|Asia-Pacific Forum on Science
Learning and Teaching, Volume 4, Issue 2, Article 2 (Dec., 2003)
Pamela MULHALL, Amanda BERRY and John LOUGHRAN
Frameworks for representing science teachers' pedagogical content knowledge
One of the tasks of the science teacher is to help students to understand some of the content knowledge of science. In doing so, Shulman (1986; 1987) posited that teachers make use of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), a special kind of knowledge that teachers have about how to teach particular content to particular students in ways that promote understanding.
While the concept of PCK is debated in the literature (e.g., Gess-Newsome & Lederman, 1999), there is general agreement that the development of PCK is embedded in classroom practice (Van Driel, Verloop, & De Vos, 1998), implying that novice teachers and experienced teachers who have not taught a particular topic before may have little or no PCK in that specific content area. On the other hand, "successful" teachers in a given content area, by which we mean those whose teaching in that particular content area promotes student learning, are likely to have well-developed PCK in that specific content area. Thus the question arises as to whether it is possible to enhance teachers' topic specific PCK in those content areas where their PCK is under-developed using, in some way, successful teachers' PCK and so "prevent every teacher from reinventing the wheel" (Van Driel et al., 1998, p. 677).
This question encapsulates one of the ultimate purposes for our research into topic specific PCK. Our research (Loughran, Mulhall, & Berry, In Press) seeks to redress a gap in the research literature, that of successful science teachers' topic specific PCK, and to represent this teacher knowledge using a format which may be useful in pre-service and in-service science teacher education. To date we have documented expert successful teachers' PCK in three different content areas of the secondary science curriculum: particle theory (Loughran, Berry, Mulhall, & Gunstone, 2002); chemical reactions (Loughran, Mulhall, & Berry, 2002); and, human circulatory system.
As with all research, the methodology chosen and the ways of representing the data are inextricably linked to each other and to the purposes and theoretical framing of the research. We have discussed elsewhere our development of a methodology (Loughran, Gunstone, Berry, Milroy, & Mulhall, 2000) and of ways of representing the data (Loughran, Milroy, Berry, Gunstone, & Mulhall, 2001), and, for reasons of brevity, do not elaborate on these here. Briefly though, (1) the data sources were classroom observations and individual and group interviews that involved experienced science teachers of Grades 7 to 12 who taught in Australian schools and were considered to be successful teachers by their peers, (2) we, the researchers, are all former experienced secondary science teachers now working as academics in science teacher education, and (3) the data representations were constructed from the data sources by us, the researchers, in a similar vein to that of Van Driel et al. (1998). The data represented in this paper relate to the teaching of "Chemical Reactions". During individual and group interviews, teachers were asked what they considered to be the "Big science ideas/concepts" for teaching this topic: after these had been written at the top of columns in a table, teachers were asked questions relating to the teaching of each of these big ideas, their answers again being recorded in the table.
In this discussion, we focus on the links between the ways we have represented the data and one of the research purposes, to document topic specific pedagogical content knowledge in ways that enhance science teachers' professional practice. We conclude with a discussion of the benefits and limitations of these representations and how they might be used to help develop teachers' PCK.
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