Emphasis on PCK in teacher preparation

Chandrika Muralidhar

PCK – The translation and interpretation of content during teaching. – Shulman (1986)

At the outset I would like to humbly request that student teachers think about their teaching and development as science teachers. The importance of the course content and its transactional experience could well determine and shape their careers as teachers. Learning to teach would involve learning of specific skills, acquire mindsets along with developing a keen interest in reflective inquiry. An effective teacher education program should envisage to develop teachers’ knowledge, skills, dispositions, and the capacity to be reflective of their work. Also, encouraging teacher collaboration and learning to manage the diversity of student contexts would add to its robustness.

The National Education Policy, NEP 2020 has suggested a common guiding set of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) to be developed wherein the standards would articulate the expectations of the role of the teacher at various levels of expertise and the relevant competencies. The setting of specific standards would breathe a new life into teacher preparation and also expectations from teachers. Research studies by Rawlings (2003) have identified five aspects of professionalism, contributing to continuous teacher professional development –
• The teacher, valuing themselves professionally.
• Interacting with pupils.
• Interacting with other teachers.
• Interacting with the wider subject community.
• Interacting with state and policy-making.

Teacher Education (TE) programs would have to assess the needs of the student teachers for pre-service and that of the teachers in the in-service categories. Among the many challenges faced by these programs, probably one of them is the lack of appropriate, context-specific and relevant reading material. Available literature tends to be filled with academic terminologies and complex theoretical concepts that could get difficult for a teacher to (1) access such literature and (2) to be able to break it down to be used in her/his classroom teaching-learning. Another aspect that leads to lesser engagement of teachers with literature is the non-availability in various languages. For research papers with suggestions for effective teaching-learning there is a need for authentic translated versions to be made available for consumption by a teacher.

PCK and teacher preparation
Korthagen, (2001) and Wideen & Grimmett, (1995) found student teachers to be disappointed with their teacher education programmes. The expectation was that they would be told ‘how to teach’ or ‘how to conduct a lesson’ instead of being made aware of the teaching issues in classrooms. Further, Russell (1997) found that student teachers generally valued the practice teaching component of the TE programme and perceived theory to be largely irrelevant for learning how to teach. Shulman (1986, 1987) opined that ‘teachers needed strong PCK to be the best possible teachers, which resulted in a range of studies into PCK in pre-service science teacher education. Such research focussed on identifying and understanding both the nature of PCK and its development. A study conducted by Van Driel, Jan H, Onno De Jong, Nico Verloop (2002) on the development of PCK in pre-service (student teacher) chemistry teachers brought to the fore some pertinent suggestions for the factors that contribute to the growth of PCK in teachers:
i. Classroom teaching experience – Considered to have had the strongest impact on PCK, this included observation of lessons given by the mentor, by a peer pre-service teacher and also the lessons taught by the individual teacher. This made them aware of their own knowledge – through the posing of questions by students, correction of students’ answers to written tests, responses of students to specific assignments and observation of student behaviour during lessons. Some pre-service teachers also shared how classroom experiences had affected their knowledge of representations of subject matter and related teaching strategies.
ii. University based workshop – A workshop which was based on a specific literature, dealt with learning difficulties and misconceptions of students. In particular, some pre-service teachers were able to draw parallels between the description of students’ misconceptions in the paper and their own observations in the classroom.
iii. Meetings with mentor – Many pre-service teachers utilized the strategies provided by their mentor in their classroom teaching resulting in satisfying student responses. Discussions stimulated an awareness of students’ problems, specific learning difficulties and importantly an opportunity to rectify inaccuracies in explanations given during a teaching class.

Two other aspects about PCK in science which could be a valuable input for teacher preparation was brought out by a study by Smith and Neale (1989) were – knowledge of students’ concepts and strategies for teaching content. Regarding knowledge of students’ concepts the study referred to a study by Hollon and Anderson (1986), which stated that teachers are rarely aware of students’ preconceptions or their power to interfere with science learning. The second aspect is the knowledge of specific teaching strategies that enable students to make progress in conceptual understanding of science content. Another aspect that could contribute to the science teachers’ PCK would be the use of examples, good explanations, metaphors, analogies, and representations. Teacher preparation would need to emphasize on providing support to create metaphors which are conceptually sound and to enable student teachers to apply concepts to new situations.

Having shared aspects of factors affecting the development of PCK it would be relevant to provide suggestions for inclusions in science teacher preparation in the Indian context.
• Considering that we have a diversity in aspects of language, socio-economic backgrounds and availability of public schools across the country it would be pertinent to state that teacher preparation would need a basic framework upon which the requirements could be added.
• Paucity of resources need not be a reason for ineffective teaching if alternatives are suggested and teachers oriented to them with regular follow-ups.
• Platforms for sharing of best practices across schools such that one teacher could adapt or create her/his own PCK based on experiences gathered by fellow teachers.
• Regular showcasing of strategies used for nurturing PCK leading to suggestions for formative and summative assessments and also to assess to what extent it has led to establishing a firm foundation of scientific attitudes and temper.


  1. Hollon, R., & Anderson, C. (1986, April). Teachers’ understanding of students’ scientific thinking: Its influence on planning and teaching. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science, San Francisco, CA.
  2. Korthagen, F.A.J. (2001). The realistic approach: Its tenets, philosophical background, and future. In F. Korthagen, with, J. Kessels, B. Koster, B.
  3. National Education Policy, 2020.
  4. Sharma, Poonam (2022). Best practices of a school-based pre-service teacher education programme. Page 39-48. Voices of Teachers and Teacher Educators.
  5. Rawling, E. (2003) Connecting Policy and Practice: Research in Geography Education. Nottingham: British Educational Research Association.
  6. Ross, Lakin, Mckechnie (2004). Teaching Secondary Science – Constructing meaning and developing understanding. Routledge.
  7. Russell, T. (1997). Teaching teachers: How I teach IS the message. In J. Loughran & T. Russell (Eds.), Teaching about teaching: Purpose, passion and pedagogy in teacher education (pp. 32-47). London: Falmer.
  8. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.
  9. Shulman, L. S. (1987). “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform”. Harvard Educational Review, 57, pp. 1-22.
  10. Smith, Deborah C, Daniel C Neale (1989). The Construction of Subject Matter Knowledge in Primary Science Teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education. Vol 5. No. I. pp. I-20.
  11. Van Driel, Jan H, Onno De Jong, Nico Verloop (2002). The development of pre-service chemistry teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. Pages 572-590. Science Teacher Education 86.
  12. Wideen, M., & Grimmett, P.P. (1995). Changing times in teacher education: Restructuring or reconceptualization. London: Routledge.

The author is a faculty member at the School of Continuing Education and University Resource Centre, Azim Premji University. She teaches and contributes to professional development programmes. She has been working in the space of science education, teacher capacity enhancement, curricular material development, textbook writing and as an editorial member of the university publications. She can be reached at chandrika@azimpremjifoundation.org.

This is the last of the three-part series

Leave a Reply