Developing Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Higher Education

John Bostock

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther (conference)peer-review


Colleagues on PGCTHE programmes consulted for this presentation consistently state a desire to have subject-focused instruction within their teaching and learning development. What does this actually mean? This presentation considers Subject Didactic (Ger.Subjektdidaktik) as a theoretical attempt to correlate a clear and meaningful relationship between subject content and how to teach that subject. Could embracing certain practices in development programmes and applying them to teaching ensure that discussion and debate around Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) would naturally arise? There has already been significant, historical debate (Healey, 2000; Neumann, 2001; Robson, 2006) around the development of PCK in Higher Education arguing that it needs to be developed within the context of the culture of the disciplines in which it is applied. It is, however, difficult to agree on a specialised knowledge base which, in an HE teacher education context, is so diverse. Moreover, the opportunities to explore Content Knowledge (CK) and develop PCK in HE remain under-researched. Any practical solution is overshadowed by its subtlety and its complexity where academics continue to claim differing pedagogical practices according to discipline. The teacher educator in HE remains the ‘generic’ educator with no direct understanding of the respective CK of teachers to develop their PCK. This presentation emphasises the interdependency of generic and subject focused pedagogy which affords teachers the opportunity to see PCK as an explorative, problem solving activity designed to influence and enhance their potential teaching styles and approaches. Effectively supporting PCK deepens teachers’ appreciation of the practical and reflective explorations of their teaching preparation. This presentation highlights the issues encountered when supporting teachers’ diverse content knowledge (CK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) : Firstly, it is shown how, as programme and module leader of a PGCTHE, one typically works with teachers representing a great variety of professional and academic disciplines. The groups are composed of senior university academics, teacher educators from other sectors, and even PhD students with varied research backgrounds; indeed, a group where lively, multidisciplinary discourse can be an everyday activity. Secondly, debates on multi- and trans-disciplinary work are often about the differences and commonalties of academics on PGCTHE programmes; in short, about their respective identities. These identities are framed by the original education these teachers have received and by the institutional/departmental contexts in which they operate. Therefore this presentation stresses a holistic approach to preparing HE teachers, arguing that the essential skills and knowledge are premised on using specialised knowledge to interpret and translate that knowledge into pedagogical practices. The cross-professional perspective also stresses the importance of three concepts for understanding pedagogies of practice, namely representation, decomposition and approximation. The second is salient and presented here as the essential skill of the breaking down of specialised knowledge into its constituent parts for the purposes of teaching and learning. Subject Didactic (Ger.Subjektdidaktik) processes require critical refection on how CK becomes PCK so the perspective of decomposition must be understood in terms of a sophisticated and meaningful relationship between subject content and subject pedagogy
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventHigher Education Academy (HEA) Conference - University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20176 Jul 2017


ConferenceHigher Education Academy (HEA) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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