Pedagogical content knowledge: Four high school teachers reflect on their teaching

Year: 1994

Author: Quinn, Delia

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Nearly eight years ago now, Lee Shulman (1987) coined a title for what he saw as an important and discrete section of a teacher's knowledge base-namely, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). In 1990 a special issue of the Journal of Teacher Education was devoted to the topic of PCK and a large body of research now exists on this aspect of teacher knowledge. Almost all of the research has focused on the traditional subject areas of mathematics, science, English and social studies.

In this study, an exploration of teachers' PCK was undertaken through case studies of four experienced teachers in relation to the nutrition subject matter that they taught to Years 8, 9, 10 and 12. The case studies adopted a participant-centred, dialectical approach involving reflection-on-action (Clandinin, 1986; Smyth, 1991). Profiles were formed through classroom documents, professional life histories, classroom observation, stimulated recall of classroom activities (audio and video), and teacher belief interviews.

Patterns and themes which emerged in relation to the nature of teachers' PCK aggregated around four issues: the intersection of the domains of knowledge for teaching, the experiential flavour of PCK, teacher beliefs and PCK, and the different forms of PCK.

The main implication in relation to teacher effectiveness is that PCK seems to form the grist of practical knowledge by which teachers codify, transform and enliven their subject matter. Tentative propositions which arose from these qualitative data are posed: that PCK is personally idiosyncratic in its expression; that context and beliefs are powerful mediators in the expression of PCK; and that, in its traditional forms, the expression of PCK is relatively rare.