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Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge

By May 28, 201374 Comments
Technology, Pedagogy, Content Knowledge model

Technology, Pedagogy, & Content Knowledge model

Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge

The Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge model or TPACK for short has been around for some time. It builds upon the work of Lee Shulman and extends his idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra expand upon this in much more detail on their site and on the site there are lot of links to other scholarly articles related to this topic.

In my work, I’ve been trying to apply these three things in order to bring about use of technology in lessons that doesn’t dictate that technology is at the heart of everything we do but there as something which will enhance the PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) based learning that is happening. The TPACK model has certainly been giving me plenty of food for thought. I’ve been looking at it and pondering it for some time. Part of my methodology for thinking behind how it might fit in a classroom was to re-create the classic TPACK Venn model so that I could make sense of it in my own head. Reproduced below with kind permission of the publisher, © 2012 by with the addition of the 7 different elements of TPACK is my version:

TPACK with definitions. Click to expand.

TPACK with definitions. Click to expand.

Within the TPACK model there are 7 different sections, each of which are represented in this diagram. Thinking about the first three elements of Technology, Pedagogy and Content as separate elements will give you the framework for thinking about how the various elements can be combined.

Technology Knowledge

Technology Knowledge is, according to Koehler and Mishra, “Knowledge about certain ways of thinking about, and working with technology, tools and resources. and working with technology can apply to all technology tools and resources. This includes understanding information technology broadly enough to apply it productively at work and in everyday life, being able to recognize when information technology can assist or impede the achievement of a goal, and being able continually adapt to changes in information technology.” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

Pedagogical Knowledge

Pedagogical Knowledge is, according to Koehler and Mishra, “Teachers’ deep knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning. They encompass, among other things, overall educational purposes, values, and aims. This generic form of knowledge applies to understanding how students learn, general classroom management skills, lesson planning, and student assessment.” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

Content Knowledge

Content Knowledge is, according to Koehler and Mishra, “Teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter to be learned or taught. The content to be covered in middle school science or history is different from the content to be covered in an undergraduate course on art appreciation or a graduate seminar on astrophysics… As Shulman (1986) noted, this knowledge would include knowledge of concepts, theories, ideas, organizational frameworks, knowledge of evidence and proof, as well as established practices and approaches toward developing such knowledge.” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

The TPACK model then is one which takes these three elements of Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge and combines them to create PCK, TPK, TCK and finally, the Holy Grail of TPACK.

So what next?

What really resonated with me from all of this was the section within Technological Knowledge which states educators should be, “able to recognize when information technology can assist or impede the achievement of a goal”. This idea, coupled with other thinking e.g. here where Mandinach & Cline (Classroom Dynamics: Implementing a Technology-Based Learning Environment) talk about the levels of confidence and ability of educators to utilise technology in the classroom, really brings home where the most effort and attention needs to be applied in supporting educators in the classroom. Surely, if we want educators to be able to be discriminatory about whether or not the use of technology will “assist or impede” learning, educators have to have some high level knowledge in this area alongside their pre-existing Content and Pedagogical Knowledge.

Educators are already going to be the masters of pedagogy and content knowledge in the classroom. It is their domain of expertise. These two areas will have been studied, examined, researched and developed during their training as educators. It still goes on in their every day practice too as they further develop their knowledge understanding and skills in these areas. For many however, technology knowledge is not their everyday area of expert knowledge. It goes to say then therefore that teachers need the support of their respective schools in order to facilitate this development so that teachers can make the informed decisions about when it is right to use (or not to use) technology within the classroom. This is why I always say that you should ensure proper allocation of budget to any technology deployment to link very closely to the CPD budget of the school. A good rule of thumb, I think, would be to place at least 25% of the budget to technology deployment to the training and support of colleagues in their use of technology. Without sufficient allocation to supporting teachers with their knowledge of how, and the suitability of which, technology to use in the classroom, how can we expect our investment in technology to have any kind of impact?

According to Mandinach and Cline, educators go through 4 stages of development with their use of technology:

Teacher confidence

Based upon the work of Mandinach & Cline.

With this in mind, as leaders of technology in our establishments, we need to be mindful of our responsibility to our students and our staff when it comes to technology use. Strategic planning and building in  training for staff is critical if we want transformational learning happening.

As discussed in previous posts, the importance of SAMR should be underlined here further. It’s all good wanting to have redefinition level opportunities going on in the classroom but if you have a team of staff who (despite being great at PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge)) are stuck at Survival level, you’re not going to get much other than enhancement opportunities for learning, if at all. Scaffolding for staff and often for students too, will provide opportunities for the Technological improvements to come. This will support staff (and students) to gain mastery (and more) in their use of technology.

Tips for ensuring TPACK rather than PCK

  • Create a learning and sharing culture where there are opportunities for staff to develop their technological skill
  • Run workshops organised as  school but run by colleagues or students who are already at Mastery or better level, to further support their development
  • Give students the opportunity to show their skills through Digital Leader opportunities. (More here).
  • Don’t let the technology dictate learning, combine pedagogy with content knowledge
  • Provide opportunities for staff to meet to discuss developments they have encountered using technology
  • Build a set of core apps which all staff can use at a mastery level so that consistency, confidence and competency can flourish

I would love to hear how these thoughts tie in with your thinking about the use of technology to support and enhance learning. Please drop me a line on Twitter or leave a comment below. I really would appreciate your thoughts / feedback.


Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.


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