The development of preservice chemistry teachers' pedagogical content knowledge

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    Deborah Trumbull, Section Editor

    The Development of PreserviceChemistry Teachers PedagogicalContent Knowledge

    JAN H. VAN DRIELICLON Graduate School of Education, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

    ONNO DE JONGCenter for Science and Mathematics Education, Utrecht University, Utrecht,The Netherlands

    NICO VERLOOPICLON Graduate School of Education, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

    Received 25 February 2000; revised 4 March 2001; accepted 19 March 2001

    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the development of pedagogical content knowledge(PCK) within a group of 12 preservice chemistry teachers (all M.Sc.) during the firstsemester of their one-year post-graduate teacher education program. The study focusedon PCK with respect to a central issue in science teaching, that is, the relation betweenobservable phenomena, like chemical reactions, and macroscopic properties (e.g., boilingpoint, solubility) on the one hand, and their interpretation in terms of corpuscular character-istics on the other hand (macromicro). For secondary school students, shifting mentallybetween the macro and micro levels is usually problematic, whereas their teachers are oftenunaware of students learning difficulties in this domain. The collection of data involvedtwo written questionnaires, interviews with each preservice teacher and their respectivementors, and an audio recording of a specific workshop session in the teacher educationprogram. Results indicated a growing awareness among the preservice teachers concerningthe need, in teaching situations, to explicitly relate the macro and micro levels to eachother. Moreover, the importance of the careful and consistent use of language was noticedby many preservice teachers. The growth of PCK was influenced mostly by the preserviceteachers teaching experiences. Also, the workshop contributed substantially. Finally, forsome preservice teachers, their mentors had influenced the growth of PCK. Implications for

    Correspondence to: J. H. Van Driel; e-mail:

    C 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


    science teacher education are discussed. C 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 86:572590,2002; Published online in Wiley Interscience ( DOI 10.1002/sce.10010

    INTRODUCTIONIn recent years, researchers have shown a growing interest in the knowledge base of

    preservice science teachers. Many studies have addressed fairly general aspects of teach-ing and learning science. For instance, researchers have investigated preservice teachersconceptions of teaching and learning science (Brickhouse & Bodner, 1992; Mellado, 1998;Simmons et al., 1999) or their views on teaching science to students from various cultures(Southerland & Gess-Newsome, 1999), or the ways preservice teachers construct practicalknowledge about teaching (Zuckerman, 1999). Other researchers, however, have investi-gated the subject matter knowledge of preservice science teachers in the context of learningto teach (Gess-Newsome, 1999; Haidar, 1997). To acknowledge the importance of the trans-formation of subject matter knowledge per se into subject matter knowledge for teaching,Shulman (1987) introduced the concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). He de-scribed PCK as . . . that special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely theprovince of teachers, their own special form of professional understanding. Accordingly,PCK encompasses teachers knowledge of representations and instructional strategies inrelation to knowledge of student learning, both with respect to a specified content area. Inthe field of science education, so far only a few studies have focused on teachers PCK andits development (Magnusson, Krajcik, & Borko, 1999).

    In this study, the development of PCK was explored within a group of preservice teachersof chemistry. Moreover, we have tried to identify the influence of certain componentsof the preservice teacher education program (viz., specific workshops, student teachingexperiences, and feedback from mentors) on this development. The purpose of the studywas twofold. From a theoretical point of view, we aimed to gain a better understanding offactors which either promote or hinder the development of PCK (Grossman, 1990; Veal,1998). Moreover, our study aimed to contribute to the research-based design of scienceteacher education courses.

