Research in Science Education

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 29–70 | Cite as

Using Multiple Lenses to Examine the Development of Beginning Biology Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Teaching Natural Selection Simulations

  • Aaron J. Sickel
  • Patricia Friedrichsen


Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) has become a useful construct to examine science teacher learning. Yet, researchers conceptualize PCK development in different ways. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to use three analytic lenses to understand the development of three beginning biology teachers’ PCK for teaching natural selection simulations. We observed three early-career biology teachers as they taught natural selection in their respective school contexts over two consecutive years. Data consisted of six interviews with each participant. Using the PCK model developed by Magnusson et al. (1999), we examined topic-specific PCK development utilizing three different lenses: (1) expansion of knowledge within an individual knowledge base, (2) integration of knowledge across knowledge bases, and (3) knowledge that explicitly addressed core concepts of natural selection. We found commonalities across the participants, yet each lens was also useful to understand the influence of different factors (e.g., orientation, subject matter preparation, and the idiosyncratic nature of teacher knowledge) on PCK development. This multi-angle approach provides implications for considering the quality of beginning science teachers’ knowledge and future research on PCK development. We conclude with an argument that explicitly communicating lenses used to understand PCK development will help the research community compare analytic approaches and better understand the nature of science teacher learning.


Pedagogical content knowledge Biology Beginning teacher development 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Jamie Sickel for her incredibly helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this article, which greatly improved their clarity of thinking and communication of ideas.


