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Pedagogical Knowledge: Understanding the “Art” of Teaching

This is the third post in a series about TPACK.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida, a professor assigned us to read “Critical Pedagogy: Notes for the Real World” by Joan Wink (now in it’s 4th edition, we read the first… J). As we read the book and discussed, I remember the professor, Dr. Becker, and us defining the term pedagogy as meaning the “interaction between student and teacher at the point of learning” and that it also meant “the art of teaching.” Now, several years later, those two definitions still are the foundation of my understanding for this illusive term, pedagogy.

From that foundation, I apply it Koehler and Mishra’s TPACK, and I begin to see how the three knowledge bases are intertwined (as shown in figure 1).



Figure 1. TPACK Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

To fully understand TPACK’s Pedagogical Knowledge component, however, it must be further analyzed to unpack its foundational understanding.

When understanding Pedagogical Knowledge, teachers must break it apart by considering the strategies they use. For example, I argue that there are both General Teaching Strategies that cut across all content areas and there are Specialized Strategies that are specific to a content area. Being a former high school English teacher, I know that the note taking skills I would teach my students – SQ3R, text annotation, and Cornell Notes – can be applied to all content areas. Regardless if they are reading a piece of literature, case study, historical happening, or current event, these note taking skills apply. And the same is true with other strategies like anticipation guides, KWL charts, and graphic organizers. Given that the content may differ depending on the subject area, but the methods are consistent. These represent General Teaching methods.

Then there are Specialized Strategies. Again, being a high school English teacher, I know that I have strategies that are specific to my content area, such as Readers’ Theatre, Writers’ Workshop, and Storyboarding. These methods are used to teach literature, which is very different from the methods a science teacher would use for experimentation or a history teacher would use to analyze historical events and people. The point here is that each content area has methods that are unique to it.

Returning to the TPACK model, when teachers begin analyzing their lessons with it, it is not enough to lump teaching methods and strategies in the Pedagogical Knowledge component. Rather, they need to classify them as being a General or Specialized teaching method. This classification, though it seems simple, will support teachers when planning lessons. For instance, when introducing a text to be read or a topic to be studied, teachers may use a General Teaching Strategy because students have familiarity with it (as they have likely used it previously in another class). That way, students’ familiarity with the strategy will help them focus on the text or topic and not on using strategy. Or, if students need support in understanding a content-specific topic, teachers will need to use a content-specific strategy. Matching the method to the topic, text, or skill is paramount when creating meaningful learning experiences.

Having deep Pedagogical Knowledge supports teachers in understanding that pedagogy is not simply the “art” of teaching, but it is something more. Therefore, when teachers combine their knowledge of pedagogy with content, they are able to actualize what Lee Shulman (1987) consider effective teaching.


Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review57(1), 1-23.