    Pedagogical Content KnowledgeAccording to Shulman (1986), research on pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) may

    contribute to resolving the blind spot which results from a relative lack of research focus-ing on the content of the lessons taught. In the last decade, numerous studies on PCK havebeen published (e.g., Gess-Newsome & Lederman, 1999; Van Driel, Verloop, & De Vos,1998). Various scholars, elaborating on Shulmans work, have proposed different conceptu-alizations of PCK, in terms of the features they include or integrate (e.g., Cochran, DeRuiter,& King, 1993; Grossman, 1990; Magnusson, Krajcik, & Borko, 1999; Marks, 1990; Veal,1998). Yet it seems that the two following elements are central in any conceptualizationof PCK, that is, knowledge of representations of subject matter and instructional strategiesincorporating these representations on the one hand, and understanding of specific studentconceptions and learning difficulties on the other hand, both with respect to a specified con-tent area. Obviously, these elements are intertwined and should be used in a flexible manner:the more representations and strategies teachers have at their disposal within a certain do-main, and the better they understand their students learning processes in the same domain,the more effectively they can teach in this domain. In addition, there appears to be agreementon the nature of PCK. Firstly, since PCK refers to particular topics, it is to be discerned fromknowledge of pedagogy, of educational purposes, and of learner characteristics in a general

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    sense. Secondly, because PCK concerns the teaching of particular topics, it may turn out todiffer considerably from subject matter knowledge per se. Finally, all scholars suggest thatPCK is developed through an integrative process rooted in classroom practice, and that PCKguides the teachers actions when dealing with subject matter in the classroom. The lattersupports the view of Van Driel, Verloop, and De Vos (1998) that PCK is a central componentof teachers practical knowledge or craft knowledge (cf. Grimmett & MacKinnon, 1992).

    Pedagogical content knowledge has been described as the transformation of severaltypes of knowledge for teaching (Magnusson, Krajcik, & Borko, 1999, p. 95). Thesetypes of knowledge include subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge (classroommanagement, educational aims), and knowledge about context (school, students).Grossman (1990) has identified four sources that are potentially important with respectto the development of PCK: (a) disciplinary education, which may lead to personal pref-erences for specific educational purposes or topics, (b) observation of classes, both as astudent and as a preservice teacher, often leading to tacit and, sometimes, conservativePCK, (c) classroom teaching experiences, and (d) specific courses or workshops duringteacher education, of which the impact is normally unknown.

    Within the domain of science teaching, several studies have been performed on thedevelopment of teachers knowledge, in the context of both preservice and inservice teachereducation. With respect to the development of PCK, the following results from these studiesseem relevant:

    Knowledge of subject matter. According to Smith and Neale (1989), the develop-ment of PCK depends on teachers having a deeply principled conceptual knowledgeof the content. As for preservice teachers, the subject matter knowledge they haveacquired during disciplinary education usually contains misconceptions and deficien-cies (Smith, 1999). For instance, Gess-Newsome and Lederman (1993) noted that thesubject matter structures of preservice biology teachers, who had nearly completedthe requirements for a BS in Science Education, was often vague and fragmentedat the start of their teacher education program. During this program, the preserviceteachers developed more coherent and integrated subject matter structures. However,the development of PCK was hindered by the complexity of teaching practice.

    Teaching experience with respect to specific topics. According to Lederman, Gess-Newsome, and Latz (1994), the development of PCK among preservice scienceteachers is promoted by the constant use of subject matter knowledge in teaching sit-uations. Initially, preservice teachers separate subject matter knowledge from generalpedagogical knowledge. As a result of teaching experiences however, these types ofknowledge are being integrated.

    Knowledge of students conceptions and learning difficulties. By getting acquaintedwith the specific conceptions and ways students reason, preservice teachers may startto restructure their subject matter knowledge into a form that enables productivecommunication with their students (Lederman, Gess-Newsome, and Latz, 1994). Inaddition to field-based experiences, preservice teachers may benefit from studyingstudents preconceptions with respect to a specific topic during teacher educationcourses, and comparing and discussing these preconceptions in relation to their ownconceptions (Geddis, 1993). Such activities may stimulate preservice teachers togenerate transformations of subject matter knowledge and topic specific teachingstrategies. Van Driel, Verloop, and De Vos (1998) have described the influence of in-service chemistry teachers analyses of students conceptions and types of reasoningconcerning a specific topic (i.e., chemical equilibrium) on the development of theirPCK on this topic.


