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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds PCK? Teachers who have experience and are subject specialists often intuitively understand how students learn a topic. They might know where they might become challenged, and have a bank of suitable activities to draw upon. However, teachers who are working out of specialism, such as a physicist teaching biology, may understand the basic subject knowledge, but be less confident in knowing exactly what students need. The move from subject knowledge to subject knowledge for teaching is the first step in effective planning. To move to the next level, a teacher needs to understand student misconceptions. How to diagnose issues and be confident in which activities to use within a subject takes a lot more experience.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds To get to a solid level of PCK, pedagogical content knowledge, requires much more than just the subject knowledge for teaching.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds As an example for each stage: I know about photosynthesis, and I’m fairly confident I know enough about the topic and probably more than the students need. Next, I know what the students need to know for photosynthesis - the subject knowledge for teaching. At the level of PCK, I know the typical misconceptions about photosynthesis, where students might come unstuck, such as symbiotic systems like corals or jellyfish, and the best activities for them to explore and refine ideas around the topic. To help non-specialists, and to provide more detail about a topic, colleagues in Loughborough have developed a PCK Framework, which can be used to help guide planning for schemes of learning.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds It looks at the big topic which might be atomic structure, or photosynthesis and respiration for example. The Framework then breaks this down into chunks and the key ideas that students need to know.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds Then it asks: how will you find out if you are successful and the students’ level of understanding and this is not always a test. Only then do you start pulling out the misconceptions, where they might go next, why it’s important for them to know a specific topic, what the typical difficulties are with this topic, and then what activities can be used. This process takes into account backwards design. You identify learning outcomes, then you decide on how you will assess progress against those outcomes, then design activities which will enable young people to show progress. This is not “teaching to the test”, but ensuring that assessment is well thought out.

Skip to 2 minutes and 34 seconds Completing a framework also brings in considerations of the best order to teach things. Are there specific mathematical demands that need to be taught? Does it rely on other scientific knowledge? This can help in the ordering of the whole curriculum, as well as within a particular topic. Looking at planning across the sciences, not just with each separate discipline of biology, chemistry or physics, is essential for students to be able to make effective links, rather than teaching in silos of knowledge. Finally, a framework like this works very well if there is a specialist and non-specialist working together, as they can draw on each other’s experience.

Skip to 3 minutes and 12 seconds For example, what might be an obvious choice for a specialist might need some explanation for the non-specialist, and this can then be fed back into supporting notes for the curriculum.

Pedagogical content knowledge

In the final section of the week, we will look at how we can support one of the trickiest parts of teaching to quantify: developing effective pedagogical content knowledge. This is very important for those teaching out of specialism and for developing teachers who are new to the profession.

In the video above we look at the distinction between subject knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.

In curriculum design, teachers can help support the development of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) by considering how we plan for teaching. One tool which is useful for this is a PCK Framework.

This helps break down the concepts of a particular topic or idea, to support effective teaching and learning. It can explain as well why certain approaches are taken, or why a particular practical or skill is required.

In the next step, we will have a look at how to use the PCK Framework.

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Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science

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