The Many Faces of TPACK/Science Teacher Education

TPACK in Science Teacher EducationEdit

by Gamze Çetinkaya

"It is becoming increasingly clear that merely introducing technology to the educational process is not enough to ensure technology integration since technology alone does not lead to change" (Koehler, & Mishra, 2005).

Integration of technology into education (in all fields) has gained a great importance in recent years and science education is no exception; educational technologies can be effective to support teaching and learning practices not only in science education but also in science teacher education programs. In earlier years, the focus was on technology skills ignoring the pedagogy and content aspects; but then, educators recognized that knowledge of technology does not guarantee its effective use in promoting students' learning and the focus shifted to meaningful integration of technology into teaching (Graham, Burgoyne, Cantrell, Smith, Clair, & Harris, 2009). Specifically, in the case of science education, the effective use of technological tools might help students engage in scientific inquiry, construct their own knowledge, work as scientists, and improve their problem solving skills (Guzey, & Roehrig, 2009; Trowbridge, Bybee, & Powell, 2008). With an effective combination of technology, pedagogy and content knowledge, the process of learning and teaching might be improved.

Why do we need "T"?Edit

The term pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), first introduced by Shulman (1987), refers to teachers’ ability to combine their pedagogical knowledge (knowledge about teaching methods, student characteristics, classroom management strategies, curriculum, evaluation etc.) with subject knowledge (what they know about the topic/content) to facilitate students’ learning. For an efficient science teaching, pedagogical knowledge level of the teachers is as much important as their content knowledge; however, knowing them separately does not mean anything. The teachers should also be able to combine these knowledge areas and develop their pedagogical content knowledge (Van Driel, Verloop, & De Wos, 1998). Most of the studies conducted related to PCK of science teachers revealed that teachers have difficulties in merging pedagogy and content knowledge and presenting the content in an effective and meaningful way. For this reason, PCK studies have gained great importance and several studies have been conducted to find effective ways of developing science teachers' PCK.

In 2005, Koehler and Mishra took Shulman's PCK model and carried it one step further by adding the technology (T) component. According to this new model, named as technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), "good teaching is not simply adding technology to the existing teaching and content domain; rather, the introduction of technology causes the representation of new concepts and requires developing a sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between all three components suggested by the TPACK framework" (Koehler, & Mishra, 2005, p. 134).

In terms of science education, McCrory (2008, p. 195) claimed that knowledge of, science, students, pedagogy, and technology work together “in knowing where [in the curriculum] to use technology, what technology to use, and how to teach with it”. She also identified some example practices that explained why adding the technology component to pedagogical practices is necessary and effective which are:

  1. Speeding up time via simulations of natural events (e.g., geological animations)
  2. Saving time through data collection devices and/or recording data that would otherwise be hard to gather (e.g., digital probes)
  3. Seeing things that could not otherwise be seen (e.g., digital microscopes)
  4. Organizing data that would otherwise be hard to organize (e.g., spreadsheets, graphical visualization models) (McCrory, 2008).

Similarly, Jimoyiannis (2010) emphasized the importance of technology integration into science education and pointed out that there are various efficient educational technologies available for science education (e.g. simulations, modeling tools, web resources, spreadsheets, computer-based laboratories etc.) which might provide great improvements in the teaching practices. He further argued that "information and communication technology (ICT) integration in science education should not aim at a simple improvement of the traditional instruction; rather it is associated to fundamental changes in the learning process while the teaching profession is evolving from an emphasis on teacher-centered instruction to student-centered learning environments" (Jimoyiannis, 2010, p. 1261). This means that technology integration into science education is not just a different way of presenting information; technology, pedagogy and content should be combined in such a way that students become active learners engaged in appropriate learning activities. Technology should be used as a tool for improving the learning process; not a tool to carry out direct instruction with reading materials presented online.

What does research say?Edit

As technology have developed rapidly in the recent years and influenced all parts of life, its importance in education has also increased rapidly. For this reason, several studies have been conducted to investigate the most effective ways of integrating technology into education and improving teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge. In this section, firstly, a general summary of the selected articles were given and then some of these articles were explained in more detail.

General Summary of the Research ArticlesEdit

In this section, seven research articles were reviewed conducted in the field of science education (See literature table). In all of these articles a professional development program was implemented to improve science teachers' TPACK which is the most common way of research used in science education. However, they were different from each other by their context, participants, data collection and results. Moreover, some of these research articles were following a transformative approach assuming that TPACK is a new kind of knowledge, not a sum of its parts and some were following an integrative approach assuming that TPACK is a combination of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (Graham, 2011). In the following sections, contex, participants, data collection methods, approaches and results of these studies were summarized compared.


