Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Subject Matter Knowledge AND Pedagogy

Dan Willingham just has a way of keeping things simple.  His latest post is pretty fascinating and he opens up with the statement that hits home - why hasn't this been studied before.

In teacher preparation, we all seem to know that subject matter knowledge and pedagogy both matter - but every once in a while, one creeps ahead of the other.  In his post on "What Science Teachers Need to Know" the conclusion is this (bolded for effect on the last line):

"In fact, low-achieving students learned nothing about a concept if teachers didn't know the concept themselves. High-achieving students did. The researchers speculate they may have learned the content from a textbook or other source.

For the strong misconception items, the low-achieving students learned very little, whatever the teacher knowledge. For high-achieving students, knowledge mattered, and they were most likely to learn when their teacher had both subject-matter knowledge and knew the misconceptions their students likely held (KoSM in the graph).

So the overall message is not that surprising. Students learn more when their teachers know the content, and when they can anticipate student misconceptions."

As we continue to look for ways to close the achievement gap - we have to have subject matter experts who can anticipate problems their students will have and are armed with the strategies to help their students overcome those problems. Simple huh?