PCK in Physics

While the specific terminology PCK and TPACK are novel to myself, the concepts themselves are not. The fusion of content knowledge and pedagogy are vital to any teacher’s success. Schulman argues that the teacher is responsible for taking what they know and preparing it for effective instruction. This process involves the following aspects: comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection, and new comprehension. Teaching is a complicated process that involves knowing concepts and conveying them to students in hopes that they too obtain this understanding. Shchulman states this can occur through “talking, showing, enacting, or otherwise representing ideas.” In summary, an effective educator needs to have both a mastery of the content itself, as well as the ability to convey that information to students through transformation of that knowledge and instruction.

In terms of an example of PCK lesson of mine, we are currently introducing the concepts of significant figures, precision, and accuracy in Physics 11. Students often have difficulty differentiating the ideas of precision and accuracy and further, applying significant figures to real world data. Following discussion of these topics, students then complete a mini lab where they use lab equipment (such as meter sticks, rulers, calipers, tape measures and various graduated cylinders) and apply those concepts to practical measurements. They are faced with four problems that involve measurement and calculations that will assist them later in the course.


Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching. The foundations of a new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1)1-23.



One comment

  1. Hi Darren, I went straight to your post due to “Physics” being in the title! I will be soon venturing into to accuracy and precision territory, myself and although I do not do a full lab activity, I will have them measure a few things around the room and report results back into a Google Form. Very informal, but a similar idea, for sure. The quote that you choose from the reading struck a chord with me from my university days. My Physics and Math profs unquestionably knew a lot about their subject areas, but man, not many of them knew how to teach. There was little effort to go beyond the “pedagogue” role, in most of my classes. When I did have an engaging professor, they shone, however. (Dr. Gary Miller (UVIC Math) — Wow!! He was amazing.) Now that I do outreach with the university, it really seems as though things have shifted in post-secondary. Professors are putting more time into their approaches and not simply teaching the way they were taught. I was privileged to attend an advanced level, first year physics lecture last year with Dr. Michel Lefebvre, for example. I hung on every word— he was terrific! Thanks for your post, Dana.

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