- How does the way knowledge is organized influence
- How can teachers use the structure of a discipline
to organize their teaching and enhance student learning?
- Structure of the disciplines
– Teachers will understand that disciplines have structures
representing interrelated core ideas and particular modes
of inquiry. They will think about how to use these core
ideas and inquiry tools to help students understand disciplinary
ideas more deeply.
- Pedagogical content knowledge
Teachers will consider the kinds of knowledge of
content and students they need in order to represent disciplinary
ideas so that they are more likely to be understood.
There are two ways to think about the principles of learning:
One is to ask, "What are the principles that are so general
and universal that in some ways they apply regardless of what
you are teaching and to whom?" But there are also principles
of learning that are particular to the domain under study
and to the kinds of understanding that the learner brings
to the table. Expert teaching in a subject matter rests on
an understanding of how particular students are likely to
come to this knowledge – what can be done to bridge
the distance between what students understand and what counts
as expert knowledge in the field. This is the essence of "pedagogical
content knowledge," which is the special expertise that
teachers have about subject matter and how to teach it.
At the core of pedagogical content knowledge
is a deep understanding of the structure of the discipline
– how knowledge is organized and pursued in a particular
subject area – connected to a deep understanding of
the particular students being taught. This disciplinary structure
can be reflected in the curriculum and in teachers' pedagogical
strategies. The structure of the discipline affects two things:
- how knowledge and ideas are related and interconnected
- how inquiries are carried out
Structure of the Disciplines
- All subject areas have structures that reveal
the ways their core ideas are connected with one another.
- Each discipline has a different structure.
Subject matters differ not only in terms of their core ideas,
but also in terms of how inquiries are carried out.
- The structures of the disciplines are the
building blocks for organizing the curriculum to engage
students in activities and experiences around these core
Organization of Core Ideas
- Joseph Schwab explained the notion of the
"structure" of a discipline by focusing first
on the way the core ideas
of a discipline are organized: What are the building blocks
that reflect the central concepts in a discipline, and how
do they connect with one another?
- Jerome Bruner approaches the structure of
the disciplines by considering the psychology of learning
and development, memory, and transfer. Bruner describes
how students' interest and enjoyment of learning can be
heightened through the "sense of excitement of discovery"
they experience as the structure of a discipline becomes
clear to them.
- Both Bruner and Schwab assert that students
can understand the basic concepts of subject matter at an
early age when they are taught in an intellectually honest
way. In fact, Bruner suggests that students be taught in
a spiral curriculum that introduces central concepts in the disciplines
early in a child's education and revisits these concepts
again and again in the later grades in more sophisticated
- Teachers can help students understand the
structure of a topic by providing an overarching conceptualization
of the big ideas and then locating specific facts or information
that relate to the big ideas.
Central Modes of Inquiry
Schwab also considered the central modes
of inquiry and knowledge-finding tools of the disciplines:
- How does each discipline construct, critique,
and revise knowledge?
- How do you know something is true?
- What counts as evidence?
Structure and Curriculum
key ideas and differing ways of posing and answering questions
– should inform the overall curriculum. Making decisions
about what ought to be taught involves asking –
- "What are the properties of an activity,
task, or project that will lead to the greatest teaching
- What is the organization of ideas that would
make it most coherent, understandable, learnable, and transferable
by a student?
- How does one match the activity with students'
interests and abilities?" (Shulman, 2001)
Pedagogical Content Knowledge
- "Pedagogical content knowledge"
is an understanding of what kinds of experiences, what kinds
of objects, and what kind of examples can be used to help
students acquire an understanding of complex ideas.
- Pedagogical content knowledge "represents
the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding
of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized,
represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities
of learners, and presented for instruction" (Shulman,
1987, p. 8).
- Pedagogical content knowledge is shaped not
only by how teachers think about why they are teaching their subject, but also by their
understanding of what
they are teaching, how they are creating curriculum, and
when students are ready for learning.
- The goal of teaching is not only to encourage
particular understandings, but also to develop dispositions,
values, commitments, and attitudes particular to a content
- One of the misconceptions about pedagogical
content knowledge is that it is a memorized set of analogies,
diagrams, or tricks for each of the main concepts. Rather,
this approach requires ascertaining what the students already
understand, or misunderstand, and applying a set of strategies
to build bridges between students and content.
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Materials for Session 10