Beginning Teachers’ Conceptual Understandings of Effective History Teaching: Examining the Change from “Subject Knowers” to “Subject Teachers”

From Section:
Beginning Teachers
Sep. 01, 2013

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 41, No. 2, 197–217, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to explore the change in preservice teachers’ conceptions of effective history teaching across a secondary history methods course in a postgraduate diploma of education program.

The participants were seven preservice teachers in a secondary education history course at a university in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. They completed the concept mapping activities as a requirement of the postgraduate diploma in education program. The data were obtained that indicate personal constructs of effective history teaching based around participants’ map structures, curriculum understandings, knowledge of subject matter, knowledge of learners, knowledge of pedagogies, and pedagogical content knowledge.


The findings reveal that three participants out of the seven clearly indicated conceptual change and professional growth. The concept maps constructed by these participants showed that conceptual understandings were established through the use of linking arrows with accompanying linking words – in a hierarchy of concepts linked to each other to form one knowledge domain. Although the concept maps constructed by these three participants possessed the same broad combinations of knowledge for pedagogical content knowledge, they differed in their personalised pedagogical content knowledge.
However, minimal or inconclusive conceptual change was shown in the concept maps constructed by the four other participants because of the unrealised ideas. Nevertheless, these four preservice teachers demonstrate potential for effective history teaching.


The authors argue that this study used concept mapping as a means to interpret the variations in knowledge growth of preservice teachers in a history methods course. Not all early career teachers of history will grasp the importance of pedagogical content knowledge at the completion of a methods course. However, the findings provide a methodological example of how the individual knowledge structures of preservice teachers can be examined, and provides insights about their developing conceptual and pedagogical understandings.

The authors conclude that concept maps have pedagogical and conceptual use as instruments for bringing insight within the reach of both author and teacher educator, assisting to them chart progress “from (being) subject matter knowers” to becoming “subject matter teachers”.

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019
Beginning teachers | Concept maps | History | Pedagogical content knowledge | Preservice teachers