From teaching physics to teaching children: beginning teachers learning from pupils

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This paper discusses the development of beginning physics teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in the context of teaching basic electricity during a one-year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education course (PGDE) and beyond. This longitudinal study used repeated semi-structured interviews over a period of four-and-a-half years. The interview schedule followed a line of development through the secondary school electrical syllabus in Scotland. Fifteen student teachers were interviewed during the PGDE year. Six of them were followed up at the end of the Induction Year (their first year as a newly qualified teacher), and again two-and-a-half years later. Thematic analysis of the interviews showed that before the beginning teachers had taught any classes, their initial focus was on how to transform their own subject matter knowledge (SMK) about electricity into forms that were accessible to pupils. As the beginning teachers gained experience working with classes, they gave vivid descriptions of interacting with particular pupils when teaching electricity which showed the development of their pedagogical knowledge. This played a significant role in the teachers' change of focus from teaching physics to teaching children as they transformed their SMK into forms that were accessible to pupils and developed their general pedagogical knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2727-2750
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number17
Early online date16 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • initial teacher education
  • science teacher education
  • beginning teachers
  • pedagogical content knowledge
  • electricity


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