In terms of context, five of the studies were designed as professional development program, one of them was designed as a course in a teacher education program and one of them was organized as a graduate level teacher education program. In all of the studies, participants were introduced with new technological tools and informed about how to integrate them with pedagogy and content. After that, they were prepared and attended science lessons with technology integration. Moreover, there were also group discussions, online forums and communities for participants to share information with each other and get feedback from the experts. There were also observations of their peers'/colleagues' or experts' science lessons with technology integration.

The science content was not unit-specific/pre-determined in these studies except the studies of Allan, Erickson, Brookhouse, and Johnson (2010) and Graham, Burgoyne, Cantrell, Smith, St Clair, and Harris (2009); their studies were focused on teaching ecology and biology/earth science concepts with technology integration. Moreover, the grade level for which the participants prepared lessons plans with technology integration were varying across and within the studies from middle school to high school.


The participants of these studies were mostly teachers; however, their experience level was different from each other between and within the studies. In addition, the study of Graham (2011) was conducted with pre-service teachers as part of "Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Science and Technology" course in a teacher education program and the study of was Jimoyiannis (2010) was conducted with teacher trainers from five different universities in Greece. Moreover, participants' field of education varied between elementary science, physics, chemistry and biology. There were not any elementary or high school students as participants in these studies.

Data Collection

Data collection tools was very diverse in these studies including written assignments, reflective journals, interviews, video-recordings, surveys, lesson plans, and questionnaires. In most of the studies, various data collection tools were used for triangulation and obtaining rich data about participants after attending TPACK development programs.


In all of the studies, it was claimed that after attending a program or course related to technology integration into science education, all participants performed better and expressed that these kinds of development programs were effective in improving their technology integrating skills. Based on the results of these studies, it was generally concluded that teachers' need professional help, collaboration with colleagues and continuous feedback to be able to develop their TPACK.

Detailed Summary of the Selected ArticlesEdit

Jang and Chen (2009) developed a transformative model of integrating technology and peer coaching and investigated its impact on developing technological pedagogical and content knowledge of pre-service science teachers (PSTs). The ‘‘Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Science and Technology’’ course was re-designed according to a four-stage process of the transformative model. These four stages are:: (1) TPACK Comprehension, including the main activity for understanding PCK and TPACK concepts; (2) TPACK Observation, observing two experienced science teachers' demonstration of integrating technology into their teaching; (3) TPACK Practice, preparing lesson plans by integrating computer activities with appropriate pedagogies to teach whole class for 30 minutes; (4) TPACK Reflection, watching videotapes of their teaching with their teachers, sharing experiences with their peers and writing in journals. The data was collected from 12 PSTs through written assignments, reflective journals, online discussions, homework, online information, video recordings, and interviews. The results of the study were summarized as "(1) PSTs realized that it was difficult to implement traditional instructional strategy on some abstract units; thus, they would tend to incorporate powerful pedagogy; (2) observing experienced science teachers helped PSTs imitate and apply instructional strategies, films and animations in their teaching; (3) this model offered PSTs practical opportunities to select and transform technology tools with science pedagogy in lesson design; (4) PSTs reflected that they had learned TPACK and how to integrate technologies with teaching" (Jang, & Chen, 2009, pp. 559-561) . At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that the model was successful in developing PSTs' TPACK in particular topics of subject matter.

In another study, Allan, Erickson, Brookhouse, and Johnson (2010) designed a project with collaboration of simulation software developers, middle school science teachers, the Maine laptop program (every seventh and eighth grade teacher and student had a laptop across the state of Maine), environmental educators, an external evaluator and a lead organization experienced in teacher guided curriculum development. The EcoScienceWorks (ESW) Project was designed “to provide teacher professional development as an outgrowth of teachers becoming involved in the project’s tasks – specifically to write a curriculum that integrated the computer simulations into their teaching” (Allan et. Al., 2010, p. 37). The data was collected from twenty-three Maine middle school science teachers through observations, recordings, interviews and surveys for a three years period. The results of the data analysis revealed that (1) the ESW project improved teachers’ ability to integrate simulation software in their teaching and learning; (2) teachers’ extended their use of spreadsheets in their teaching and learning effectively; (3) teachers improved their ability to increase student understanding of computer simulations and programming; (4) teachers competency feelings of being prepared for teaching ecology concepts increased significantly; (5) The ESW project had positively influenced teachers intent to continue using computer simulations to teach ecology. Based on these findings, researchers concluded that teachers improved their content, pedagogy and technology knowledge and this project might be an effective model to develop teachers’ TPACK skills.

