Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Content Knowledge, and Curricular Knowledge
If teaching is the highest form of understanding, as Aristotle claims, what are the forms of understanding, and how might we develop a framework for articulating this understanding?
This complex understanding is part of the foundational requisites of teacher knowledge. According to Gudmundsdottir & Shulman (1987), three main foci form the foundation of teacher knowledge: Content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and curricular knowledge.
Content knowledge: Teachers need to understand the truth claims of the discipline and interpretive community (professional organization) and explain why these accepted truth claims are warranted. For example, a Family and Consumer Science teacher would be explain what an effective resume would look like or appropriately tailor a cover letter.
Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Teachers need to understand the teachability of the content. Teachers need to be able to articulate the core topics of the discipline and the best examples (and worst) of the key concepts being taught. Besides, teachers should understand when illustrations and representations of the discipline’s key concepts will be useful. Teachers need to understand which topics are easier or more difficult for students to learn. Moreover, teachers need to also understand the developmental appropriateness of the topic to their students. For example, an English Language Arts/Reading teacher should evaluate the readability and appropriateness of a certain novel selected for a class and then be able to provide appropriate accommodations for supporting students’ comprehension of the text.
Curricular Knowledge: Teachers need to describe the range of programs designed to teach a particular topic or subject at a particular level. Teachers should identify and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the instructional materials used to teach particular subjects or topics. For example, math teachers should describe possible concepts that could be on the New York State Regents exam.
In addition to these three foci, a teacher needs to develop a philosophy, or purpose. They have an established opinion on student learning conditions, their goals for student learning, and how these goals are realized in the classroom. The development of and adherence to a self-identified philosophy of teaching and learning serves as a teacher’s guidelines for curricular choices, classroom management strategies, and relationships with students and colleagues.