What is PCK?

So what is Pedagogical Content Knowledge anyway?

“Pedagogical content knowledge is that special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers; their own special form of professional understanding” Shulman, 1987


Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is a construct that represents a separate domain of knowledge for teaching. Constructed through the processes of planning, reflection and teaching specific subject matter, PCK represents knowledge that results from a transformation of other domains of knowledge – an aggregate that is more than the sum of its parts (Magnusson, et al., 2002). An instructor’s pedagogical content knowledge is reflected in the teaching acts that represent a discipline’s central concepts, skills, and recent advances through a variety of means, including classroom explanations, assignments, and other course requirements. Teachers become more effective as they repeatedly engage in these teaching acts and find out what is easiest and most difficult for their students and modify their teaching accordingly (WCU Faculty Handbook, 2012).

Lee Shulman, past president of the Carnegie Foundation, first proposed the concept of pedagogical content knowledge several decades ago, with the concept serving as a framework for guiding teacher quality and effectiveness. PCK “represents the blending of content and pedagogy into 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).  Read more…

PCK is comprised of three major components – subject-matter knowledge for instructional purposes, students’ understanding of the subject matter, and instructional processes for teaching the subject matter. Knowledge formed by the synthesis of these three knowledge bases can be viewed as a set of special attributes that helps someone transfer the knowledge of content to others in the most comprehensible way. Major aspects related to these three general categories includes knowledge of typical student errors and misconceptions, knowledge of particular teaching strategies, knowledge of techniques for elaborating content (i.e., using illustrations, examples, etc.). For more reading on this topic, please click here.

Magnusson, S., Krajcik, J., & Borko, H. (2002). Nature, sources, and development of pedagogical content   
knowledge for science teaching. In J. Gess-Newsome & N. Lederman (Eds.), Examining pedagogical  
content knowledge (95-132). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational 
Review, 57(1).


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