Reconsidering, refining and reimagining PCK for science education

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The construct of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) offers a pathway into the complex and sophisticated aspects of science teachers’ professional knowledge for teaching science that are solely their domain. Its introduction by Lee Shulman (1986), now over 30 years ago, foreshadowed an expansion of interest from researchers and educators alike in research agendas and findings that use PCK to inform science teachers’ professional practice. However, it proves to be an alluring yet elusive concept to tie down as witnessed by the many and varied interpretations and uses of the original concept amongst researchers and educators. This variability has become problematic as inconsistencies and/or vague applications of the PCK concept began to emerge in the literature and practice. Despite PCK being embedded within the language of science teaching and learning, research and knowledge about the construct needs to be more useable and applicable to the work of science teachers; especially in these times when contemporary challenges such as standards and other measures are being used to ‘define’ the knowledge, skills and abilities of science teachers and teachers generally. This symposium features work from leading PCK science education scholars across the globe. It will map where PCK in science education has been, where new thinking in the field is taking PCK and how these ideas can inform and enhance our knowledge of science teachers’ professional knowledge.

The objectives of this symposium are to present international perspectives on the beauty and pleasure of better understanding and appreciating science teacher’s knowledge. We want to engage and inspire further research with contemporary challenges through science education. We will present reimagined views on current PCK research in light of a new model for teacher knowledge that embraces and repositions PCK - the Refined Consensus Model (RCM) of PCK for teaching science - and consider what might be possible for PCK research in the future.

The first paper will begin by presenting findings from an extensive literature review of PCK research in science education, which revealed significant gaps. The review supported the need to refine the 2012 Consensus Model and develop the RCM as an outcome of the Second PCK Summit in 2016. The RCM identifies three realms of PCK - collective PCK (cPCK), personal PCK (pPCK), and enacted PCK (ePCK), which will be briefly discussed as part of this presentation.

Paper Two takes a retrospective view, providing examples of how researchers have re-examined their existing research with science teachers in light of the RCM. Four studies will be discussed; one investigating cPCK, a second study exploring topic specific PCK across different realms of the RCM, a third examining knowledge exchanges between realms of the RCM and a fourth determining the impact of professional development on four components of PCK.

Focusing on ePCK, the third paper unpacks this realm of RCM, considering what it is and how it interacts with other realms of the model. The presenters view ePCK as tacit knowledge in action, to emphasise that science teacher’s knowledge is often not made explicit during science teaching nor in teachers’ interactions with students.

Finally, the fourth paper will explore the possibility of a “grand rubric” to support the measurement of PCK aspects as described in the RCM. Generic in nature, the grand rubric could be adapted for use with different science topics and/or different PCK realms of the RCM including individual teachers’ pPCK and ePCK and the cPCK of a group of teachers.

We hope that offering this symposium will open up discussion around current and future PCK research for all science education researchers at the symposium; presenters and participants alike.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventConference of the European Science Education Research Association 2019 - Bologna Congressi, Bologna, Italy
Duration: 26 Aug 201930 Aug 2019
Conference number: 13th


ConferenceConference of the European Science Education Research Association 2019
Abbreviated titleESERA 2019
Internet address


  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge
  • Science education

Cite this

Cooper, R. (2019). Reconsidering, refining and reimagining PCK for science education. Abstract from Conference of the European Science Education Research Association 2019, Bologna, Italy.