Lee Shulman

Lee S. Shulman (born September 28, 1938) is an educational psychologist who has made notable contributions to the study of teaching, assessment of teaching, and the fields of medicine, science and mathematics. He is a professor emeritus at Stanford Graduate School of Education, past president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, past president of the American Educational Research Association, and the recipient of several awards recognizing his educational research. From 1963 to 1982, Shulman was a faculty member at Michigan State University, where he founded and co-directed the Institute for Research on Teaching (IRT).

Among his many achievements, Shulman is credited with popularizing the phrase "pedagogical content knowledge" (PCK). Shulman is the 2006 recipient of the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education. He received the Grawemeyer Award for his 2004 book, The Wisdom of Practice: Essays on Teaching, Learning and Learning to Teach. [1]

Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)

In 1986, Shulman claimed that the emphases on teachers' subject knowledge and pedagogy were being treated as mutually exclusive. He believed that teacher education programs should combine the two knowledge fields. To address this dichotomy, he introduced the notion of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) that includes pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge, among other categories (Hlas & Hilderbrandt, 2010). His initial description of teacher knowledge included curriculum knowledge, and knowledge of educational contexts.

Pedagogical knowledge means the “how” of teaching, generally acquired through education coursework and personal experiences. Content knowledge, on the other hand, is the “what” of teaching. It is different from the knowledge of a disciplinary expert and from general pedagogical knowledge.

"In Shulman’s view, pedagogical content knowledge is a form of practical knowledge that is used by teachers to guide their actions in highly contextualized classroom settings. This form of practical knowledge entails, among other things: (a) knowledge of how to structure and represent academic content for direct teaching to students; (b) knowledge of the common conceptions, misconceptions, and difficulties that students encounter when learning particular content; and (c) knowledge of the specific teaching strategies that can be used to address students’ learning needs in particular classroom circumstances. In the view of Shulman (and others), pedagogical content knowledge builds on other forms of professional knowledge, and is therefore a critical—and perhaps even the paramount—constitutive element in the knowledge base of teaching (Rowan et al., 2001. p. 2)."

PCK is concerned with the representation and formulation of concepts, pedagogical techniques, knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn, knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology. It also includes what the students bring to the learning situation, that might be either facilitative or dysfunctional for the particular learning task at hand. This acknowledges students' strategies, prior conceptions (both "naïve" and instructionally produced); misconceptions about a particular domain and potential misapplications of prior knowledge.

PCK represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular aspects of subject matter are organized, adapted, and represented for instruction. Shulman argued that having knowledge of subject matter and general pedagogical strategies, though necessary, were not sufficient for capturing the knowledge of good teachers. To characterize the complex ways in which teachers think about how particular content should be taught, he argued for "pedagogical content knowledge" as the content knowledge that deals with the teaching process, including "the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others" (p. 9). If teachers were to be successful they would have to confront both issues (of content and pedagogy) simultaneously, by embodying "the aspects of content most germane to its teachability" (Shulman, 1986, p. 9). At the heart of PCK is the manner in which subject matter is transformed for teaching. This occurs when the teacher interprets the subject matter, finding different ways to represent it and make it accessible to learners.

The notion of PCK has been extended (and critiqued) by scholars after Shulman (for instance see Cochran, DeRuiter, & King, 1993; van Driel, Verloop, & De Vos, 1998). In fact, Cochran, DeRuiter, and King (1993) offered the following definition of PCK:

The transformation of subject matter for teaching (Shulman, 1986) occurs as the teacher critically reflects on and interprets the subject matter; finds multiple ways to represent the information as analogies, metaphors, examples, problems, demonstrations, and classroom activities; adapts the material to students’ abilities, gender, prior knowledge, and preconceptions(those pre-instructional informal, or nontraditional ideas students bring to the learning setting); and finally tailors the material to those specific students to whom the information will be taught (emphasis in original, p. 264).

Shulman proposed multiple lists in different publications, that lack, in his own words, "great cross-article consistency" (Shulman, 1986; p. 8). Our emphasis on PCK is based on Shulman’s acknowledgment that "pedagogical content knowledge is of special interest because it identifies the distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching. It 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" (p. 8). Moreover, our emphasis on PCK is consistent with the work of many other scholars and recent educational reform documents. Since its introduction in 1987, PCK has become a widely useful and used notion. For instance in the area of science education scholars such as Anderson and Mitchner (1994); Hewson and Hewson (1988); Cochran, King, and DeRuiter (1993); Hume and Berry (2010); and professional organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA, 1999) and National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE, 1997) have all emphasized the value of PCK for teacher preparation and teacher professional development. An analysis of "Teacher Educator’s handbook: Building a knowledge base for the preparation of teachers" (Murray, 1996) shows Shulman as the fourth most cited author of the close to 1500 authors in the book’s author index with an overwhelming majority of those references made to this concept of PCK (Murray, 1996, referred by Segall, 2004). The notion of PCK, since its introduction in 1987, has permeated the scholarship that deals with teacher education in general and the subject matter education in particular (See for example, Ball, 1996; Cochran, King & DeRuiter, 1993; Grossman, 1990; Ma, 1999; Shulman, 1987; Wilson, Shulman, & Richert, 1987). It is valued as an epistemological concept that usefully blends together the traditionally separated knowledge bases of content and pedagogy.

Diagrammatically, we can represent Shulman’s contribution to the scholarship of teacher knowledge by connecting the two circles, so that their intersection represents Pedagogical Content Knowledge as the interplay between pedagogy and content. In Shulman’s words, this intersection contains within it, "the most regularly taught topics in one’s subject area, the most useful forms of representation of those ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations - in a word, the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others" (Shulman, 1986, p. 9).

Further reading

External links

Educational offices
Preceded by
Richard C. Anderson
President of the

American Educational Research Association

Succeeded by
David Berliner


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