Coaching with TPACK and Teacher Narratives

Since the release of the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education in 2011 and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, elementary and secondary science teachers have been in a exhilarating phase of adaptation and transition. Teachers are opening their minds to new ways of thinking about science education, and, with the right support, are in a position to revolutionize the way kids learn science in America.

Effective coaches help teachers succeed by helping them to identify their own learning goals, while honoring teacher expertise. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) propose that allowing teachers to tell their stories in the form of teacher narratives will allow coaches to uncover the teacher’s own knowledge construction following an inductive approach, while using TPACK as a reference in identifying goals for coaching.

Photo by Kamyar Adl (2007) “Hat shop” in covered market, Oxford.

Considering the innumerable roles K-12 teachers assume, or “all the different hats they wear,” on a daily basis, conjures the image above, of a person standing in a well-stocked hat shop. So, a good place to start is to categorize teachers’ areas of expertise. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), is a framework that “attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration” while recognizing that each component is situated in a unique context (tpack.org, Koehler, 2012).

According to Koehler and Mishra (2009), content knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter, pedagogical knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about the methods of teaching and learning and technological knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about working with tech tools and resources. The three types of knowledge interact in seven different ways, constituting “the seven components of TPACK,” together with context, the eighth component.

As noted by Harris and Hofer (2017) in their study of the use of TPACK by schools and school districts for professional development, the construct has been appropriated, understood and enacted to serve several functions, including: a connector, a grass-roots initiative, a check-and-balance, an instructional planning tool, a technological focus, a compass and a collaborative process. Study participants reported that “the construct helped them conceptually and organizationally to both honor teachers’ professional experience… and concomitantly help teachers to further develop that knowledge and practice with well-informed, judiciously chosen digital tools and resources applied in effective ways” (p. 11).

Part of what makes the TPACK framework so useful for teachers is that it can be flexible, dynamic and adaptive, lending itself to be used in so many different ways and also to be modified. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) have adapted the model to more accurately represent the complexity of the contexts, or “scope” (p. 288) in which teachers teach. In the figure below (See Figure 1, Porras-Hernández & Salinas-Amescua, 2013), context is divided into three different levels: the macro context defined by social, political, technological and economic conditions, the meso context defined by the local community, school district, school and administrators and the micro context defined by the in-class conditions for learning. Conditions of all three context levels comprise the learning scope, and each affects how students learn in the classroom.

In a further adaptation of the TPACK construct, Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) include knowledge of the main actors in education processes, the students and of the teachers. Here, the teacher is positioned as “the active constructor of knowledge” (p. 233). Teachers should actively seek knowledge of their students’ previous knowledge, interests and attitudes, in order to plan and adapt their learning activities. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua argue, “It is not neutral knowledge that teachers build in the reflection process, but a personal posture that involves beliefs, motives, and a teacher’s raison d’être,” or reason for being (p. 233). In other words, teachers’ self-knowledge plays an integral role in understanding how they affect student learning.
The figure below (See Figure 2, Porras-Hernández & Salinas-Amescua, 2013) shows a model of TPACK that includes “Knowledge of Students” and “Teacher’s Self-knowledge.” With this more complex model, we come much closer to a complete understanding the components of teacher knowledge (narrowly avoiding the diagram becoming as complicated as the hat shop metaphor).
Finally, Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) offer a practice that would allow coaches to discover the depth of what teachers know, a concept they call “teacher savvy” and develop further into “pedagogical savvy” (p. 235-236). Many of the most effective teaching strategies are those that have been honed by teachers in classrooms over years of communicating with other teachers and from their own experience, so why not start by allowing the teacher to share what they know in the form of a “teacher narrative?” Through reflections on their daily experiences, teachers can “distance themselves from their practice and transform it” (p. 236).
As a coach, I envision this practice as a teacher journal or log, where the teacher writes about a meaningful experience along with everything that comes up for them. Then, together with the coach, the teacher can review the narrative and codify it with components of TPACK, including the three levels of context and student and teacher knowledge, looking for strengths and weaknesses. In this way, a teacher can identify their own growth goal, and take a more holistic and inductive approach to learning with the help of the TPACK construct.

References
Harris, J. B., & Hofer, M. J. (2017). “TPACK Stories”: Schools and School Districts Repurposing a Theoretical Construct for Technology-Related Professional Development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education49(1/2), 1–15. https://doi-org.ezproxy.spu.edu/10.1080/15391523.2017.1295408
Harris, J.B., Phillips, M., Koehler, M., & Rosenberg, J. (2017). TPCK/TPACK research and development: Past, present, and future directions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology33(3), i–viii. https://doi-org.ezproxy.spu.edu/10.14742/ajet.3907
Koehler, M. J. (2012). TPACK Explained. Retrieved 23 October 2018 from http://www.tpack.org/
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Porras-Hernández, L. H., & Salinas-Amescua, B. (2013). Strengthening TPACK: A Broader Notion of Context and the Use of Teacher’s Narratives to Reveal Knowledge Construction. Journal of Educational Computing Research48(2), 223–244. https://doi-org.ezproxy.spu.edu/10.2190/EC.48.2.f