Taking subject knowledge seriously: from professional knowledge recipes to complex conceptualizations of teacher development

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The specification of various categories of knowledge that teachers should possess has been a historically consistent feature of moves to professionalize school teaching and to argue for individual teachers' professional autonomy. In this article, I suggest that the ways in which subject knowledge has been treated in research-based recipes for teachers' professional knowledge are often characterized to various degrees by three epistemological problems: the problem of dualism; the problem of objectivism; and the problem of individualism. In place of dualistic, individualistic and objectivist typologies, the article proposes a realistic alternative: a situated view of subject knowledge as emergent within complex and dynamic social systems. A model of this developmental process is offered that represents the development of subject knowledge in practice, that is, teaching a subject in schools. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the practical implications of this view of subject knowledge and teacher development for teacher education programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-462
Number of pages16
JournalCurriculum Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Epistemology
  • Professional knowledge
  • Sociocultural and activity theory
  • Subject knowledge
  • Teacher education

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