary to review the efforts to theorize the knowledge base of science teachers.

The following paragraphs provide an overview of the research literature related to models of teachers’ knowledge bases that exists within the field of science education.

Building upon Shulman’s (1987) work, considerable efforts have been made to articulate science teachers’ knowledge base, with some modification that includes the addition of other components.

With a focus on the training of biology teachers, Tamir (1988) attempted to reorganize and extend the categories suggested by Shulman’s group into a general framework, which can be used as a foundation for teacher education. Six categories that encompass this framework are: (1) general liberal education; (2) personal performance; (3) subject matter; (4) general pedagogical; (5) subject matter specific pedagogical; and (6) foundations of the teaching profession. Tamir argued that the term “subject matter knowledge” is more reasonable than the term “content knowledge” because the knowledge accurately includes the content of a subject per se, as well as the structure and process of a given subject. In Tamir’s conceptualization of teachers’ knowledge bases, the notion of subject matter specific pedagogical knowledge is equivalent to that of PCK. The study suggested that three of those categories subject matter knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, and subject matter specific knowledge could be dealt with in pre-service teacher education.

Tamir (1988) was the only one to distinguish between knowledge (knowing that) and skills (knowing how) under each category in the framework of teachers’ knowledge.

Signifying that what good teachers know, do, and feel is largely about teaching, and is situated in everyday classroom life, Barnett and Hudson (2001) suggested an exemplary science teachers’ knowledge model called “pedagogical context knowledge”, including four kinds of knowledge: (1) academic and research knowledge, (2) pedagogical content knowledge, (3) professional knowledge, and (4)

classroom knowledge. In this model, “academic and research knowledge” refers to:

(a) science content knowledge including concepts, facts, and theories; (b) knowledge about the nature of science, including issues in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and the relationships among science, technology, society, and environment; and (c) knowledge about how and why students learn. “Professional knowledge” refers to the knowing of teaching by unconsciously-reflected experience including the political and sociological knowledge of schooling, as well as the professional knowledge of education. The last category, “classroom knowledge”, is the knowledge that teachers have of their own classroom and students, which is entirely situational and specific to that teacher. Using this framework to analyze interviews with science teachers about the ways in which they design and implement science lessons, Barnett and Hudson (2001) asserted that this model of pedagogical context knowledge provides a simple and effective way of examining teachers’ views and the knowledge on which they draw when they teach or talk about their teaching.

Carlsen (1999) reformulated science teachers’ knowledge into five general categories: (1) knowledge about the general educational context including nation, state, community, and schools; (2) knowledge about the specific educational context, including the classroom and students to be taught; (3) general pedagogical knowledge; (4) subject matter knowledge, including syntactic and substantive structures of science, as well as the nature of science and technology; and (5) pedagogical content knowledge. In the attempt to explore teachers’ knowledge from post-structural viewpoints, Carlsen (1999) explicated knowledge bases for teaching by adding subcategories that reflect recent developments in educational research and science education reform.

Looking at recent research on teachers’ knowledge, it is clear that most researchers agreed upon seeing PCK as a crucial part of that knowledge, because it prompts teachers’ pedagogical decisions and strategies with regard to presenting their subject matter to their students. In the following sections, literature pertaining to PCK particularly focusing on the definition and nature will be reviewed. Following that, different conceptualizations of PCK will be discussed.

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matter knowledge; (2) curricular knowledge; and (3) PCK Shulman (1986b) defined pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as a knowledge which “goes beyond knowledge of the subject matter per se to the dimension of subject matter knowledge for teaching (p. 9). Since Shulman addressed PCK, many researchers in the area of teacher education have shone a spotlight on PCK as a critical category, which

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conceptualizations of PCK, Shulman’s definition of this concept remains the standard.

Thus, it is worth calling to mind Shulman’s initial definitions of PCK before exploring teachers’ conceptualizations of PCK Shulman (1986b) identified pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as “the most useful forms of content representation, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, and demonstrations in a word, the ways of representing and formulating the subject that makes it comprehensible for others” (p. 9). That area of knowledge also includes “an understanding of what makes the learning of specific topics easy or difficult: the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and backgrounds bring with them to the learning of those most frequently taught topics and lessons” (p.9).

Additional articles by Shulman and his colleagues further developed the conceptions of the domain of teacher knowledge and knowledge categories for teaching. PCK was placed by Shulman (1987) as one of seven categories of knowledge base for teaching, equally aligned with content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, curricular knowledge, knowledge of learners, knowledge of educational contexts, and knowledge of the philosophical and historical aims of

education. PCK was defined as:

The special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the providence of teachers, their own special form of professional understanding… Pedagogical content knowledge…identifies the distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching. …Pedagogical content knowledge is the category most likely to distinguish the understanding of the content specialist from that of the pedagogue

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The National Science Education Standards [NSES] (NRC, 1996) put great emphasis on developing the PCK of science teachers. NSES defined PCK as “special understandings and abilities that integrate teachers’ knowledge of science content, curriculum, learning, teaching and students,” which allows science teachers to “tailor learning situations to the needs of individuals and groups” (p. 62).

Although the concept of pedagogical content knowledge is still difficult to pin down theoretically, it is clear that this knowledge for science teaching represents a class of knowledge that is central to science teachers’ work and that would not typically be held by scientists or by teachers who know little of science subject matter.



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