Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 64(1), p. 90-106. 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article aims at investigating the impact of structural differences in teacher education on teachers’ CK and PCK.
Therefore, the authors conducted a cross-sectional comparison with German pre- and inservice mathematics teachers at different points in their teaching careers.
The authors compared the PCK and CK of four groups of mathematics teachers at different points in their teaching careers in Germany: (a) Year 1 teacher education students, (b) Year 3 teacher education students, (c) teacher candidates at the end of the induction phase (“student teachers”), and (d) experienced inservice teachers.
All samples derive from the Cognitive Activation in the Classroom (COACTIV) research program conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin.
The authors used paper-and-pencil tests to assess (prospective) teachers’ mathematical CK and PCK.
This study investigated the role of teacher education in the development of this specific knowledge in mathematics teachers.
The authors sought to assess teacher knowledge proximally by means of knowledge tests.
They analyzed whether the tests used in this study allowed the constructs of CK and PCK to be measured invariantly across teacher groups.
As hypothesized, the first phase of teacher education seems to play a particularly important role in the development of CK.
However, considerable differences were already apparent in the mathematical CK of prospective academic-and-nonacademic-track teachers at the beginning of their university studies.
As hypothesized, learning opportunities in the pretraining phase contribute to this difference.
Moreover, the results indicate strong differential development of CK during initial teacher education.
Future academic-track teachers showed higher increases in CK from Year 1 to Year 3 of university education as well as from Year 3 to the induction phase than did future nonacademic-track teachers.
At the end of teacher education, the differences between teachers of the academic and nonacademic tracks were particularly large.
Experienced inservice teachers showed lower (nonacademic track) or almost the same (academic track) CK scores as the respective preservice teachers at their end of teacher education.
Thus, the inservice phase does not seem to contribute to substantial further development of CK after initial teacher education.
As hypothesized, the first and the second phases of teacher education seem to play an important role in the development of PCK.
In contrast to the findings for CK, academic- and nonacademic-track teachers did not differ greatly in terms of differences in PCK scores from Year 1 to Year 3 of university education or from Year 3 to the induction phase.
However, at the end of teacher education, the difference between the two groups was almost half a standard deviation, in favor of future academic-track teachers.
In contrast to the findings for CK, inservice academic-track teachers scored higher on PCK than did future academic-track teachers at the end of their initial teacher education.
In this group of teachers, the inservice phase seems to contribute to the further, but quite weak, development of PCK after initial teacher education.
As assumed, in addition to the effect of the quantity of learning opportunities, PCK development may be affected by the individually available CK.
Consequently, academic-track teachers might show similar development of PCK during the university phase, although they receive less learning opportunities compared with the prospective nonacademic-track teachers.
Thus, these findings may again point to the importance of CK in the development of PCK.
The future academic-track teachers, who have much more formal learning opportunities for CK in the first phase of teacher education, showed considerably higher gains in CK from Year 1 to Year 3 than did future nonacademic-track teachers.
Furthermore, the inservice phase, which involves primarily informal learning, does not seem to foster the development of CK and PCK as strongly as the formal and nonformal learning opportunities provided by initial teacher education programs.
These results suggest that participation in traditional formal professional development during the inservice phase fosters the development of CK and PCK weakly, at best.
During the university phase of teacher education, prospective academic- and nonacademic-track teachers showed similar differences in PCK from Year 1 to Year 3, although the latter have more formal learning opportunities for the development of PCK during their university studies.
The authors interpreted this finding as a further point to the importance of CK in the development of PCK.
Higher CK may lead to increased uptake of learning opportunities to acquire PCK, thus compensating effects of the quantity of learning opportunities.
Overall, the findings are very much in line with the authors' hypotheses.
The findings for PCK are consistent with the particularly low performance of Germany’s non-academic-track students on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study and PISA assessments—assuming that teachers’ PCK is a crucial prerequisite for student learning.
These findings highlight the urgent need to improve the preparation of future nonacademic-track teachers with respect to subject-matter knowledge (CK and PCK).
Moreover, candidates for the academic track already enter teacher education with better subject-matter knowledge, and our findings suggest that these differences persist or even increase across the teaching career.
Thus, in addition to improving teacher education, changes in recruitment and selection processes for teacher candidates could help to raise the quality of instruction and student progress in nonacademic-track schools.