pp 1–12 | Cite as

Pedagogical content knowledge in preservice preschool teachers and its association with opportunities to learn during teacher training

  • Joke TorbeynsEmail author
  • Sandy Verbruggen
  • Fien Depaepe
Original Article


Teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) importantly contributes to instructional quality and student outcomes. We aimed to complement the limited insights into preservice preschool teachers’ PCK, and its association with opportunities to learn (OTL), during teacher training. We offered 162 first-to-final-year preservice preschool teachers from two different teacher training institutes in Flanders (Belgium) a recently developed scenario-based instrument addressing students’ understanding of preschoolers’ (mis)conceptions and appropriate instructional strategies in the domain of early mathematics. Our findings revealed quantitative differences between first-year students’ PCK on the one hand and second-year and third-year students’ PCK on the other hand. We did not observe any quantitative differences in PCK between second-year and third-year students. Additional analyses on students’ errors pointed to qualitative differences between first-, second- and third-year students’ PCK. We interpret these findings in view of students’ OTL during teacher training, and discuss their theoretical and methodological implications for future work in the domain of teacher competence.


Pedagogical content knowledge Preschool Early mathematics Scenario-based instrument Opportunities to learn Teacher training 



  1. Anders, Y., & Rossbach, H.-G. (2015). Preschool teachers’ sensitivity to mathematics in children’s play: The influence of math-related school experiences, emotional attitudes, and pedagogical beliefs. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 29(3), 305–322. Scholar
  2. Blömeke, S., Buchholtz, N., Suhl, U., & Kaiser, G. (2014a). Resolving the chicken-or-egg causality dilemma: The longitudinal interplay of teacher knowledge and teacher beliefs. Teaching and Teacher Education, 37, 30–39. Scholar
  3. Blömeke, S., Hsieh, F.-J., Kaiser, G., & Schmidt, W. H. (2014b). International perspectives on teacher knowledge, beliefs and opportunities to learn: TEDS-M results. Switzerland: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blömeke, S., Gustafsson, J.-E., & Shavelson, R. J. (2015). Beyond dichotomies: Competence viewed as a continuum. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 223, 3–13. Scholar
  5. Blömeke, S., Jenßen, L., Grassmann, M., Dunekacke, S., & Wedekind, H. (2017a). Process mediates structure: The relation between preschool teacher education and preschool teachers’ knowledge. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(3), 338–354. Scholar
  6. Blömeke, S., König, J., Busse, A., Döhrmann, M., & Hoth, J. (2017b). Professional competencies of (prospective) mathematics teachers—Cognitive versus situated approaches. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 94, 161–182. Scholar
  7. Cochran-Smith, M., & Zeichner, K. M. (2005). Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA panel on research and teacher education. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  8. Darling-Hammond, L., Holtzman, D. J., Gatlin, S. J., & Heilig, J. V. (2005). Does teacher preparation matter? Evidence about teacher certification, Teach for America, and teacher effectiveness. Education Policy Analysis Archives. Scholar
  9. Depaepe, F., Verschaffel, L., & Kelchtermans, G. (2013). Pedagogical content knowledge: a systematic review of the way in which the concept has pervaded mathematics educational research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 34, 12–25. Scholar
  10. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428–1446. Scholar
  11. Evens, M., Elen, J., & Depaepe, F. (2017). Effects of opportunities to learn in teacher education on the development of teachers’ professional knowledge of French as a foreign language. Journal of Advances in Education Research, 2(4), 265–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gasteiger, H., Bruns, J., Benz, C., Brunner, E., & Sprenger, P. (2019). Mathematical pedagogical content knowledge of early childhood teachers. A situation-related cognitive measurement approach. ZDM Mathematics Education Google Scholar
  13. Ginsburg, H. P., & Amit, M. (2008). What is teaching mathematics to young children? A theoretical perspective and case study. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 274–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grossman, P. L. (1990). The making of a teacher: Teacher knowledge and teacher education. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Kaiser, G., Busse, A., Hoth, J., König, J., & Blömeke, S. (2015). About the complexities of video-based assessments: Theoretical and methodological approaches to overcoming shortcomings of research on teachers’ competence. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13(2), 369–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kleickmann, T., Richter, D., Kunter, M., Elsner, J., Besser, M., Krauss, S., et al. (2013). Teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge: The role of structural differences in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 64, 90–106. Scholar
  18. Knievel, I., Lindmeier, A. M., & Heinze, A. (2015). Beyond knowledge: measuring primary teachers’ subject-specific competences in and for teaching mathematics with items based on video vignettes. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13, 309–329. Scholar
  19. Krauss, S., Bruckmaier, G., Lindl, A., Hilbert, S., Binder, K., Steib, N., & Blum, W. (2019). Competence as a continuum in the COACTIV-Study—“The cascade model”. ZDM Mathematics Education. Google Scholar
  20. Krauss, S., Brunner, M., Kunter, M., Baumert, J., Blum, W., Neubrand, M., et al. (2008). Pedagogical content knowledge and content knowledge of secondary mathematics teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 716–725. Scholar
  21. Lee, J. E. (2010). Exploring kindergarten teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge of mathematics. International Journal of Early Childhood, 42, 27–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lee, J. E. (2017). Preschool teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge in mathematics. International Journal of Early Childhood, 49(2), 229–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McCray, J. S. (2008). Pedagogical content knowledge for preschool mathematics: Teacher knowledge and math-related language contribute to children’s learning. Chicago: Erikson Institute.Google Scholar
  24. McCray, J. S., & Chen, J.-Q. (2012). Pedagogical content knowledge for preschool mathematics: construct validity of a new teacher interview. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 26, 291–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Oppermann, E., Anders, Y., & Hachfeld, A. (2016). The influence of preschool teachers’ content knowledge and mathematical ability beliefs on their sensitivity to mathematics in children’s play. Teaching and Teacher Education, 58, 174–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Qian, H., & Youngs, P. (2016). The effect of teacher education programs on future elementary mathematics teachers’ knowledge: a five-country analysis using TEDS-M data. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 19, 371–396. Scholar
  27. Schmidt, W. H., Cogan, L., & Houang, R. (2011). The role of opportunity to learn in teacher preparation: An international context. Journal of Teacher Education, 62, 138–153. Scholar
  28. Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Strawhecker, J. (2005). Preparing elementary teachers to teach mathematics: how field experiences impact pedagogical content knowledge. Issues in the Undergraduate Mathematics Preparation of School Teachers, 4, 1–12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KU Leuven, Center for Instructional Psychology and TechnologyLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations