Pedagogical Content Knowledge

            Although teachers discuss the various modalities of teaching and leaning that they must be able to address, we must consistently be mindful of the pedagogical knowledge that is necessary to implement effective lessons. Thinking that content and pedagogy are mutually exclusive may affect the actual learning within the classroom. The tendency for teachers to speak about content on one hand and pedagogy on another hand and to not explicitly connect and clearly define the interplay of the two ideas has been evident in many of the workgroups I have seen in my work. 
            Schulman brought forth this concept of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PDK) thereby bringing to light the connections and interplay of content and pedagogy Most likely the misunderstanding of PCK is that the interplay of content and pedagogy actually evolves into a different type of understanding requiring an analysis of how the content can be developed for better teaching through organization, representation and adaptation. This interplay of pedagogy and content must also include the intricacies of what the students brings to the table, their knowledge as well as their misconceptions. As Shulman notes the complexity of teaching could be summarized as “the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others”.      

            In the work I did with the Institute for Learning (IFL), University of Pittsburgh, such complexity became evident as IFL had teachers delve deeply into lesson planning.  It was particularly evident in the PRISMA/IFL program in LAUSD where professional development was multilayered and where consideration of the content development of the teacher was part of the professional development in order to enhance the understanding of the pedagogy necessary to deliver the information to students. The intent was to develop greater understanding of the content in order for the teachers to employ pedagogical strategies that would deepen student understanding. It was felt that without content knowledge teachers would be reluctant to increase their indepth questioning which would lead to making connections and drwing students into in-depth discussions around mathematics.


Shulman,  L.  (1986).  Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher15 (2), 4-14.