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Content knowledge or pedagogical pedagogic content knowledge?: Exploring learning outcomes for Australian trainee teachers in physical education
Dalarna University, School of Education, Health and Social Studies, Sport and Health Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4660-717X
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In the context of physical education teacher education (PETE), content knowledge (CK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) are constructions of different forms of teacher knowledge that have been used to address knowledge of a subject and knowledge of teaching a subject to young people (Herold & Waring 2009, Siedentop 2009, Tinning 2010). This paper addresses how these two forms of teacher knowledge are valued through a study of learning outcomes (LOs) in syllabus documents at a sample of PETE universities in New South Wales, Australia. The US educationalist Lee Shulman (1987) originally defined CK as “the accumulation of literature and studies in content areas, and the historical and philosophical scholarship on the nature of knowledge in those fields of study” (p. 8-9). In the PETE context, CK is constructed by various sub-disciplines (Tinning 2010). According to Siedentop (2009), one of the most fundamental as well as the most marginalized of these sub-disciplines, is PE teacher students’ knowledge of movement. In this study, specific interest is devoted to how CK and PCK are expressed in documents regulating sport and movement courses within PETE. Regarding PCK, Shulman (1987) suggests it to be “that special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers, their own special form of professional understanding” (p. 8. Globally, there seems to be an agreement for the importance of future PE teachers to experience movement and sport practices during their education. However, there also seems to be different ideas about whether CK or PCK should by prioritized in the teaching and assessment of movement and sport practices during PETE (Backman & Pearson 2016, Capel, et al 2011, Herold & Waring 2009, Johnson 2013, Tinning 2010). The study of how LOs are expressed in an educational context can inform us not only of what forms of knowledge are most valued. It might also say something about PE teacher educators’ abilities to formulate his/her expectations of the student’s performance. For this instance, the discussion of learning objectives as formulated in university courses has lately been intensified. In Europe, this discussion has been strongly related to the intentions in the Bologna-declaration (Adam 2008, Brooks et al 2014, Hussey & Smith 2008). Some of the issues raised in the literature have concerned ways of formulating verbs in learning outcomes, student activity built into learning outcomes, and level of difficulty in learning outcomes (Adam 2008, Biggs & Tang 2007). Therefore, the aim of this paper is to analyse LOs formulated in syllabus document for sport courses at a sample of Australian PETE institutions. Further, the aim is to discuss these LOs through a framework regarding teacher knowledge originating from Lee Shulman (1987). Although PETE, like university programs in other subjects, are historical and cultural constructions, research from European countries such as UK, France, Sweden (Backman &Pearson 2016, Capel, et al 2011, Loquet & Ranganathan 2010) display similarities with the Australian PETE context. One characteristic feature of PETE in all these countries is the relative emphasis on constructivist epistemology and critical pedagogy, although this feature appears to be somewhat stronger in Australia compared to Europe and US. In times where the content in PETE is crowded and the time for teaching is short, a study of what forms of PE teacher knowledge are valued in some Australian PETE institutions, a context where the production of PETE research has been significant during the last decades (see e.g. Forrest 2015, Garrett & Wrench 2012, MacDonald et al 2002, Tinning 2010), can therefore serve as a valuable contrast for the discussion of knowledge forms in European PETE contexts.    

Methods/methodology (up to 400 words) 

By the end of 2014, there were 24 universities across Australia offering PETE, eight in New South Wales (NSW). These eight universities in NSW makes the total sample (N=8) in the study reported in this paper. To the collection of the empirical material in form of written documents, five PETE-universities (n=5) of the total sample have contributed. Each university was asked to contribute with two unit outlines for courses in sport and movement for PETE students. A unit outline is a written document intended to give the student more specific information compared to what a curriculum document for a course will provide (e.g. regarding examination, schedule, expectations, etc). Further, a unit is generally only a part of a whole course. The collected unit outlines contained a the total number of 73 LOs. The sample of unit outlines can be described as a strategic and purposeful sample (Patton, 2002). The empirical collection from the participating universities was carried out during November and December 2014. After information about the study through e-mail and phone, a total number of 10 unit outlines were sent to the author by e-mail. In the analysis Alvesson and Sköldberg (1994) description of analytical induction or abduction has served as an inspiration. This means trying to let, on one hand, the empirical material inform the choice of theoretical perspective while on the other hand, acknowledging that some specific theoretical perspectives, in this case Shulman’s (1987) forms of teacher knowledge, have been viewed as more relevant than others before conducting the study. The primary analysis has been divided into two steps. In the first step, when reading through the collected and transcribed material questions such as: ‘What movement and sport practices do students meet during PETE in NSW?’ and ‘How are movement and sport practices expressed through the LOs in the unit outlines?’ has been asked. Asking these questions to the material has involved a process of clustering described by Patton (2002) as convergence which has been followed up by a process of divergence, that is, an exclusion of formulations and quotes that do not fit into the identified pattern. In the second stage of the analysis, the choice of Shulman’s (1987) concepts for forms of teacher knowledge was confirmed and strengthened as we discovered that the different views of assessment of movement and sport practices were clearly related to our chosen definitions of CK and PCK.

