By Claire Simpson
Pedagogical Content Knowledge is a phrase that is not familiar to many teachers, yet it was introduced over 20 years ago. At the Science Learning Centre East Midlands, along with the University of Leicester, School of Education, we have been working to raise awareness of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) and explore ways to develop PCK of the teachers we work with.
The term Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) was introduced by Shulman (1986) as relating the professional understanding of the content of science subject knowledge to pedagogical knowledge and context . Pedagogical knowledge refers to, for example; classroom management, educational aims and related teaching strategies. Context is relevant to the type of school and students (age, ability, background, social factors etc).
We recognise that whilst the term PCK may not be familiar, the understanding, awareness and skills it incorporates may indeed by highly developed in experienced teachers. In contrast, for new teachers or teachers working outside of their specialism, PCK is often an aspect of teaching that is still developing and may need support. To address this, the Science Learning Centre East Midlands and the University of Leicester embarked on a project to encourage experienced and inexperienced teachers to work together, share ideas and be reflective in their practice to develop good PCK.
The project ‘Implementing PCK in the Classroom’ involved a group of experienced secondary science teachers and the PGCE students they were mentoring. Participants were invited to a series of twilight CPD sessions where they were introduced to PCK before they were asked to put their new knowledge into practice. Throughout the project participants were asked to be reflective of their experience and in the final CPD session, shared video footage, samples of work and reflective journals.
The whole project was supported by a ‘PCK toolkit’ which was developed from models of PCK and continuing professional development (CPD) from Berry and Loughram, 2010 and Windschitl et al, 2010. The toolkit takes the form of a series of worksheets to guide the planning, implementing and reflection of PCK in the classroom, with the key document being a framework for PCK. The framework has similarities to a scheme of work in terms of the break down of learning outcomes for a particular topic, but extends this to encourage the teacher to consider questions such as:
- what you intend the students to learn about this idea
- why it is important for students to know this
- what else do you know about this idea (that you do not intend students to know yet)
- difficulties/limitations connected with teaching this idea
These questions really help to focus the teacher not only on the subject content, but also the pedagogy and context they are teaching it in. In essence it helps to develop their PCK.
Feedback from the participants involved in the project has been extremely positive, with many addressing misconceptions, reflecting on the best order and methods to teach topics, and realising the importance of collaboration with their fellow colleagues. Both experienced and inexperienced teachers have valuable contributions to make to developing PCK and this was evident when completing PCK frameworks for science topics. At the Science Learning Centre East Midlands and University of Leicester, School of Education, we have found the PCK project thoroughly rewarding and look forward to taking it forward in the next academic year. We welcome any comments and would be happy to answer any questions via firstname.lastname@example.org
The network of Science Learning Centres run a number of Implementing Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) courses across the country.
Berry, A. and Loughram, J. (2010) What do we know about effective CPD for developing science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge? Paper presented at the International Seminar, Professional Reflections, National Science Learning Centre, York. Available as pdf: https://www.sciencelearningcentres.org.uk/research-and-impact/research-seminars/NSLC%20UYSEG%20seminar%20Berry.pdf
Shulman, L.S. (1986) Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2): 4-14
Windschitl, M., Thompson J. and Braaten M. (2010) Fostering Ambitious Pedagogy in Novice Teachers: The Role of Tool-Supported Analyses of Student Work. Paper presented at the International Seminar, Professional Reflections, National Science Learning Centre, York. Available as pdf: https://www.sciencelearningcentres.org.uk/research-and-impact/research-seminars/NSLC%20UYSEG%20seminar%20windschitl.pdf
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