1.4 Teacher Knowledge

Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Content Knowledge, and Curricular Knowledge

If teaching is the highest form of understanding as Aristotle claims, then what are the forms of understanding and how might we develop a framework for articulating this understanding?

This complex understanding is part of the foundational requisites of teacher knowledge. According to Gudmundsdottir & Shulman (1987), there are three main foci that form the foundation of teacher knowledge: Content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and curricular knowledge.

Content knowledgeTeachers need to understand the truth claims of the discipline and interpretive community (professional organization) as well as be able to explain why these accepted truth claims are warranted. For example, a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher would be able to explain what an effective resume would look like or appropriately tailor a cover letter.  

Pedagogical Content KnowledgeTeachers need to understand the teachability of the content. Teachers need to be able to articulate the core topics of the discipline as well as the best examples (and worst) of the key concepts being taught. In addition, teachers should understand when illustrations and representations of key concepts of the discipline will be useful. Teachers need to understand which topics are easier or more difficult for students to learn. Moreover, teachers need to also understand the developmental appropriateness of the topic in relation to their students. For example, an English Language Arts/Reading teacher should be able to evaluate the readability and appropriateness of a certain novel selected for a class and then be able to provide appropriate accommodations for supporting students comprehension of the text. 

Curricular Knowledge: Teachers need to describe the range of programs designed to teach a particular topic or subject at a particular level. Teachers should be able to identify and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the instructional materials used to teach particular subjects or topics. For example, math teachers should be able to describe possible concepts that could be on the New York State Regents exam. 

In addition to these three foci, a teacher needs to develop a philosophy, or purpose, in which they have an established opinion on the conditions of student learning, their goals for student learning, and how these goals are realized in the classroom. The development of and adherence to a self-identified philosophy of teaching and learning serve as a teacher’s guidelines for curricular choices, classroom management strategies, and relationship with students as well colleagues.  

Possible Discussion Activity:

  • Choose a grade-level content area, explain what would be the best way to teach the content you chose (pedagogical content knowledge)
  • Webquest: Go to EnageNY.org
    • Research and locate instructional materials for the grade and content you chose for the first discussion that may be used to deliver instruction. Evaluate the possible strengths and weaknesses of the instructional material. Do these correspond to your developing stances on education? If so, why? If not, why? (curricular knowledge)