Expected outcomes/results (up to 300 words) 

The preliminary analysis of the LOs shows that the knowledge in sport and movement courses at the investigated PETE institutions is sometimes formulated as CK and sometimes as PCK (Shulman 1987). Within these two main categories there were also sub-categories related to abilities expressed through different verbs. With regards to PCK one such main sub-category addressed the students’ ability to “plan, arrange, carry out and assess different forms of teaching situations”. Further, another ability expressed within the PCK category was the ability to “observe, analyse and critically reflect over educational practices”. These two PCK sub-categories clearly reflect research emphasizing critical pedagogy in Australian PETE (Garrett & Wrench 2012, MacDonald et al 2002, Tinning 2010). Further, two other forms of sub-categories, expressed both as CK and as PCK, was firstly, the ability to “perform movements” and secondly, the ability to “demonstrate an understanding” of different forms of movement and sport practices. Findings will be discussed in relation to research criticizing the decrease of sport performances in PETE (Herold & Waring 2009, Siedentop 2009) as well as work emphasizing the importance to teach and assess movement practices to PETE students in contextualized situations (Backman & Pearson 2016). The concept of “understanding” was found to be very commonly used in LOs both when expressed as CK and as PCK. Generally, students were encouraged to “demonstrate an understanding” of different forms of knowledge. In literature of how to formulate knowledge in higher education, the concept of understanding has been discussed, sometimes criticized as lacking precision (Adam 2008, Biggs & Tang 2007), sometimes claimed to be under-contextualised (Hussey & Smith 2008). Part of the discussion will focus on various meanings of understanding in sport courses at some Australian PETE-institutions and how these meanings can differ depending on whether CK or PCK is addressed.

Intent of publication:  

References (400 words)

Adam, S. (2008). Learning Outcomes Current Developments in Europe: Update on the Issues and Applications of Learning Outcomes Associated with the Bologna Process. Retrieved 12 May 2015, from http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/BolognaSeminars/documents/Edinburgh/Edinburgh_Feb08_Adams.pdf

Alvesson, M. & Sköldberg, K. (1994). Tolkning och Reflektion. Vetenskapsfilosofi och Kvalitativ Metod. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

Backman, E. & Pearson, P. (2016) ‘We should assess the students in more authentic situations’: Swedish PE teacher educators’ views of the meaning of movement skills for future PE teachers. European Physical Education Review, 22, 47–64.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Third edition. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Brooks, S., Dobbins, K., Scott, J. J., Rawlinson, M., & Norman, R. I. (2014). Learning about Learning Outcomes: The Student Perspective. Teaching in Higher Education, 19, 721-733.

Capel, S., Hayes, S., Katene, W. and Velija, P. (2011). The interaction of factors which influence secondary student physical education teachers’ knowledge and development as teachers. European Physical Education Review, 17, 183–201.

Forrest, G. (2015). Systematic assessment of game-centred approach practices – the game-centred approach Assessment Scaffold. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 20, 144-158.

Garrett, R. & Wrench, A. (2012). ‘Society has taught us to judge’: cultures of the body in teacher education. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 40, 111–126.

Herold, F. & Waring, M. (2009). Pre-service physical education teachers’ perceptions of subject knowledge: Augmenting learning to teach. European Physical Education Review, 15, 337–364.

Hussey, T., & Smith, P. (2008). Learning Outcomes: A Conceptual Analysis. Teaching in Higher Education, 13 (1), 107-115.

Johnson, T.G. (2013). The value of performance in Physical Education teacher education. Quest, 65, 485-497.

Loquet, M. & Ranganathan, M. (2010). Content knowledge in teaching, an investigation into an adequate ‘milieu’ for teaching dance: The case of Indian dance in France. European Physical Education Review, 16, 65–79.

MacDonald, D., Hunter, L., Carlson, T. & Penney, D. (2002). Teacher Knowledge and the Disjunction between School Curricula and Teacher Education. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 30, 259-275.

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. London: Sage Publications.

Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-21.

Siedentop, D. (2009). Content Knowledge for Physical Education. In R. Bailey & D. Kirk (Eds.), The Routledge Physical Education Reader (pp. 243-253). Abingdon: Routledge

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Australia, learning outcomes, Fenstermacher, Shulman, content knowledge
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education and Learning
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-22919OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-22919DiVA: diva2:955347
The European Conference on Educational Research, 23-26 August 2016, Dublin
Available from: 2016-08-25 Created: 2016-08-25 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved

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