Pedagogic Content Knowledge

Dr. B SaysDespite a teacher's deep understanding of a subject area he or she must also be able to foster understanding of the subject or concepts for students.  This can also be called having an understanding of Pedagogic Content Knowledge. If we look at Marguerite's reflection for example, we see that she feels unprepared to teach even though she is confident in her language abilities. In this section we will discuss the concept of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) as well as how it applies to the SL/FL classroom.

Marg quoteback to...
Erinn's case study
Marguerite's case study

Some questions

What is PCK?

PCK stands for Pedagogic Content Knowledge and refers to the overlap of information about subject knowledge, that is knowledge of the subject being taught, and pedagogic knowledge, that is knowledge of how to teach (i.e. planning, assessment, etc).

Despite a teacher's deep understanding of a subject area s/he must also be able to foster understanding of subject or concepts for students.  Shulman (1987) calls this pedagogical content knowledge.   Pedagogical content knowledge includes

. . . the most regularly taught topics in one's subject area, the most useful forms of representation of those ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations - in a word, the ways of representing the subject that make it comprehensible to others. . .(I)t also includes an understanding of what makes the learning of specific topics easy or difficult: the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and backgrounds bring with them to learning. (Shulman, 1987 p. 9)

Pedagogical content knowledge is grounded in the beliefs and practices of the teacher.  It also includes conceptual and procedural knowledge, a repertoire of varied techniques or activities (which meet different learning styles or preferences) knowledge of techniques for assessing and evaluating, and knowledge of a variety of resources which can be easily accessed for use in the classroom.  Pedagogical content knowledge "represents a class of knowledge that is central to teachers' work and that would not typically be held by nonteaching subject matter experts or by teachers who know little of that subject". (Marks 1990, p. 9)

Watch the PowerPoint below to find out more about Pedagogic Content Knowledge with Dr. B! (7:19)


PCK is:

  • a repertoire of approaches and activities for teaching languages to students with differing linguistic competencies
  • a repertoire of analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations and demonstrations that can be used in the language classroom
  • knowledge of and ability to use the available curriculum and learning resources suitable for language students
  • a basic understanding of practices of assessment and evaluation in language instruction
  • an understanding of how to sequence content learning into comprehensible steps within a lesson plan and unit plan
  • a general understanding of, and responses to, various issues and examples related to teaching languages in school
  • an appreciation of issues that face professional second language teachers
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What are some examples of PCK in a Second Language?

If you learned French as a second language, you may recall a time in your learning when you felt like your vocabulary suddenly exploded.  During this time you found that suddenly you were able to say things that you hadn't been able to before and you weren't looking words up in the dictionary.  How was this possible?  Did anyone ever tell you what a cognate is?  A cognate is a word which has similar spelling and identical meaning in two or more languages.  Between English and French there are over 11,000 cognates.  Teaching students that there are cognates and helping them develop strategies for figuring them out would be an example of pedagogical content knowledge.

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Pedagogical Content Knowledge Taxonomies

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