The acquisition of pedagogical content knowledge by provisionally certified science teachers
Baldwin, Paul Frederick
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The debate over teacher qualifications has been characterized by two opposing factions - professionalization and deregulation. The former supports high standards for certification while the latter seeks relaxed licensure requirements. With the critical shortage of science and math teachers, the Georgia State Board of Education is seeking alternative methods for increasing the pool of prospective teachers. Individuals with an undergraduate degree can be employed as full-time classroom teachers, with the understanding that they must be fully certified within three years. These "shortcuts to the classroom," however, have met with opposition from professional teacher organizations because of a perceived indifference for the more traditional form of teacher education. The major concern was whether or not a provisionally certified teacher could effectively explain the required scientific concepts to the students without the benefit of pedagogical training. This dilemma between content and pedagogy was explicated by Lee Shulman in his work on teacher knowledge, in which he evaluated the relationship between content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, and a unique ability to explain content called pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). It is the formulation and modification of the novice science teacher’s PCK that is the basis for this study. The purpose of this investigation was to determine how provisionally certified science teachers, with significant content knowledge but little or no pedagogical knowledge or teaching experience, developed pedagogical content knowledge. The participants, who were in their first year of teaching, were recruited from an alternative certification program at a large research university. By employing symbolic interactionism as a theoretical lens, a hypothetical formulation of PCK acquisition was constructed utilizing a grounded theory methodology. The data indicated the presence of two levels of pedagogical content knowledge - structural PCK and functional PCK. Structural PCK, the form that clarifies specific facts and aids in information recall, was closely linked to the participants’ level of content complexity. On the other hand, the development of functional PCK, the type more closely associated with depth of knowledge and conceptual understanding, was dependent on the degree of the participants’ pedagogical sophistication, with the frequency and quality of teacher-student interactions being of crucial importance.