Summary 1: Pedagogical Knowledge and the Changing Nature of the Teaching Profession

Ilja’s summary of: Guerriero, S. (ed.) (2017), Pedagogical Knowledge and the Changing Nature of the Teaching Profession, OECD Publishing, Paris–en

READ PART 1 ONLY Please see public highlights on this paper here:

Part I provides a broad contextual view on teachers’ knowledge by investigating the knowledge dynamics in the profession and how teachers’ knowledge is described in some key documents.

  1. Chapter 1 The teaching profession and its knowledge base.
    1. Contextualising the teaching profession

The status of the profession has been implicated in the recent challenge in recruiting and retaining good teachers. The teaching profession is perceived to have a lower status than other professions such as medicine, law or engineering. The teaching profession is often regarded as a semi-profession because it does not have a robust and integrated knowledge base and it lacks strong and effective knowledge to action mechanisms.

The paper then expands on the following aspects:

  1. What is a profession?
  2. Professions and semi professions
  • The concept of professionalism
  1. The status of the teaching profession
  2. Teaching governance and autonomy
  3. Public perceptions of the teaching profession
  • Accessibility
  1. Teachers’ pedagogical knowledge and the teaching profession.

This section argues that “teaching should become a more evidence-based practice, and importantly, be informed by scientific research on teaching and learning.” It also argues “that grounding the practice of teaching in a scientific knowledge base will address the challenges that are giving the profession a low status. Doing so would address the argument made previously that teachers do not generally use scientific knowledge in their practice, or that they do not contribute to building a pedagogical knowledge base founded on scientific principles.”

  1. Chapter 2 Knowledge dynamics in the teaching profession.
    1. Knowledge and knowledge dynamics.
    2. Knowledge dynamics as structural dynamics: Codification processes.
    3. Knowledge dynamics as functional dynamics: Knowledge-to-action processes.
    4. Knowledge dynamics as social dynamics: Processes within the social-professional field
    5. Complexity of knowledge dynamics and consequences on governance

I found this section quite dense, and almost obscure. It was a long epistemological exploration of the nature of teacher knowledge. It explored the “dynamics of knowledge in the teaching profession from a structural, functional and social perspective”, and it investigates “what complexity theory can offer to understanding the governance of teachers’ knowledge.” As for complexity theory, the paper explains what is needed to “operationalise a complexity approach to educational reform”:

  1. “fostering a collaborative environment throughout the system by actively creating opportunities for interaction […]
  2. designing ways for collaboration and interaction to be continuous […]
  • making reforms iterative, experimental and flexible […]
  1. adapting a “non-deficit” approach to reform […]
  2. focusing on a few key nodes and pursuing them collaboratively […]
  3. engaging and energising teachers through collaborative research and longer term peer-to-peer mentoring […]
  • taking on board the developments and management structures of other sectors and industries.” (Snyder, 2013: 28-29.)

Types of knowledge that teachers possess:

In the case of teachers, Shulman (1985; 1986) proposed that the knowledge base of the teaching profession would comprise the following categories:

  • general pedagogical knowledge (principles and strategies of classroom management and organisation that are cross-curricular)
  • content knowledge (knowledge of subject matter and its organising structures)
  • pedagogical content knowledge (knowledge of content and pedagogy)
  • curriculum knowledge (subject and grade-specific knowledge of materials and programs)
  • knowledge of learners and their characteristics
  • knowledge of educational contexts (knowledge of classrooms, governance and financing of school districts, the culture of the school community)
  • knowledge of educational ends, purposes, values, and their philosophical and historical grounds.
  1. Chapter 3 Teacher professionalism and knowledge in qualifications frameworks and professional standards.
    1. Introduction
  • This chapter explores how teachers’ professionalism and teachers’ knowledge are manifested through instruments such as qualifications frameworks and professional standards.
  • National systems employ these documents as a reference to guide teachers on what they should know and be able to do.
  • Firstly, we begin by exploring how qualifications frameworks and standards define and shape teachers’ professional competences. We use the metaphor of a “knowledge wall” to explain how the two frameworks relate to each other.
  • Secondly, we analyse the internal structure and the content of five professional standards in Australia, England and Scotland (United Kingdom), the standards developed by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (United States) and Ontario (Canada).
  • In particular we examine how different types of knowledge components are described and which elements of pedagogical knowledge are specified.
  1. Teachers’ frameworks, standards and the “knowledge wall”.

I don’t think the analogy of the wall works very well, but I guess that this an adequate way to visualise the different sources of teacher knowledge and qualification. See page 81 here for the larger image.

  1. Professional standards and competence frameworks
    1. Only English speaking countries are investigated: Australia, England and Scotland, US and Canada. The US standards seem to be most different from the other countries.
  2. An analysis of frameworks for teachers’ professional standards
  3. Conclusions
    1. competences, competencies, qualifications, skills and other related terms still lack clarity on what they mean
    2. professional standards share a number of elements, of which the most strongly accentuated is differentiated instruction.
Disclaimer: It was a long read, and it was hard to get this summarised in just two pages. This summary can never do justice to the chapter, neither can the highlights I made here.

Still, this chapter helped me understand the complexity of describing and codifying teacher knowledge. Because of the diverse types of teacher knowledge, it is difficult to elevate teaching to a full ‘profession’, yet this is needed in order to raise the quality and status of teaching. National teaching standards and frameworks are an important element in this endeavour.