    Participating in specific workshops. Clermont, Krajcik, and Borko (1993) have stud-ied the effects of a short, intensive workshop on specific teaching strategies (i.e.,chemical demonstrations). They found that the PCK of preservice science teachersparticipating in this workshop developed towards that of expert teachers. On the otherhand, Adams and Krockover (1997) found that workshops can have a negative effectbecause they can stimulate preservice teachers to copy conventional instructionalstrategies, stressing procedures rather than student understanding.

    Comparing these factors with the sources for PCK development described by Grossman(1990), we may suggest that (a) disciplinary education, naturally, constitutes the basis forknowledge of subject matter, (b) observation of classes may promote the knowledge ofstudents conceptions, (c) classroom teaching experiences may stimulate the integration ofsubject matter knowledge and general pedagogical knowledge, thus contributing to the de-velopment of PCK, and (d) specific courses or workshops during teacher education have thepotential to affect PCK, for instance, by extending preservice teachers knowledge of stu-dents preconceptions or their knowledge of specific representations of subject matter. Thepresent study aims to improve our understanding of the nature of the development of PCKamong preservice science teachers, in particular, the factors influencing this development.

    Context and Scope of the Present StudyThe present study was situated in the context of the first semester of a one-year post-

    graduate teacher education program, qualifying for the teaching of chemistry at preuni-versity level (cf. Grades 1012 of secondary education). Before entering this program,participants need to have obtained a Masters degree in chemistry. Generally speaking, thedevelopment of knowledge and beliefs during the program is seen as an individual processof knowledge construction. This process is guided by teaching experiences as a preserviceteacher in a secondary school, supervised by a mentor, on the one hand, and by institutionalmeetings and workshops and individual study of the literature on the other hand.

    During the first semester of the teacher education program, the preservice teachers workin couples or trios at the same school. In the first weeks of the course, the preservice teachersschool activities mainly consist of observing and discussing their mentors lessons. Next,they begin to teach their own classes (about four to eight lessons per week). These classes areregularly observed by their mentors. Meetings of the preservice teachers with their mentorsinclude preparatory talks, during which the preservice teachers lesson plans are discussed,and meetings focusing on the evaluation of specific lessons taught by the preservice teacher.During this semester, the preservice teachers also take part in institutional meetings andworkshops, for two afternoons per week on average. The main aim of these meetings andworkshops is to stimulate the reflection on teaching experiences in relation to the relevantliterature (e.g., on science education, pedagogy, educational psychology), as a result ofwhich preservice teachers make their teaching concerns and intentions more explicit.

    With respect to the development of PCK, the ideas from the previous section have beenincorporated in the program as follows. Before they begin teaching a specific topic, the pre-service teachers subject matter knowledge of this topic is addressed by encouraging themto reflect on their own learning process as a student (Knowledge of subject matter). Next,during specific workshop sessions, they are asked to relate these reflections to their experi-ences during classroom lessons as an observer, and their study of the literature, in order toidentify specific teaching and learning difficulties (Knowledge of students conceptions andlearning difficulties). Subsequently, the preservice teachers formulate teaching concerns,which then form the basis for their preparation of lesson plans focusing on the topic under

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    consideration. After teaching these lessons (Teaching experience with respect to specifictopics), the preservice teachers are encouraged to share their reflections and formulate newteaching concerns (De Jong et al., 1999).

    The present study focuses on a central issue in science teaching, that is, relating macro-scopic phenomena to microscopic particles (Lijnse et al., 1990). We shall refer to this themeas macromicro. The macromicro perspective concerns the relation between observablephenomena, like chemical reactions, and macroscopic properties (e.g., boiling point, solu-bility) on the one hand, and their interpretation in terms of corpuscular characteristics onthe other hand (De Vos & Verdonk, 1996). Obviously, representations (such as models andanalogies) serve as an intermediate between these two levels. Because learning to relatethese levels to each other is one of the most important objectives of chemistry education,preservice teachers need to develop...


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