From preservice to inservice teaching: a study of conceptual change and knowledge in action

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Cumming, Joy

McMeniman, Marilyn

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Sim, Cheryl

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It is argued in this thesis that pedagogical content knowledge is an essential knowledge base for effective teaching, and that its development may not depend on years of experience. The longitudinal study traced the knowledge growth of novice social science teachers, especially pedagogical content knowledge, over their final year of study and first year as practising teachers, and sought to answer the following questions: 1. What is the conceptual structure of effective social science teaching held by preservice and novice teachers? 2. To what extent is pedagogical content knowledge a component of this conceptual structure? 3. What is the importance of pedagogical content knowledge to preservice and novice teachers' conceptions of good practice? The study adopts the theoretical framework of Shulman's (1987) categorization of teacher knowledge. At a minimum, this includes general pedagogical knowledge components of (1)behaviour management, (2) teaching strategies, (3) personal beliefs, and (4)classroom communication; content knowledge; curriculum knowledge; knowledge of learners and learning; knowledge of educational contexts; educational ends, goals, and purposes and values; and, pedagogical content knowledge. The participants were ten preservice teachers in the final year of their Bachelor of Education (Secondary) studies. Four participants were post-graduate students: two held Bachelor of Applied Science degrees; one a Bachelor of Arts; and the other a Bachelor of Behavioural Science degree. Methods used to identify the participants' knowledge bases were a concept map of "effective social science teaching", a Think Aloud Protocol of the concept map, and video stimulated recall based on a lesson taught by the participant. Three sets of data were elicited during the phases of the study; at the end of the first semester in their final year of study; at the conclusion of that year; and after six months of independent teaching. A case study was constructed for each participant using an interpretive approach. The convergence of the data at each phase of the data collection provided the identification of each participant's knowledge base of teaching. The participants' conceptual structures of social science teaching over time indicated both consistency and change over time. Educational ends, goals, purposes and values and knowledge of learners and learning became significant components of the participants' conceptual structures on realization of teaching practice. The data showed that behaviour management was an important component of their conceptual structure of teaching throughout their development as social science teachers. Pedagogical content knowledge was also a consistent focus of participants' conceptual structure and indeed, on realization of independent teaching practice, most participants' pedagogical content knowledge showed greater links to other aspects of effective teaching than previously. The findings of the study indicate that pedagogical content knowledge does not develop only with experience, and that it can exist as a key component of effective teaching at the novice stage of their teaching. The study showed that novice teachers had a substantive as well as a procedural understanding of pedagogical content knowledge, and that they focused more on goals and purposes of learning and knowing the learner after they began teaching practice.

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Thesis (Professional Doctorate)

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Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Cognition, Language and Special Education

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student teachers




pedgogical content knowledge

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