Knowledge of Instructional Strategies
Components of PCK include orientation to teaching the content, knowledge of the content and the curriculum, knowledge of students, and knowledge and beliefs about instructional strategies. These components naturally lead instructors to consider the role of the course within the curriculum, use of the best instructional practices for a particular content area, the most common student misconceptions, and the most difficult concepts for students to grasp.
Your knowledge and beliefs about the purposes and goals for teaching in your content area form the backbone for your orientation to teaching the content. Your knowledge and beliefs drive the decisions you make about the curriculum, the ways in which you will assess student learning to give you the best information on student progress, and the decisions you make about the instructional practices you choose (Magnusson, Krajacik, and Borko, 1999). Contemporary education research has identified teaching best practices and assessment best practices that support student success. In some fields, particularly STEM, you can look to Discipline-Based Education Research Scholarship (DBER) in your field for current perspectives on how curriculum and instructional practices best support student learning. We encourage you to talk with colleagues in your department who teach the same course(s) to collectively consider the most effective approaches to teaching your content.
Unfortunately, being a content expert does not automatically translate into pedagogical content knowledge expertise: People don’t typically become expert teachers overnight. Doing so takes experience, reflection and training. However, you have a solid foundation from which to draw when making decisions about how to teach. Recent research shows that instructors make use of “their prior experiences as instructors, their experiences as students, their experiences as researchers, and . . . their non-academic roles (Oleson & Hora, 2013).” Reflecting on your prior experiences is an initial key to developing PCK. But, we recommend you seek out input from colleagues in order to expand your set of perspectives that may be represented in the diversity of students in your course. In addition to your wealth of starting points for instructional strategies, consider how your field grapples with complexities. Recognize that you may be the first to introduce your field to some of your students.
- Think about your course structure then set up your syllabus, lessons structure, and canvas shell in such a way to build knowledge sequentially in your course.
- Use instructional strategies that engage all, not just some, students in learning.
- Specifically teach critical thinking skills necessary for success in your field.
- Ask questions that necessitate critical thinking from all students.
- Share common misconceptions with your students and explain why those misconceptions often occur.
- Be current in appropriate uses of technology to help organize and teach your content.
- In some fields, particularly STEM, you can look to Discipline-Based Education Research Scholarship (DBER) in your field for current perspectives on how curriculum and instructional practices best support student learning.
- For topics that have typically been challenging for students, talk with colleagues who have taught these topics successfully.
- Talk with colleagues in your department who teach the same course(s) to collectively consider the most effective approaches to teaching your content.
- Consider flipping the lesson when appropriate. Flipping is a term that means introducing low stakes pre-class work to prepare your students for the immersive class time activity you’ve planned.