As an elementary school teacher, albeit in the upper grades, I have to teach every subject all the time. Of course, I am not an expert in everything that I am called upon to teach and this is where the PCK framework is essential in order for me to be successful in my teaching practice. Because I am with my students for the entire day I am able to form a relationship with them as a class, which then informs my knowledge about the processes and methods required for successful teaching and learning in the class. Over the years I have been able to increase my content knowledge of all the subjects, through my own learning and through interacting with the students, finding new and different ways to present the materials as I become more knowledgeable in the content. The advent of digital technology has enabled me to be more knowledgeable about the curriculum and the specific content that I am teaching as the information is more readily available, and there is a plethora of ideas suitable for use in the classroom to create my own lessons to benefit the learning styles and abilities of my students. I have noticed over the years as I become more comfortable with the content I am teaching, that the pedagogy of teaching becomes easier, I can focus on the learning of the students rather than making sure my understanding is clear. Also in being with one classroom of students throughout the day makes it easier for me to relate the content of what we are learning in mathematics to what we are learning in science, or art, and show the students how all things are connected and not in convenient compartments. It is a standing joke in my grade 7 class that whenever I point out that we are doing math in science, or reading in math, the students all say “It’s all connected – mind blown”, but at least they are starting to get the idea.
One of my favorite science units to teach is Structures, Mechanisms, and Forces. During this unit the students build a variety of structures out of different materials, for different purposes, and make observations about the process. As a way to bring the unit together at the end we do a study of Rube Goldberg and his fantastic machines. As a whole class we look at a variety of his cartoons depicting a few of his fantastic machines. We brainstorm about the actions that we are seeing as a class. Then we focus on just one of them to determine how the machine works and what forces are acting upon each structure to cause the movement or action. Each student writes out the process of the machine from start to finish. We then compare them to note any discrepancies and students justify the reasoning behind their process. The next step is for them to get another fantastic machine that has been divided into the individual actions and put it together like a puzzle to show the actions and functions of each part of this specific machine. This is usually done in a small collaborative group so the students can benefit from the collective ideas. After this practice, the students design and draw their own fantastic machine in the style of Rube Goldberg. They have to show all the actions and forces used to create the machine, and the process in which functions using at least 10 steps and three types of simple machines. This is done on grid paper as a scale drawing. The last step is for the students to work with a partner to create one of their own fantastic machines for a specific purpose, such as make a ping pong ball fall into a cup using at least 10 steps and a few metres away from the start. This is a way to take the ideas from the drawing board into a working model. Lots of trial and error, students learn perseverance and the value of testing for mistakes, but lots of fun in the learning too.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.
Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.