Knowledge Growth in Teaching Mathematics/Science with Spreadsheets: Moving PCK to TPACK through Online Professional Development

Winter, 2010

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27(2), 42–52. (Winter, 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explored the impact of an online course on teacher participants’ developing knowledge for integrating dynamic spreadsheets in teaching at the elementary and middle school levels. The following questions framed the extension of PCK to TPACK.
What is the impact of this online course about integrating dynamic spreadsheets as learning tools in science and mathematics on the teachers’ TPACK?

Specifically, what is the impact on teachers’:
.1. Overarching conceptions of what it means to teach the mathematics and science with spreadsheets
2. Knowledge of instructional strategies and representations for teaching particular mathematics and science topics with spreadsheets
3. Knowledge of students’ understandings, thinking, and learning in mathematics and science with spreadsheets
4. Knowledge of curriculum and curriculum materials with learning mathematics and science with spreadsheets?

Context of the Study
The researchers conducted this study within the context of a Title IIB Mathematics Science Partnership (MSP) that developed a 3-year online master’s degree program focused on the integration of technology with science and mathematics teaching and learning. The design of the program addressed teachers’ development of TPACK as an extension of their PCK. Twelve K–8 teachers from a broad geographical region participated in a program framed around the four TPACK components (Niess, 2005).

With the lens of four TPACK components (Niess, 2005), the analysis describes teachers’ development from recognizing to accepting, adapting, and exploring TPACK levels.


A cross-case analysis revealed that all 12 teachers valued opportunities to experiment with spreadsheets, during which they learned about the spreadsheets and how they could use spreadsheets to support connections with mathematics and science topics.
They indicated that their experiences were fundamental to considering whether spreadsheets were useful in learning science and mathematics.
Teachers at different TPACK levels held different overarching conceptions about teaching mathematics and science with spreadsheets.

Teachers displayed differences in their knowledge of instructional strategies and representations for teaching topics with spreadsheets.

Teachers held differing views on students’ understandings, thinking, and learning with spreadsheets.
The teachers demonstrated different knowledge of the curriculum and curriculum materials in learning with spreadsheets.


As this study demonstrated, online programs have potential for providing opportunities and access for teachers to expand their knowledge for teaching their content with multiple technologies and thus extend teachers’ PCK to TPACK, a more robust knowledge for teaching in the 21st century.

Niess, M. L. (2005). Preparing teachers to teach science and mathematics with technology: Developing a technology pedagogical content knowledge. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(5), 509–523.

Updated: Aug. 23, 2011