Conceptions of the pedagogical content knowledge: Changing experiences of geography student teachers
- Conceptions of the pedagogical content knowledge: Changing experiences of geography student teachers
- Hong Kong
- 1997.7 onwards
- Secondary Education
- This study explores the changes in the conceptions of pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986'0) of student teachers during training. The focus of geographical education in Hong Kong is shifting from imparting knowledge to developing skills of geographical enquiry, requiring geography teachers to rethink their pedagogical content knowledge to reflect this change of emphasis. This poses a particular problem for student teachers with limited understanding of what is involved. In the transition from training to full time teaching, geography student teachers undergo and must undergo changes in their individual understanding about planning and conducting lessons.
The aims of this study were: (I) to explore the pattern and variations of student teachers' conceptions of pedagogical content knowledge for teaching secondary school geography; (2) to identify the factors influencing thinking and changes in conceptions; and (3) to develop a schema to synthesise the development of their geographical pedagogical content knowledge. A qualitative-interpretive research approach, adopting a phenomenographic perspective, was used. The data came from recursive, in-depth interviews with three student teachers conducted at various points during the two years of their training.
The study demonstrated that the conceptions of the student teachers shifted in varying ways and to varying degrees during training, as their pedagogical content knowledge grew. Conceptions of pedagogical content knowledge were viewed in terms of teachers' use of concepts to explain phenomena, their choice of teaching methods in relation to pupils and images of teaching. The three teachers exhibited seven conceptions of pedagogical content knowledge, ranging from the simple transmission of text to the development of structured ideas appropriate to pupil understanding, and the integration of content and method. Their conceptions were influenced by a number of factors, including their own past learning, their theoretical expectations and practical concerns, their views of pupils, their views on the functions of learning and knowledge, and their beliefs of the extent to which substantial disciplinary knowledge was paramount. Data revealed that four levels of conceptions were apparent in the changes in the conceptions of the three student teachers. As their training progressed, they developed more sophisticated conceptions of pedagogical knowledge content. At the lowest level, this was seen merely as how to present geographical information superficially and with a minimum of risk. At higher levels they became increasingly aware of the role of learners and the need for an appropriate pedagogy to facilitate learning.
The student teachers experienced diverse pathways in developing their pedagogical content knowledge and finished their training at different levels of conception. This diversity, and the fact that the interrelated tensions behind this demonstrated vividly within the interviews corroborating findings elsewhere, was striking and has implications for teacher preparation programmes in Hong Kong. A humanistic dimension may now be needed in the face of the current "one size fits all", narrowly focused, standards-based models for preparing geography teachers.
- University of Hong Kong
- Hong Kong
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