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
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Our frameworks for representing teachers' PCK

The forms of representations of teachers' PCK that we have developed stem from our belief that such representations should be consistent with current views about: (1) effective science learning and teaching; (2) the complexity of teacher thinking; and, (3) ways of promoting understanding of teachers' experiences of teaching. We elaborate each of these issues below.

Current views about learning and teaching science

A recurring theme in research into students' learning about science over the past twenty years has been the prevalence of students' alternative conceptions about science ideas (e.g., Pfundt & Duit, 1994). This research is linked to a view of learning which draws on personal and social constructivist ideas: the student's learning is influenced by their own personal cognitive framework which they have developed as a consequence of their prior experiences and by the ideas of the culture in which they live (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer, & Scott, 1994). From this perspective, the role of the teacher is that of mediator of learning, rather than transmitter of knowledge (Tobin, Tippins, & Gallard, 1994). To be effective, the teacher must be knowledgeable about common student misconceptions, constantly monitor students' understanding, design/introduce experiences at appropriate points which will promote learning, act as the cognitive coach who introduces new concepts, and provide opportunities that help students become proficient users of these concepts. Discussion between students and between teacher and student/s about science ideas and the ways these differ from everyday understandings are central to many of the teaching activities (Driver et al., 1994; Hollon, Roth, & Anderson, 1991; Leach & Scott, 1999; Tobin et al., 1994). Importantly, teaching for understanding takes much longer than is allowed for in conventional approaches: as a consequence the breadth of content that can be covered is less than what has been traditionally expected (Hollon et al., 1991, p. 149).

While some consider that a transmissive model underlies much of the research on PCK (Calderhead, 1996), we have used a constructivist perspective to interpret and represent teachers' PCK. Our representations foreground those aspects of teachers' knowledge which help them to formulate teaching approaches that promote student learning.

Views of teacher thinking

As many have noted, teaching is a complex activity involving much more than a series of actions by the teacher (Clark & Peterson, 1986). Notions of "teacher thinking" focus on the complexity of thought that informs the teacher's actions and decision making in a particular teaching situation (Husu, 1995). Importantly, we would argue, whether or not a particular action by a teacher is illustrative of that teacher's PCK depends upon the teacher's reasons for that action. Thus our representations of topic specific PCK attempt to make explicit a successful teacher's reasoned decision making in the context of teaching that particular science content because it provides evidence that the teacher is using pedagogical content knowledge.

Teachers' experiences of teaching

Representations of teachers' practice that are intended to capture and portray the nature of experience increasingly draw on narrative forms (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990, 2000). Narrative in research on teaching has the capacity to render the teaching experience in rich detail, including its particularities, complexities and indeterminacy, and to open up this experience for others' understanding. As Fenstermacher (1997) observes,

Through narrative we begin to understand the actor's reasons for the action, and are thereby encouraged to make sense of these actions through the eyes of the actor. This understanding constitutes an enormous contribution to learning about and getting better at teaching. (p. 123)

Conle (2003) concludes that narrative can also help the reader to view and interpret phenomena differently; develop the reader's tacit, practical knowledge; and lead to personal and professional changes in the reader, and to their "[v]isions of what can be" (p. 11).

We have used narrative as one mode of representing teachers' PCK in this research. Because narrative constructions have the capacity to represent the holistic nature of teachers' knowledge and experience, we can explore the interacting elements of context, teachers' and students' past experiences and their future plans and actions. This is in contrast to traditional "scientific" modes that aim to isolate elements of experience for separate examination.

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