Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Brother, Can You Paradigm? toward a Theory of Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Social Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Brother, Can You Paradigm? toward a Theory of Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Social Studies

Article excerpt

In 2005, Lee Shulman, then president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, wrote a blistering critique of the state of teacher education for The Stanford Educator, the alumni magazine of his former employer. With uncharacteristic bluntness, Shulman (2005) laid the issue bare: "Teacher education," he wrote, "does not exist in the United States" (p. 7). In fact, Shulman continued,

   There is so much variation among all programs in visions of
   good teaching, standards for admission, rigor of subject matter
   preparation, what is taught and learned, character of supervised
   clinical experiences, and quality of evaluation that compared to
   any other academic profession, the sense of chaos is inescapable.
   (p. 7)

He added that it should not surprise teacher educators when critics of teacher education respond to "the apparent cacophony of pathways" into teaching "and conclude that it doesn't matter how teachers are prepared" (p. 7). Indeed, he wrote, teacher education would only survive "as a serious form of university-based professional education" if it ceased to "celebrate its idiosyncratic 'let a thousand flowers bloom' approach to professional preparation" and charted a course toward substantive revision of the way teacher education is conceptualized in university settings. "Commitment to social justice is not enough," he concluded; "love is not enough" (p. 7).

Shulman's frustration was understandable. Almost 20 years had passed since he had helped launch a vigorous research program designed to professionalize teaching by introducing the concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) to researchers and practitioners and yet little, to his eye, seemed to have changed. If anything, teacher education has only become more fragmented in the years since Shulman vented these frustrations. Now, more than ever, alternative pathways into teaching flourish, and even university-based programs experiment with different approaches to teacher preparation, sometimes with little evidence of whether they will be successful or not. As the pressure to evaluate and assess what teacher candidates learn continues to increase, it seems more likely, not less, that programs will continue to make changes without fully evaluating the potential of their effectiveness first. This, in turn, may lead researchers to continue to separate classroom teaching from teacher education in their work. As Grossman and McDonald (2008) pointed out, research on teaching and research on teacher education--two distinct but closely related fields, each one building off the other--already continues to proliferate with the two rarely intersecting.

But even if PCK has not delivered a shared sense of clarity and purpose to teacher education that crosses content-area boundaries, Shulman's program has achieved something of considerable importance--and teacher educators should heed its implications. Central to the idea of PCK is the notion that "deep knowledge" of content is crucial to effective teaching and cannot be taken for granted. In spite of this breakthrough, many teacher candidates continue to take courses that separate content knowledge from the development of their pedagogical practice, leaving them ill prepared to conceptualize subject matter effectively. The dichotomization of content and pedagogy, perhaps as prevalent in social studies education as in any field, contributes to the sense that a "great divide" separates teacher educators from their colleagues in the disciplines--a lamentable situation that makes it unnecessarily difficult to give new teachers the training they need and deserve (Bain & Mirel, 2006; Labaree, 2004; McDiarmid & Vinten-Johansen, 2000).

Such compartmentalization is troubling for a number of reasons. The separation of content from pedagogical training in teacher preparation programs leaves many prospective teachers lacking adequate and flexible content knowledge for teaching, a separation that often renders the content prospective teachers do learn inert and disconnected from both the school curriculum and the methods of instruction most likely to connect knowledge to students. …

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