Minecraft TPCK

Shulman (1986) highlights why teacher assessments should move beyond evaluations of content knowledge related to subject areas. He argues for the importance of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) which “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). PCK refers to practices and decision-making regarding how to teach particular content. He argues that our understanding of teaching knowledge should include the capacity ‘to transform the content knowledge he or she possesses into forms that are pedagogically powerful and yet adaptive to the variations in ability and background presented by the students” (Shulman, 1987). Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006) introduce the concept of TPCK, in which knowledge of the how technology connects to PCK. I think the conception of teachers as deliverers of content is still somewhat prevalent. The TPCK concepts provide a valuable framework to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the knowledge required to design optimal learning environments.

One example I have done recently was using Minecraft to design and build a research-based HBC fur trading fort that we went on a field trip to. They designed the landscape to resemble land around the Hudson Bay and studied the habitats of beavers. We then designed a game to play inside the Minecraft world that was representative of how the Canadian fur trade functioned.  Math was integrated throughout due to the fort construction and trading. We used the actual ratios for trade that the HBC used. Throughout the game-play kids had to convert different types and amounts of pelts into various quantities of trade goods represented in the game.

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.

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

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.


  1. That’s interesting that you used Minecraft in the creation of a fur trading post with your students. Such an open world can be manipulated in so many ways to assist in their understanding of the content. How did you find your role as a teacher changed in this process? In discovering what amounts were equivalent to what, was it the students that directed their learning, or was it more teacher directed at that point?

    1. We found that information at the fur trading fort we visited. We posted the ratios in the game and on the whiteboard. The development of the Minecraft world was very much a student-led project. I was more focused on helping to facilitate the research needed to inform the project with guided instruction.

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