Another inspiring study was conducted by Jimoyiannis (2010) in Greece; by developing a science teacher education program based on components of TPACK framework it was aimed to improve ICT integration into classrooms. The coursework of the program was 350 hours in total; 170 hours for general theory modules (pedagogy, learning theories, ICT in education, ICT tools, and teacher training methods) and 180 hours for ICT in science education (science education principles, educational software and tools for science education, subject matter learning scenarios and students’ learning activities, development of novel-original learning scenarios and learning activities by the teachers). Data were collected from four science teachers at the end of the program through interviews. The results of the study revealed that participants developed a meaningful understanding of TPACK framework in science education, increased willingness to apply ICT in their classrooms and improved their ability to integrate ICT into science content and curriculum. Moreover, teachers’ difficulties to integrate ICT were identified as: (1) the need to cover an extended content set by the science curriculum and the textbooks; (2) the restrictions posed into instructional practices by the science textbooks; (3) the need to prepare students for the final exams; (4) the lack of time to prepare learning activities focused on their students’ needs; (5) the inherent school resistance to changes, which forces most of the teachers to conform their instruction to the established school culture and practice (Jimoyiannis, 2010, p. 605).

Besides the aforementioned studies explained in detail, Niess (2005) also investigated TPCK of pre-service science and mathematics teachers in a teacher preparation program that integrated teaching and learning with technology and concluded that pre-service teachers’ view of the integration of technology and the nature of the discipline was an important aspect of the TPCK development. In another study, Graham et. al. (2009) tried to contribute to the understanding of how to measure TPACK in science instruction and assess the change in TPACK confidence of participants in a professional development program. The results revealed that program helped PSTs increase their TPACK confidence but more should be done to help them improve their technological content knowledge (TCK) confidence related to content-specific technologies. Similarly, Guzey and Roehrig (2009) investigated the influences of a professional development program focusing on supporting science as inquiry teaching. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the program was effective in promoting the development of science teachers’ TPACK and the school context and teachers’ reasoning skills were important factors influencing the development of TPACK.

Implications and SuggestionsEdit

The research summary reveals that the trend in TPACK research in science education is generally developing a professional development or training program to help science teachers develop TPACK for science education. All of these studies might have unique and significant contributions into science teacher education programs. Their results showed that with active engagement, continuous feedback, guidance and participation science teachers could develop their TPACK. These studies might serve as a guide to reorganize and improve our science teacher education programs.

However, much more future research is needed to identify how to improve science teacher education programs in a way that pre-service science teachers develop TPACK as they become a science teacher. Moreover, comparison studies between beginning and experienced teachers or the use of different technologies might also be conducted for this purpose. In addition, long-term studies and follow-up studies are needed to see the permanency of the development of TPACK.

Lastly, the impact of technology integration on students' achievement, motivation, attitude etc. was missing in all of the studies discussed in this chapter. Several future research are needed that does not ignore the student component of technology integration into science education.


  1. Allan, W. C., Erickson, J. L., Brookhouse, P., & Johnson, J. L. (2010). Teacher professional development through a collaborative curriculum project—an example of TPACK in Maine. TechTrends, 54(6), 36-43.
  2. Graham, C. R. (2011). Theoretical considerations for understanding technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK). Computers & Education, 57(3), 1953-1960.
  3. Graham, R. C., Burgoyne, N., Cantrell, P., Smith, L., St Clair, L., & Harris, R. (2009). Measuring the TPACK confidence of inservice science teachers. TechTrends, 53(5), 70-79.
  4. Guzey, S. S., & Roehrig, G. H. (2009). Teaching science with technology: Case studies of science teachers’ development of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 25-45.
  5. Jang, S. J., & Chen, K. C. (2010). From PCK to TPACK: Developing a transformative model for pre-service science teachers. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 19(6), 553-564.
  6. Jimoyiannis, A. (2010). Designing and implementing an integrated technological pedagogical science knowledge framework for science teachers professional development. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1259-1269.
  7. Jimoyiannis, A. (2010). Developing a Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework for Science Education: Implications of a Teacher Trainers’ Preparation Program. In Proceedings of Informing Science & IT Education Conference (InSITE.). Retrieved on (Vol. 2, No. 03, p. 2011).
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  9. McCrory, R. (2008). Science, technology, and teaching: The topic-specific challenges of TPCK in science. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed.), Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) for Educators (pp. 193-206). New York: Published by Routledge for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
  10. Niess, M. L. (2005). Preparing teachers to teach science and mathematics with technology: Developing a technology pedagogical content knowledge. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(5), 509-523.
  11. Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the New Reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.
  12. Trowbridge, L. W., Bybee, R. W., & Powell, J. C. (2008). Teaching secondary school science: Strategies for developing scientific literacy (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  13. Van Driel, J. H., Verloop, N., & De Vos, W. (1998). Developing science teachers' pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(6), 673-695.