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TPACK and You – Part 1: An Overview

This blog is the first in a series that will discuss TPACK and offer ideas for using it. With these blogs, my goal is to capture teachers, researchers, and instructional coaches in a discussion that uses TPACK as a platform for effective classroom teaching. In this post, I offer information about TPACK’s background with the purpose of building a foundational understanding of it. Future posts will then build on this one by targeting TPACK’s different elements and offering ideas for using it when planning and designing classroom instruction.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Precursor to TPACK

In the 1980s, Lee Shulman wrote two articles (Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform & Those Who Understand: Knowledge Growth in Teaching) that introduced the Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework. I read these articles years ago in graduate school and they resided with me. I reflected on them; discussed their meaning with my students, colleagues, and fellow researchers; and often cite them in my own research. In these articles, which have each been cited over 11,000 times according to Google Scholar, Shulman essentially argues that “meaningful” instruction requires teachers to align their knowledge of the content area with effective teaching strategies, and Figure 1 visually captures Shulman’s premise (although he never drew it himself, to the best of my knowledge).


Figure 1. Shulman’s Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework

According to Shulman’s 1987 article, he explains that Pedagogical Knowledge consists of general instructional strategies that cut across the content areas (e.g., K-W-L Charts, Study Guide Questions, and Assessment Types) and the methods teachers use to run and manage their classroom. Content Knowledge then pertains to teachers’ deep understanding of the subject they are teaching (both in knowing the content and being able to communicate it to students). Finally, Pedagogical Content Knowledge encompasses the instructional strategies that are specific to a content area and promote student learning of a lesson’s objective. For example, the strategies chemistry teachers use discussing the Periodic Table and experimenting with its elements are different from the strategies English teachers use when reading literature with students. Shulman contends teachers must pair their content knowledge with the instructional methods needed for students to learn that content. That pairing and its implementation, according to Shulman, evidences effective teaching in the content area and is what comprises Pedagogical Content Knowledge. To me, that makes good sense. I walked into my first classroom as a teacher in 2003, and the only technology I had was an old school overhead projector and chalkboard. Unknowingly, I was using Shulman’s model to teach my students 10th grade English. I combined my knowledge of English language arts with instructional strategies that engaged my students, and I was successful. However, with the explosion of technology, an upgrade was needed.

Technology’s Stirring of the Pot: Hello TPACK

The omniscient presence of technology has changed society and education along with it. Smartphones, tablet devices, and portable laptop computers have changed the way we interact, communicate, and learn. As new technologies quickly emerged in the early 2000s, Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra authored multiple articles about TPACK (2006, 2009a, 2009b). In their works, Koehler and Mishra built on Shulman’s framework by adding a Technological Knowledge component to it, as show in Figure 2.


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

As technology continued to be more interwoven into society, there was and still is a growing need for teachers to incorporate technology into their lessons. Koehler and Mishra created TPACK to address that need.

Although I will post more extensively in this blog series, Koehler and Mishra’s premise is that teachers need to combine and integrate technology into their pedagogically sound instruction. Doing so will result in students both learning the content being taught and, implicitly, how to use technology for professional and academic purposes.

In next week’s post, I will offer commentary about TPACK’s different components. I hope this post started to or refreshed your understanding of TPACK’s evolution and need, and I would love to read your comments below.