Recognizing and valuing teachers’ professional knowledge of practice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Other


When Shulman introduced ideas about teachers’ knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in particular (Shulman, 1986, 1987), he catalysed thinking about teaching that shifted the focus from the technicalities of practice and the transmission of information to the sophisticated knowledge underpinning professional practice and the importance of teaching for understanding. Since that time, there has been a plethora of research on what teachers’ professional knowledge is, how it might be recognised and why it is important. Clearly, such research is at the heart of ‘unpacking’ teaching as a profession, and the outcomes of that research matter in terms of how teaching is conceptualised and understood. Making sense of the knowledge underpinning teaching is obviously important in terms of its inf luence on the nature of teacher education programs, and most certainly in relation to notions of professional learning. When Shulman began to examine these issues, he focussed serious research attention on teaching as sophisticated, specialised knowledge, yet at the time, prevailing public perceptions of teaching were at odds with his view:… I remember quite vividly reading a front page story in the Washington Post one morning… There was a feature story written by a woman journalist who went in and without any preparation at all, took the National Teachers’ Examination - which was then published by Educational Testing Service. Two months later she learnt she had passed. She never studied education, she never intended to and the title [of the article] was ‘If I can pass this Test’… and her challenge was, if I can pass this test and this is what measures whether or not someone can teach, is there anything to this field? I mean why do we have teacher training programs; why do we have licensure if anyone can pass this? And so the political version of [my] question became: ‘What are the sorts of things that only teachers know? That only teachers can do?' Even if you’ve got a Ph.D. in a field, or if you’re an ordained clergy or a social worker or psychotherapist or whatever, there is something about what the really accomplished teacher of writing or reading… knows and is able to do that is a singular professional accomplishment of our profession? So that became in a sense the political weapon and it’s why when we started in 1985 doing the Teacher Assessment Project, that became the National Board, why there wasn’t [just] one National Board exam.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring Mathematics and Science Teachers' Knowledge
Subtitle of host publicationWindows into Teacher Thinking
EditorsHamsa Venkat, Marissa Rollnick, John Loughran, Mike Askew
Place of PublicationUK
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781134683642
ISBN (Print)9780415713870
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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