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

Abstract

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.

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Appendices

Appendix 1: Scenario-based instrument, Situation 1

Max goes to the table with games. There are already four children at the table. The children want to play a game with dice. You ask Max: “How many children want to play the game?”.

Max points to himself and to each individual child at the table. Each time he points to a child, Max slowly states a number word: “One, two, three, four, five!”. He remains silent and looks at you. You ask again: “And? How many children want to play the game?”. Max restarts the counting process and points to each child individually and says: “One, two, three, four, five!”.

You show him the box with the tokens and ask: “Each player needs a token. How many tokens do we need?”. Max looks at you and shrugs.

You say: “How can we find out?”. Max takes a token and puts it next to one of the children at the table. He takes another token and puts this one next to another child at the table. He continues until every child at the table has a token. You ask: “And? How many token did you give to the children?” Max counts the tokens while pointing to them one by one and says: “One, two, three, four, five!”.

A: Max shows that he already knows a lot about number and magnitude. Which abilities does he master already?

Indicate the correct answer with a cross

  He is able He is not able Not observable in the situation I do not know
A2 Max is able to say how many children would like to play   X   
A3 Max can make one–one-correspondences X    

B: Which of the following activities might help Max best to learn what he is not able to do yet?

Indicate one response.

O:

Counting aloud till five with the whole group.

X:

Sorting buttons per color, counting the buttons per color, and telling another child how many buttons per color there are.

O:

Writing digits in the sand using his finger.

O:

Counting backwards from five to one.

O:

I don’t know.

C: Which of the following activities might additionally help Max best to learn what he is not able to do yet?

Indicate one response.

X:

Saying how many coins he has in his wallet when playing a shopping game.

O:

Naming numbers that are presented on cards.

O:

Asking Max to put cups and spoons on the table, with one spoon for each cup.

O:

Using a counting rhyme to determine who can start the game.

O:

I don’t know.

Appendix 2: Scenario-based instrument, Situation 5

The preschoolers just received new toys for the class. Each child wants to play with the new toys. The preschool teacher puts an hourglass on the cupboard to indicate how long each preschooler can play with the new toys. If the hourglass shows that the time is over, the next preschooler can play with the new toys.

Bas waits for the hourglass indicating that time is over, while Mia is playing with the new toys. Bas complains: “It takes so long before it’s my turn.” The hourglass indicates that the time is over and Bas can play with the new toys. The preschool teacher turns around the hourglass and Bas starts playing with the new toys.

Bas plays as long as Mia with the new toys. When the hourglass shows that the time is over, Bas complains: “But the time of playing was much shorter for me than for Mia. Mia was allowed to pay more minutes than me. The hourglass is broken.”

A: Bas shows that he already knows a lot about measurement and time. Which abilities does he master already?

Indicate the correct answer with a cross

  He is able He is not able Not observable in the situation I do not know
A5 Bas can estimate in minutes how long they played with the new toys.    X  
A6 Bas knows that time can be measured in minutes. X    

B: Which of the following activities might help Bas best to learn what he is not able to do yet?

Indicate one response.

O:

Mia and you can play once more with the toys, so that we can compare again.

O:

No, the hourglass is still working. Look, we will use it again when Toon is playing with the toys.

X:

How can we find out whether the hourglass is really broken? Can we check this?

O:

Did Mia play for a longer or a shorter period of time with the toys?

O:

I don’t know.

C: Which of the following activities might additionally help Bas best to learn what he is not able to do yet?

Indicate one response.

X:

Timing both the hourglass and the play time of both children with a stopwatch and comparing the measured time.

O:

Using the hourglass for other activities as well.

O:

Organizing an introductory observation activity addressing different time measurement instruments (e.g., alarm clock, stopwatch, regular clock, …).

O:

Allowing Bas to turn around the hourglass instead of his teacher.

O:

I don’t know.

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Torbeyns, J., Verbruggen, S. & Depaepe, F. Pedagogical content knowledge in preservice preschool teachers and its association with opportunities to learn during teacher training. ZDM Mathematics Education 52, 269–280 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11858-019-01088-y

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Keywords

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