Lee Shulman - Domains

Domains : Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Given a text….

During his early years at Stanford University, Shulman engaged in a longitudinal study of knowledge growth in teaching, funded by the Spencer Foundation. Through intensive case studies of secondary teachers, researchers traced the changes in teachers’ subject matter knowledge as they completed teacher education and began to teach full time. At essence, the study was designed to explore the adage, “if you want to learn something well, offer to teach it.” Shulman suspected that through the process of planning and teaching specific content, teachers would develop more powerful forms of subject mater knowledge. One crucial aspect of teachers’ knowledge development in these early years was the growth of knowledge of how to teach their subject matter, which Shulman saw as an integral form of content knowledge.

A second kind of content knowledge is pedagogical knowledge, which goes beyond knowledge of the subject matter per se to the dimension of subject matter for teaching. I still speak of content knowledge here, but of the particular form of content knowledge that embodied the aspects of content most germane to its teachability.

Within the category of pedagogical content knowledge I include, for the most regularly taught topics in one’s subject area, the most useful form of representations fo those ieas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations—in a word, the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others. Since there are no single most powerful forms of representation, the teacher must have at hand a veritable armamentarium of alternative forms of representation, some of which derive from research whereas others originate in the wisdom of practice.

Pedagogical content 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. If those preconceptions are misconceptions, which they so often are, teachers need knowledge of the strategies most likely to be fruitful in reorganizing the understanding of learners, because those learners are unlikely to appear before them as blank slates. Lee S. Shulman (1986) Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching.

Shulman drew heavily on the work of John Dewey who, in his essay The Child and the Curriculum, wrote extensively about the difference between logical understanding (the knowlegde of the "scientist") and psychological understanding (the knowledge necessary for teachers). At the heart of this construct was the notion of a specialized body of knowledge that only teachers possessed, a category of professional knowledge that distinguished teachers from others who might know a subject well, but had no occasion to develop the knowledge entailed in teaching a subject. The concept of pedagogical content knowledge, which Shulman introduced as a hypothesis as president of the American Educational Research Association in 1985, became popular very quickly. Teacher tests began including items intended to assess teachers' pck, researchers began proposing projects to document such knowledge. The idea was particularly useful in the fields of science education and physical education, as well as -- most recently -- in the domain of technological pedagogical content knowledge.

Shulman’s interest in teacher knowledge was related to his deep commitment to teaching as professional work. As one of the hallmarks of tradition professions is the existence of a specialized knowledge base, identification of a knowledge base for teaching was critical to laying this foundation (link to Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of a New Reform). This work also led to the development of blueprint for a national board for teaching, similar to the boards that existed for medicine. (hyperlink to National Board page).

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