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Shulman's Pedagogical Reasoning and Action Framework

Shulman's Pedagogical Reasoning and Action Framework

Author: Trisha Fyfe

This lesson explores the components of Shulman's Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework in the 21st century classroom.

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Source: Image of light bulb, Public Domain,

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Welcome to a tutorial today on Shulman's pedagogical reasoning and action framework. We'll be covering some really important ideas and concepts today. And these ideas and concepts will apply to your own teaching on a daily basis.

You will also see these ideas woven into future tutorials, so be on the lookout for those. The questions that we will learn about today and answer, through this tutorial, are as follows-- what is pedagogical content knowledge, according to Shulman? What are the observable classroom behaviors, and there are six of those. And what are the best practices for observable classroom behaviors?

So let's start with a framework developed by Lee Shulman. Shulman points to a need for teachers to understand the different domains of knowledge, both the PK, or pedagogical knowledge, and also the content knowledge, or the CK. So we need to understand the PK, the best practices and tools for teaching, and also the ck, the deep understanding of what content you're teaching-- deep enough to make connections and transfer learning within that content area. Where the domains need in the middle, Shulman states, is where we must strive to be as educators.

And this is the PCK, or pedagogical content knowledge, 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. And this is what Shulman describes this domain of knowledge, or connection between the domains of knowledge, as. Not only do we need to understand and apply the ideas of content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge-- or PCK-- we really need to understand and apply Shulman's observable classroom behaviors.

And there's a checklist that Shulman has developed, containing six elements. So let's take a few minutes to go through the six observable classroom behaviors, according to Shulman. First is comprehension for understanding. And this is where we, as teachers, want to look at the subject matter and our purpose for the lesson, our specific goals and examples, and what kind of background knowledge our students already have about this information and content.

Next, we want to look at the transformation of ideas. We want to take a look at our group of students and see what our materials and our procedures are going to be, and if these need any adaptations for our group of students. We also want to look at the representations of ideas. The third observable classroom behavior is instruction. And it's here that, as teachers, we'll look at our actual teaching acts and strategies, and we'll make sure that those are very purposeful and intentional throughout the entire process.

The fourth observable classroom behavior is evaluation. It's here that we'll check for understanding or misunderstanding throughout the entire process of our lesson, from beginning to our end. Reflection is the next behavior that we will observe in our classroom in this checklist. And this is where we critically analyze, or we reconstruct anything that needs to be adapted or changed.

The last classroom behavior in Shulman's list of observable classroom behaviors is new comprehension. And it's here that we'll take our reflections and what we have learned, and we'll develop a deeper understanding, not only of our students and what their needs are but also of the content area that we are teaching and instructing. So let's apply these observable classroom behaviors of Shulman's to your very own classroom and teaching.

Let's talk about comprehension for understanding, and the best practices for that as an instructor. When observing comprehension for understanding, you will clearly define goals. You'll review and remind. You'll make sure your students have that background knowledge, and are reminding them of the lessons that you've taught to build to this point in their knowledge.

You'll assess their prior learning. You'll identify goals of the new content with them, and make sure that things are very clear and concise. When observing transformation ideas, some best practices would include giving examples, making connections and making ideas relatable. It's here that you really want to make sure that you're using appropriate tools and materials-- things that are meeting your students needs.

When observing instruction, best practices would include selecting purposely based on content and objectives. It's here that you want to be very intentional, as a teacher, and make good decisions based on the pedagogical knowledge that you have, as well as the content knowledge that you have in your instruction. Let's look at evaluation now.

When observing evaluation, you want to check for understanding, and make sure you have that throughout your lesson-- beginning, middle, throughout, and at the end of your lesson, such as formative assessments for your students. When observing reflection, some best practices would include reviewing, reconstructing, reenacting, and analyzing all that you've reviewed and reflected upon. And when looking at best practices for new comprehension, you want to use those reflection processes to create a new understanding. You want to take what you've learned as a teacher, and now use that in a purposeful manner in your creating new lessons or your going back and reviewing ideas.

So let's review all that we've cover today throughout this tutorial. We discussed Shulman's idea of pedagogical content knowledge. We also looked at the observable classroom behaviors, according to Shulman. We attempted to concrete those ideas by applying them to best practices for observable classroom behaviors.

I've truly enjoyed discussing these ideas with you today. I hope you'll use these tools and connections in your very own classrooms. Let's reflect on these ideas.

Can you think of best practices that you can incorporate into your teaching? What are the benefits to applying the concept of pedagogical content knowledge, or PCK, to your own lessons? To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out those additional resources associated with the video. This is where you'll find links targeted towards helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on "Shulman's Pedagogical Reasoning and Action Framework"


(00:00- 00:38) Introduction/objectives

(00:39- 02:00) Shulman's Framework

(02:01- 04:16) What are Classroom Observable Behaviors?

(04:17- 05:41) What are Best Practices?

(05:42- 06:44) Review

Additional Resources

A Framework for Learning to Teach

This article ASCD article by Charlotte Danielson is a straightforward intersection between Shulman's framework and strong teaching and learning in the classroom as defined by Charlotte Danielson's Teacher Evaluation Framework.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

This article by Matthew Koehler connects the work of Shulman to the TPACK Model. Koehler indicates that although Shulman does not include technology in his theories, it is the intersection of content and pedagogy that technology should support as a tool.