Personal Subject Matter Knowledge


Despite much that has been written about this topic there seems to be relatively little progress over the last 20 years or so. Shulman's paper in 1986 introduced the term Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) which has been widely and differently interpreted by various authors in their own light. The value of Personal Subject Matter Knowledge (PSMK) has been either ignored, or has been relegated to compiling lists of student teachers' mistakes and gaps when creating lessons or teaching them. Not surprisingly, subject matter knowledge of experienced teachers has been neglected, although some superficial data on the degree qualifications of existing teachers has been collected and analysed, with no account of the time elapsed since taking the degree. Interestingly, private and grammar schools publicise the information that their staff are subject specialists (not science specialists) and that they teach 'their own subject' in the main.

I have taken the role of PSMK as being very important. and much of the HIPST material I have produced is direcetd at improving PSMK. I have also added the role of HPS since that is largely lacking from existing writing.

The English Training and Development Agency (TDA) has developed a framework for Developing (trainees') subject knowledge for teaching. The TDA, as often, works in an atheoretical way, with little reference to any existing materials or ideas.
TDA SK framework as a pdf
Generic thinking about TDA Pilot
Some tasks for working to improve secondary SK from TDA Pilot

Checking your own subject knowledge from the HIPST scholarly pages can be both exhilarating and difficult.

Advice (writing in progress)
Solo
  1. Construct a concept map. A concept map has the essential characteristic in that the concepts are linked by propositions that connect them by explanation. Richer explanations, involving complex propositions, demonstrate understanding better than simple ones such as 'is one of'. Analysing a concept map is a difficult task. Start by counting the number of relevant concepts. You may give greater recognition by noting whether a hierarchy has been successfully used, with ordinate, sub-ordinate and super-ordinate levels. Next, count the number of relevant links. You may give greater recognition by noting whether the propositions are complex or simple.
  2. Construct, in intermediate language, explanations of each concept. This involves the notion of simplification and implies deep understanding. It can, of course, demonstrate incorrect understandings, of which you may or may not be aware.
  3. Construct an argument map. This can be part of an explanatory task. Harrel's paperon using argument maps in the classroom may be a little help but there is relatively little else written about this method. The following papers are also focused on philosophy. Using Argument Diagrams to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in Introductory Philosophy by Harrell Argument Maps Improve Critical Thinking by Twardy
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Pairs or larger groups
  1. Construct independent concept mapsand compare them. The process of analysing the maps is a form of assessment.
  2. Construct refined concept maps (see below) and compare.
  3. Construct argument maps and compare.
  4. Construct, in intermediate language, explanations of each concept. This involves the notion of simplification and implies deep understanding. It can, of course, demonstrate incorrect understandings, of which you may or may not be aware.


From wikipedia article on concept maps (edited by JO).

Paper on refined or simpler concept maps in science
Further paper on refined concept mapping from knowledge organiser ideas. This is hard going but richly rewarding!