Pre-service teachers' development of topic specific PCK in kinematics and transferability of PCK competence to a new physics topic

Akinyemi, Olutosin Solomon
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There have been indications of inadequate content knowledge of South African physical science teachers and poor pedagogical content knowledge in making the concepts accessible to students. With this, the pre-service teachers are considered a part of the science education foremost links to schools and young science learners. Empirically, it has been reported that this unique teacher knowledge could be developed particularly in pre-service teachers in a planning context and that the new technique of developing pre-service teachers’ PCK within a topic helps in their good mastery of teaching concepts and thus making them specialists in topics. The Topic Specific PCK (TSPCK) construct focuses on the transformation of the understanding of content of a particular topic. This study investigated the extent to which focus on kinematics improves pre-service teachers’ PCK in the topic and possible transferability of the learnt pedagogical competence to a new physics topic – electric circuits. Guiding this study were two research questions: What is the impact of the intervention on the quality of pre-service teachers’ Topic Specific PCK in Kinematics? To what extent is the preservice teachers’ learnt pedagogical transformation competence transferrable to their planning of a new topic in physics topic – Electric circuits? This study used mixed methods to investigate TSPCK in pre-service teachers. It was located in the methodology class of Twenty-three (23) 4th year physical science majors. The study included an intervention where the theoretical framework for TSPCK was used to introduce the construct in Kinematics. The intervention explains each of the five components of Topic Specific PCK using the knowledge concepts of Kinematics. Data were collected using three instruments: an instrument measuring content knowledge in kinematics; an instrument measuring the quality of Topic Specific PCK in kinematics administered as a set of pre/post intervention tests; and an instrument measuring transferability of learnt competence in planning for teaching a new topic electricity. The pre-service teachers’ written responses to the TSPCK kinematics tool were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. Both methods of analysis revealed that the pre-service teachers improved in their quality of TSPCK in kinematics following the intervention. It was also found out that the pre-service teachers’ improvement in the quality of TSPCK in kinematics was as result of rigorous engagement with the TSPCK components at varying degrees. Similarly, on the topic of transfer, electricity which was not discussed during the intervention, TSPCK tool in electric circuits was administered to the pre-service teachers and few records of their actual classroom teaching were analyzed. This was done to examine possible transferability of learnt pedagogical transformation competence to the new physics topic of electricity. The findings revealed that the pre-service teachers had ‘developing level’ of TSPCK in the topic of transfer similar to the finding in the topic of kinematics. The study demonstrated that focus on a single topic in a methodology course will enable transfer to another topic provided the teachers have the pre-requisite content knowledge. The findings of this study would contribute to the training of the Physical science student teachers and specifically improve their planning of other physics topics to enhance effective teaching and learning process.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Science, School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, in partial fulfilment of the award of Master of Science (MSc.) in Science Education May, 2016
Akinyemi, Olutosin Solomon (2016) Pre-service teachers' development of topic specific PCK in kinematics and transferability of PCK competence to a new physics topic, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>