Knowledge in everyday life
Knowledge in everyday life

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Knowledge in everyday life

1.4 Subject knowledge

Subject knowledge is a critical factor at every point in the teaching process: in planning, assessing and diagnosing, task setting, questioning, explaining and giving feedback.

(Alexander et al., 1992, paragraph 77)

Subject knowledge, which lies at the heart of this course, comes in different forms. One well-known typology (Shulman, 1986) identifies three kinds:

  • content knowledge;

  • curricular knowledge;

  • pedagogic subject knowledge.

Content knowledge, or personal subject knowledge, is what most people would perhaps think of simply as ‘knowledge’. It is the kind of knowledge that comes from textbooks and reference books, and is most commonly acquired through formal education. Teachers in primary and secondary schools are expected to have studied the subjects they teach to a high level. The subject knowledge books for this course attempt to set out the subject knowledge needed by a primary teacher, and they are used throughout the course to help you develop your own personal subject knowledge.

Curricular knowledge refers to what you know about the formally defined curriculum followed by your setting: for example, if you work in a nursery school in Scotland, the curricular knowledge you need will be found in A Curriculum Framework for Children 3 to 5 (SCCC, 1999) and in any supporting curriculum documents that may have been developed in your setting.

Pedagogical knowledge is the knowledge that practitioners have which helps them to teach and provide support as children develop their own personal subject knowledge. This may involve knowing particular ways of presenting knowledge so that children can relate it to what they already know; or it may be knowing common misconceptions that children may have, and how they can be led from these to more conventional understandings.


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