Thompson, Ron and Hanley, Pam (2017) Teacher knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy in technical and vocational education. In: Journal of Vocational Education and Training Conference (JVET 2017), 7th-9th July 2017, Oxford, UK. (Unpublished)

This paper provides a critical analysis of conceptualisations of subject-specific pedagogy and their application to technical and vocational education, with particular reference to the English FE and Skills sector. Drawing on international literature on teachers’ pedagogical knowledge in different phases of education, the paper argues that there is currently no satisfactory account of subject-specific pedagogy or of the knowledge that technical and vocational teachers use in making pedagogical decisions. However, it proposes that a re-interpretation of Lee Shulman’s pedagogical content knowledge within sociocultural learning theory can provide a basis for a better understanding.
The paper begins by reviewing briefly the context of subject-specific pedagogy in the English FE sector, where it has been a contested issue for over a decade. Although this debate has intrinsic academic interest, it has also been driven by external pressures from policymakers and inspection regimes based on regressive understandings of teacher knowledge. In recent years, the debate has been modified to some extent by emerging notions of vocational pedagogy and a tendency to privilege the immediate needs of employers over wider educational considerations. The paper continues by reviewing more fundamental issues related to subject-specific pedagogy, including critiques of disciplinary knowledge in general, which argue that such knowledge has decreasing relevance and authority; evidence that the formal acquisition of codified pedagogical knowledge plays a relatively limited role in the professional development of FE teachers; and a lack of more extensive empirical research on FE teachers and their subject-specific pedagogy. It then discusses the strengths and limitations of two key ideas: pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and the multi-layered notion of recontextualisation. Although PCK has been extensively critiqued, the paper argues that it offers access to an extensive research tradition and valuable insights into the meaning of subject-specific pedagogy. However, interpretations of PCK which delocate it from a social and cultural context would be inadequate, particularly in the context of technical and vocational education. Two elaborations of PCK are required: firstly, to take into account the need for teachers and learners to recontextualise knowledge – both from the college to the workplace and vice versa – and secondly, to recognise that teachers’ professional learning is itself socially located, taking place in specific cultural and historical contexts and affected by hierarchies of power and status at local and societal levels. The paper concludes by proposing a model of subject-specific pedagogy as situated reasoning about teaching decisions.

Thompson & Hanley JVET Conference 7 July 2017 .pdf - Presentation

Download (451kB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email