Strong Discipline Knowledge Cuts Both Ways for Novice Mathematics and Science Teachers

  • Allyson Hallman-Thrasher
  • Jeff Connor
  • Derek Sturgill


This paper presents the findings of a group of teacher candidates with undergraduate degrees in a STEM discipline who were followed through an intensive 1-year preparation program and their 1st year of teaching. We report on the affordances and challenges participants’ discipline knowledge presented to developing pedagogical content knowledge during their student teaching experience and their 1st year of teaching. The participants were interviewed at 3 different times: the start of their teacher preparation program, the end of a year-long clinical teaching experience, and the end of their 1st year of teaching. Their mentor teachers were interviewed at the end of the participants’ year of student teaching. Each semi-structured interview included questions regarding the participants’ discipline backgrounds and transition to teaching. The interviews were coded and analyzed to identify emergent themes. We found that having mathematics or science discipline knowledge allowed for several affordances: participants could focus on teaching, readily provide alternative explanations, and incorporate additional resources into lessons. A challenge of their discipline knowledge, possibly exacerbated by biased views of their disciplines, was making content accessible to students. We consider these findings in light of a framework we have developed for mathematics and science teacher pedagogical content knowledge. We suggest teacher preparation programs for teacher candidates with mathematics and science undergraduate degrees need not only devote specialized attention to connecting that content knowledge to teaching but also engage these prospective teachers in situations that purposefully make evident to them the need to attend to student thinking.


Pedagogical content knowledge Preservice teacher education STEM Teacher knowledge 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This material is based upon work supported by the Ohio University Baker Fund and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Organization. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ohio University or the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Organization.

Supplementary material

10763_2017_9871_MOESM1_ESM.docx (55 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 54 kb)


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Copyright information

© Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teacher Education and Department of MathematicsOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of Teacher EducationOhio UniversityAthensUSA

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