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3.4.2.2 Subject Knowledge and Professional Development

3422 students using an iMacThe development of appropriate teaching and learning techniques and strategies requires teachers to be conversant with and able to apply knowledge of the subject and its associated pedagogy. In this sense knowing one’s subject well is co-dependent on an understanding of the misconceptions that learners are likely to have, and familiarity with questioning that can elicit them.

Schulman (1986) defined knowledge and teaching in this way:

….teacher knowledge includes knowledge of the subject (content knowledge-CK), knowledge of teaching methods and classroom management strategies (pedagogical knowledge-PK), and knowledge of how to teach specific content to specific learners in specific contexts (pedagogical content knowledge-PCK). (Schulman, 1986)

Shulman (1987) added four more categories to this:

….knowledge of the materials for instruction…. knowledge of the characteristics of the learners (learner knowledge)….knowledge of educational contexts (classrooms, schools, districts)….knowledge of educational goals and beliefs. (Shulman 1987)

Mishra and Koehler (2006) drew on Shulman’s work to introduce the concept of ‘Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge’ (TPCK). This refers specifically to the knowledge required to apply and embed the use of technology in subject teaching.

As a kind of knowledge of digital pedagogy, this facility, or fluency of technology in learning and teaching contexts, is seen by some teachers as crucial to coping with the expectations of the ‘digitally ready’ classroom and school. Those new to teaching or those lacking in confidence regarding technological or pedagogical subject knowledge often voice concerns at not being able to keep up with the digital expertise they believe their pupils possess. The corollary of this, that learners can be a source of expertise in classrooms, is an orientation that teachers who are new to teaching are less comfortable with, indicating, perhaps, that TPCK is essential for teachers to understand ways that technology can enhance how the subject might be taught.

3422 using a laptopContinuing professional development is key to developing subject knowledge and professional expertise. Teachers across the Case Studies (see Chapter 5: Examples of Practice) showed preference for a hands-on, playful approach to CPD in order to enable them to have the time and space to explore the potential of technology for teaching and learning.

The comments from English teachers illustrate this:

‘There should be times that we are assigned that we can do some training and…. have a go at playing with technology a bit more.’

‘If you buy technology at home or you buy a new car, you tend to learn how all the buttons work kind of as you’re learning it, rather than by reading the manual or being trained to use it and maybe teaching doesn’t really allow you to do that.’

Talking about openness and the use of open education resources, these student teachers are wary of the time it takes to select and apply materials in their own contexts:

‘We’re not experts in it, in our mind we have a mental image of it taking a lot of time to prepare’. (teacher comments)

‘I think there’s a sense of kind of –redoing things that you might already do electronically … replacing something will always come slightly lower down the priority than perhaps developing something from scratch’

Rosaen and Terpstra (2012) argue that it is important to engage teacher in first-hand design experiences that enable them to discover for themselves what it is like to read and write in multimodal ways (see 3.6.1 Multimodality). This can be facilitated by development courses that offer teachers ‘hands-on’ opportunities to create multimodal, multimedia text for themselves.

Finally, the provision of opportunities for reflection is vital; being given or allowing time to do this cannot be stressed enough.  New technologies offer ready access to reflection in action (for example Twitter) as well as reflection on action (Blogs  and Wikis) and are more readily used professionally and socially than ever before. Reflective professional spaces on social networking sites (such as FaceBook, or Google+ can be effective space for professionals to use within their own school context (See Case Study 10) or to share ideas, resources with a wider network, a strategy adopted many teachers (see Case Study 7).

See also: 4.2 Digital Literacy in Teacher Education

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