Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:00 Pedagogical Content Knowledge
  • 1:28 How to Use It
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jade Mazarin

Jade is a board certified Christian counselor with an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a certification in Natural Health. She is also a freelance writer on emotional health and spirituality.

In this lesson, we'll define pedagogical content knowledge and its positive impact on students. We will also describe its specific features, like teaching with clear illustrations and being aware of student conceptions of the subject.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Anne had a chemistry teacher her sophomore year of high school who had an impressive background working in the field. She knew the subject matter perfectly, so most people would assume that her knowledge made her a great teacher. After all, the most important thing is for the teacher to know what they teach inside and out, right? Well, yes... and no. Anne learned through her experience with Mrs. Johnson that she needed more than a teacher who knew her subject well. She needed one who also knew how to teach it well. So, while Anne's teacher knew chemistry like the back of her hand, she didn't seem to know how to explain it, illustrate it, and make it understandable to Anne and her classmates. For someone who wasn't the greatest with formulas and science to begin with, Anne really needed more assistance.

As it turned out, Anne wasn't the only student who needed more from her teacher. In 1986, Lee Shulman, an educator and researcher, noticed that all students need a teacher who is more than knowledgeable about their subjects. They also need one who can teach their specific subjects clearly and effectively. He called this combination of content and teaching knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge.

So, back to our first scenario with Mrs. Johnson. If she had combined her knowledge of chemistry with class exercises, creative examples, and careful explanations, she would have displayed pedagogical content knowledge. She also would have been a more successful teacher.

How to Use It

How can teachers implement it in the classroom? Well, several features make up pedagogical content knowledge, and each is intended to provide students a route to genuine understanding and learning.

Combining Content and Pedagogy

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