Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Building Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Teachers through “CoRe”

Amongst teaching communities - ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, that everyone is aware but might often find difficult to discuss, is the low levels of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) of teachers, whether from urban or rural. If we start establishing a cause and effect relationship for this issue, it might it might take us back to decades without suggesting a way forward to fix the issue.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), which is one of the key factors boosting the conceptual comfort level of effective teachers, is a combination of content knowledge in lieu with the pedagogy and is built up over time based on experience.  Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), first theorised by Shulman (1987)[1], is specific to each concept and is unique to each learning ecosystem comprising of teacher, students and social environment. For example, in the context of teaching algebra the table below gives an understanding of Content, Pedagogy and PCK.

Content Knowledge Pedagogical Exposure Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)
The Teacher can:
  1. Identify variables, equations and expressions;
  2. Identify like terms;
  3. Simplify expressions.

The Teacher has the exposure to diverse teaching learning methods such as:
  1. Experiments
  2. Models
  3. Activities
  4. Group Discussions
  5. Role Plays
  6. Mind Mapping
  7. Gaming

The Teacher is aware that peer learning and group work helps her teach difficult math concepts;

The Teacher creates a customized Algebra Tiles Group Activity to help students learn simplification of expressions;

The Teacher provides students step-by-step guidance to the groups and links it back to the concepts linked to the events in activity.

CoRe – The Content Representation Model
“CoRe” is a “Conceptual Representations” model suggested by a group of educational researchers to build Pedagogical Content Knowledge, especially in early career teachers, using a structured framework. A Sample CoRe matrix is  illustrated below and it comprises a set of big  ideas about a particular topic at the head of the columns, and a set of pedagogical questions for each row; the matrix is completed by considering the pedagogical questions for each  idea.

Potential Input for Chapter Planning
Models like CoRe can help us structure the concepts discussed in a path map for teaching chapters as interconnected ideas while also guiding the pedagogical orientation of each idea.

Benefits and Potential Challenges in using CoRe template

Benefits Potential Challenges
  • Establishes the Flow of Teaching
  • Presents the Big Picture
  • Objective Driven
  • Makes the teacher think both teaching pedagogy and flow of chapter in mind
  • (Indirectly) Creates an opportunity for the teacher to clarify conceptual doubts before teaching it to students
  • One Time Effort
  • Teacher Networks - Can potentially bring teachers with varied content knowledge together to share and learn

  •          Time – Although creating the CoRe template is an one time activity, it demands considerable amount of time from teachers to plan one chapter
  •          Lack of Familiarity – While building the first CoRe template teachers might find it challenging to connect to the framework due to lack of familiarity
  • Restricts Thinking– In case of teachers who go by defined templates, CoRe, once made available, might not make them think outside the template

[1] Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1–22.
[2] CoRe: A way to build pedagogical content knowledge for beginning teachers - Chris Eames, John Williams, Anne Hume, John Lockley