  1. Abell, S. K. (2007). Research on science teacher knowledge. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 1105–1149). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, P. E., & Krockover, G. H. (1997). Beginning science teacher cognition and its origins in the preservice secondary science teach program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34, 633–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Avraamidou, L., & Zembal-Saul, C. (2010). In search of well-started beginning science teachers: insights from two first-year elementary teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47, 661–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aydin, S., Demirdogen, B., Nur Akin, F., Uzuntiryaki-Kondakci, E., & Tarkin, A. (2015). The nature and development of interaction among components of pedagogical content knowledge in practicum. Teaching and Teacher Education, 46, 37–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aydin, S., Friedrichsen, P. M., Boz, Y., & Hanuscin, D. L. (2014). Examination of the topic-specific nature of pedagogical content knowledge in teaching electrochemical cells and nuclear reactions. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 15, 658–674.Google Scholar
  6. Aydin, S., Demirdogen, B., Tarkin, A., Kutucu, S., Ekiz, B., Akin, F., et al. (2013). Providing a set of research-based practices to support preservice teachers’ long-term professional development as learners of science teaching. Science Education, 97, 903–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkman, M. B., & Plutzer, E. (2011). Defending evolution in the courtroom, but not in the classroom. Science, 331, 404–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Betram, A., & Loughran, J. (2012). Science teachers’ views on CoRes and PaP-eRs as a framework for articulating and developing pedagogical content knowledge. Research in Science Education, 42, 1027–1047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beyer, C. J., & Davis, E. A. (2012). Learning to critique and adapt science curriculum materials: examining the development of preservice elementary teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. Science Education, 96, 130–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boz, N., & Boz, Y. (2008). A qualitative case study of prospective chemistry teachers’ knowledge about instructional strategies: introducing particulate theory. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 19, 135–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, P., Friedrichsen, P., & Abell, S. (2013). The development of prospective secondary biology teachers’ PCK. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24(1), 133–155.Google Scholar
  12. Bybee, R. W., Taylor, J. A., Gardner, A., Van Scotter, P., Powell, J. C., Westbrook, A., & Landes, N. (2006). The BSCS 5E instructional model: Origins, effectiveness, and applications. Retrieved from
  13. Clermont, C. P., Borko, H., & Krajcik, J. S. (1994). Comparative study of the pedagogical content knowledge of experienced and novice chemical demonstrators. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 419–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. (2015). The CAEP standards. Retrieved from
  15. Davis, E. A., Petish, D., & Smithey, J. (2006). Challenges new science teachers face. Review of Educational Research, 76, 607–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Jong, O., Van Driel, J. H., & Verloop, N. (2005). Preservice teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge of using particle models in teaching chemistry. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42, 947–964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Faikhamta, C. (2013). The development of in-service science teachers’ understandings of and orientations to teaching the nature of science within a PCK-based NOS course. Research in Science Education, 43(2), 847–869. doi: 10.1007/s11165-012-9283-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Falk, A. (2012). Teachers learning from professional development in elementary science: reciprocal relations between formative assessment and pedagogical content knowledge. Science Education, 96, 265–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Friedrichsen, P., Van Driel, J. H., & Abell, S. K. (2011). Taking a closer look at science teaching orientations. Science Education, 95, 358–376.Google Scholar
  20. Friedrichsen, P. M., Abell, S. K., Pareja, E. M., Brown, P. L. Lankford, D. M., & Volkmann, M. J. (2009). Does teaching experience matter? Examining biology teachers’ prior knowledge for teaching in an alternative certification program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46, 357–383.Google Scholar
  21. Fuller, F. (1969). Concerns of teachers: a developmental conceptualization. American Educational Research Journal, 6, 207–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gess-Newsome, J. (2015). A model of teacher professional knowledge and skill including PCK: results of the thinking from the PCK summit. In A. Berry, P. Friedrichsen, & J. Loughran (Eds.), Re-examining pedagogical content knowledge in science education (pp. 28–42). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Gregory, T. R. (2009). Understanding natural selection: essential concepts and common misconceptions. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 2, 156–175.Google Scholar
  24. Halim, L., & Meerah, S. M. (2002). Science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge and its influence on physics teaching. Research in Science & Technological Education, 20, 215–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hanuscin, D. L., Lee, M. H., & Akerson, V. L. (2011). Elementary teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for teaching the nature of science. Science Education, 95, 145–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hashweh, M. Z. (1987). Effects of subject-matter knowledge in the teaching of biology and physics. Teaching and Teacher Education, 3, 109–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hatch, J. A. (2002). Doing qualitative research in education settings. Albany: State University of New York.Google Scholar
  28. Henze, I., Van Driel, J. H., & Verloop, N. (2008). Development of experienced science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge of models of the solar system and the universe. International Journal of Science Education, 30, 1321–1342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Howard, T. C., & Aleman, G. R. (2008). Teacher capacity for diverse learners: what do teachers need to know? In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre, & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education: enduring questions in changing contexts (3rd ed., pp. 157–174). New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  30. Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (2011). Model core teaching standards: a resource for state dialogue. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.Google Scholar
  31. Justi, R., & Van Driel, J. H. (2005). A case study on the development of a beginning chemistry teacher’s knowledge on models and modelling. Research in Science Education, 35(2–3), 197–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kahle, J. B., & Kronebusch, M. (2003). Science teacher education: From a fractured system to a seamless continuum. In D. D. Kumar, & J. W. Altschuld (Eds.), Science and technology education policy, a symposium issue of policy studies review, 20, 585–602.Google Scholar
  33. Kaya, O. N. (2009). The nature of relationships among the components of pedagogical content knowledge of preservice science teachers: ‘ozone layer depletion’ as an example. International Journal of Science Education, 31, 961–988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lankford, D. (2010). Examining the pedagogical content knowledge and practice of experienced biology teachers for teaching diffusion and osmosis. Unpublished doctoral dissertation.Google Scholar
  35. Lannin, J. K., Webb, M., Chval, K., Arbaugh, F., Hicks, S., Taylor, C., & Bruton, R. (2013). The development of beginning mathematics teacher pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 16(6), 403–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lee, E., Brown, M. N., Luft, J. A., & Roehrig, G. H. (2007). Assessing beginning secondary science teachers’ PCK: pilot year results. School Science and Mathematics, 107, 52–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  38. Luft, J. (2007). Minding the gap: needed research on beginning/newly qualified science teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 532–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Luft, J. A. (2009). Beginning secondary science teachers in different induction programmes: the first year of teaching. International Journal of Science Education, 31, 2355–2384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Luft, J. A., Firestone, J. B., Wong, S. S., Ortega, I., Adams, K., & Bang, E. (2011). Beginning secondary science teacher induction: a two-year mixed methods study. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48, 1199–1224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Magnusson, S., Krajcik, J., & Borko, H. (1999). Nature, sources and development of pedagogical content knowledge for science teaching. In J. Gess-Newsome & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Examining pedagogical content knowledge (pp. 95–132). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  42. Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: a guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  43. Minner, D. D., Levy, A. J., & Century, J. (2010). Inquiry-based instruction—what is it and does it matter? Results from a research synthesis years 1984–2002. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47, 474–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Monette, D. R., Sullivan, T. J., & DeJong, C. R. (2008). Applied social research: A tool for human services (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  45. Munby, H., Russell, T., & Martin, A. K. (2001). Teachers’ knowledge and how it develops. In V. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (4th ed., pp. 877–904). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  46. National Research Council (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  47. Nehm, R. H., & Schonfeld, I. S. (2007). Does increasing biology teacher knowledge of evolution and the nature of science lead to greater preference for the teaching of evolution in schools? Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18, 699–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nilsson, P. (2008). Teaching for understanding: the complex nature of pedagogical content knowledge in pre-service education. International Journal of Science Education, 30, 1281–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nilsson, P. (2014). When teaching makes a difference: developing science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge through learning study. International Journal of Science Education, 36(11), 1794–1814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Park, S., & Chen, Y.-C. (2012). Mapping out the integration of the components of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK): examples from high school biology classrooms. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49, 922–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Park, S., Jang, J.-Y., Chen, Y.-C., & Jung, J. (2011). Is pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) necessary for reformed science teaching? Research in Science Education, 41(2), 245–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  53. Pigge, F. L., & Marso, R. N. (1997). A seven year longitudinal multi-factor assessment of teaching concerns development through preparation and early years of training. Teaching and Teacher Education, 13(2), 225–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rollnick, M., Bennett, J., Rhemtula, M., Dharsey, N., & Ndlovu, T. (2008). The place of subject matter knowledge in pedagogical content knowledge: a case study of south African teachers teaching the amount of substance and chemical equilibrium. International Journal of Science Education, 30, 1365–1387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rozenszajn, R., & Yarden, A. (2014). Expansion of biology teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) during a long-term professional development program. Research in Science Education, 44(1), 189–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rutledge, M. L., & Mitchell, M. A. (2002). Knowledge structure, acceptance, & teaching of evolution. The American Biology Teacher, 64, 21–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sadler, P. M., Sonnert, G., Coyle, H. P., Cook-Smith, N., & Miller, J. L. (2013). The influence of teachers’ knowledge on student learning in middle school physical science classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 50(5), 1020–1049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15, 4–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Van Driel, J. H., Berry, A., & Meirink, J. (2014). Research on science teacher knowledge. In N. G. Lederman & S. K. Abell (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education, volume II (pp. 848–870). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  60. Van Driel, J. H., de Jong, O., & Verloop, N. (2002). The development of preservice chemistry teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. Science Education, 86, 572–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Van Driel, J. H., Verloop, N., & de Vos, W. (1998). Developing science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35, 673–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Veal, W. R., & Kubasko Jr., D. S. (2003). Biology and geology teachers’ domain-specific pedagogical content knowledge of evolution. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 18, 334–352.Google Scholar
  63. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Building K, Rm K.2.41, School of EducationWestern Sydney UniversityPenrithAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Learning, Teaching, and CurriculumUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations