The research articles for this week’s topic were enlightening and informative. Although I’m currently a 7th grade special education teacher, I spent 10 years working in the healthcare information technology field managing the implementation of hospital patient accounting systems and interfacing with developers of claims management systems. Because of these experiences, I’m very comfortable using technology both personally and professionally. In my classroom, I try to ensure that software tools and assistive technology help convey the knowledge that I want my students to acquire.
I began reading Shulman’s article and he got my attention immediately with his opening statement regarding George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” I have always viewed that quote as an insult and feel that the best teachers are ones who not only can do but can then show or explain the action or information. Shulman’s article provided insight into the differences between two types of teacher knowledge, content and pedagogy.
Shulman (1986) stated that it is assumed that most teachers possess knowledge about the content area that they are assigned to instruct. His statement is supported by current state and federal law for the certification of teachers. For example, in the state of Georgia, teachers must pass a Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) exam in the content area they want to teach (e.g., science, math, music). Furthermore, due to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, special education teachers must pass an exam that covers content knowledge (e.g., language arts, social studies) AND core knowledge (e.g., types of disabilities, federal laws) in order to be classified as “highly qualified” by the federal government.
Good teachers are able to convey subject matter in a way that meets their students’ needs. This is where knowledge of pedagogy is critical. Teachers need to know HOW to pass on the content that they are tasked to deliver. Shulman (1986) states that teachers must know “the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations – in a word, the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others.” I believe that pedagogy supports everything that a teacher does. Most teachers learn the principles and theories that support pedagogy through their university training programs and school systems provide additional support through professional learning initiatives. However, there are some aspects of pedagogy that cannot be learned from a book. For example, although there has been extensive research conducted regarding classroom behavior management, individual teachers must find their own methods to control the behavior of their students. They must learn the right level of firmness to use, the proper tone of voice that conveys displeasure or support, consequences that work or don’t work, etc.
Teachers must know how learners acquire knowledge (cognition) and must be able to reflect on the “cognitional knowledge that he or she has, both general and content-specific” (meta-cognitional knowledge) (Peterson, 1988). Teachers are continually assessing their students’ performance in order to maximize achievement. Special education teachers have to write goals and objectives for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and must determine student present levels of performance. This allows special education teachers to incorporate differentiated learning strategies in the classroom (e.g., lessons for auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, and visual learners).
Mishra and Koeler (2006) expanded on Shulman’s work by adding technology as the third teacher knowledge. We live in an information age and our students are digital learners. Our teaching practices have to incorporate technology in order to engage students and we must deliver content in a way that is comfortable for them to receive. I am fortunate to have access to technology such as interactive whiteboards, LCD projectors, wireless laptop carts, overhead projectors, and TV/VCR/DVD players. In addition, technology such as the Classroom Performance System (CPS) assessment tool is available to use in a game format in order to foster competition and provide a fun experience for the students.
These three types of teacher knowledge provide the framework for effective practices today. In addition to staying current with information in their subject areas and knowing how to deliver content, teachers must be open to try the plethora of technology that exists to see what works and what doesn’t. They must be willing to stretch themselves and accept their own learning curve in order to become comfortable using new tools and techniques. Flexibility is the key to blending these three types of knowledge and utilizing them will benefit both our students and our education system as a whole.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006, June). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teacher College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.
Peterson, P. L. (1988, June/July). Teachers’ and Students’ Cognitional knowledge for classroom teaching and learning. Educational Researcher, 17(5), 5-14.
Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.