Pedagogical Content Knowledge Development in High School Chemistry Instruction

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Pedagogical Content Knowledge Development in High School Chemistry Instruction
by Pia C. Campo


Pedagogical content knowledge is the “knowledge formed by the synthesis of three knowledge bases: subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and knowledge of context” according to Shulman and Grossman (in Veal & Makinster, n.d.). Shulman (1987 in Livingston & Borko, 1989) called the process which teachers undergo to integrate the different knowledge bases as pedagogical reasoning and was characterized to be “pedagogically powerful and yet adaptive to the variations in abilities and backgrounds presented by the students.” Shulman (1987) proposed a cyclical model of pedagogical reasoning and action comprised of five processes: comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, and reflection.

This study investigated and answered 1) how teachers integrate pedagogy and content in Chemistry instruction in the following areas of curriculum and instruction (i.e., lesson planning and lesson implementation); focusing on how teachers address student questions and difficulties, and revise the intended lesson during implementation in response to unexpected student responses; and 2) how the Chemistry teaching preparation background influences how the three teachers integrated pedagogy and content in teaching Molecules in motion (gases).

Using a multi-case studies design, three teachers with different teaching preparation background took part as research participants. The researcher collected multiple data sources using qualitative data collection methods: interview of teachers, naturalistic inquiry of teachers’ lesson implementation, focus group discussion (FGD) of students, researcher field notes, annotations of video footages, and transcripts of interviews and FGDs. The data collection lasted for 14 days: one day for the tryout of video documentation; one day for the pre-class observation teacher interviews and FGD; seven days of classroom observation; and five days for the post classroom observation teacher interviews and student FGD.

The researcher used interpretative and inductive research approaches to read and analyze the data. For each case, video and audio footages of the interviews, FGDs, and class observations were coded based on recurring responses which later became themes. These themes were further analyzed using Shulman’s cyclical model of pedagogical reasoning and action. In turn, these emergent themes were used to elaborate on Shulman’s model. Findings of the study showed that integration of pedagogy and content was not easily captured in the lesson plan because it reflected the general descriptions of the learning activities, teaching strategies, and assessment practices activities but not the reasoning behind the selection of such activities and strategies. The findings also showed that the teachers integrated pedagogy and content during lesson implementation in addressing students’ expressed and implied difficulties through: (a) reframing of questions and (b) elaboration of concepts. These two processes shared similarities: code-switching (Filipino and English); shifting types of representations (macro-submicro-symbolic, macro-submicro-micro, macro-symbolic, etc.); and making connections with previous lessons and activities. Integration of pedagogy and content in modifying the intended lesson during lesson implementation to address unexpected responses from students was not observed because they were either unnoticed, or no unexpected response surfaced during the lesson implementation.

Chemistry teaching preparation background influenced the: (a) pedagogical reasoning of each teacher and (b) accuracy of teaching models used during lesson implementation. With regard to the comprehension of the content knowledge, procedural knowledge, and representations used in teaching about gas properties and behavior: the chemistry education major teacher had the strongest comprehension of the content on gases and gas laws as inferred from the concept maps inferred by the researcher from the interview transcripts and video footages of the lesson implementation. In terms of transformation (i.e., three types of chemical representations, teachers with more Chemistry teaching preparation background utilized all three representations). With regard to instruction, Chemistry background influenced the variety of strategies for integrating pedagogy and content while addressing the expressed or implied difficulties of the students.

In conclusion, teachers integrated pedagogy and content in Chemistry instruction during the following aspects of curriculum and instruction by: choosing the learning activities and strategies during lesson planning; reframing the questions; and elaborating on the concepts in different ways to address the students’ difficulties and problems during lesson implementation. Integration of pedagogy and content in modifying the intended lesson to address students’ unexpected responses during the lesson implementation was not observed. Chemistry teaching preparation background influenced integration of pedagogy and content during the process of pedagogical reasoning, primarily during the processes of comprehension, transformation, and instruction.

Keywords: pedagogical content knowledge, chemistry teaching, gas laws, case study, qualitative research, science education research

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