Powerful subject pedagogical knowledge in teacher education and its integration into practice

SHEEHAN, Helen Mary (2021). Powerful subject pedagogical knowledge in teacher education and its integration into practice. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00436


In recent years the importance of subject specificity in secondary teaching has been more prominent in discussion of both the curriculum in schools and the content of initial teacher education provision (Carter, 2015). This study focuses on how subject specialism can be conceived and developed in a one-year postgraduate teacher education course. The review of literature outlines the policy context and different conceptions of teacher knowledge, adopting the position that teacher education should help trainees develop theoretical knowledge, alongside knowledge developed through experience, to support them in making professional judgements in their subject context. The case is made for a focus on integration of the knowledge developed in university and classroom settings. On this basis the study explores participants’ perceptions of the importance of the subject-specific elements of their course, the way in which this is developed and the extent to which it impacts on their practice. Adaptive theory (Layder, 1998) provides a framework for the design of this longitudinal study which followed eight secondary PGCE students over the course of one academic year as they trained to teach citizenship, history or geography. The data were generated through semi-structured interviews at three points in the year, and initial analysis at each phase was used to inform the development of the stages that followed. Initially analysis of the data used pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986) and powerful knowledge (Young, 2014) as orienting concepts to explore student perceptions of the relationship between the theoretical and practical aspects of their training, particularly in relation to their subject specialism. In line with the adaptive approach emergent themes were also identified and pursued. The findings show that, whilst some participants experienced tension between the school and university settings, they valued both aspects of their training and the ways in which they developed their understanding of subject-specific pedagogical approaches are identified. Therefore, it is argued that teacher education courses should focus on integration of the knowledge developed in the school and university settings; the parts played by mentors, peers, university tutors and academic work are identified as factors with the potential to support this process. Based on the findings, the notion of powerful subject pedagogical knowledge is also offered as a more adequate conceptualisation of how subject-specific knowledge should be understood in the context of initial teacher education. This discussion highlights the varying experiences of participants from different subject areas and, on this basis, argues for a distinctive, subject-specific element in the design of teacher education programmes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Maxwell, Bronwen
Thesis advisor - Demissie, Fufy [0000-0003-2325-4313]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Bronwen Maxwell / Supervisor: Dr. Fufy Demissie
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00436
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2022 14:18
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2023 14:31
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/30038

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