Indicator 6

Teachers’ science and mathematics content knowledge for teaching

Indicator 6 addresses teachers’ science and mathematics content knowledge for teaching.

Related DCL Awards (4): Goldhaber; Howel (PI) & Phelps and Lai (PI); Mandinach & OrlandMikeska & Phelps


Priority: High

Indicator 6 was a high priority for the Monitoring Progress committee.

Operational Definition

Indicator 6 defines “content knowledge for teaching” as the combination of knowledge and skills required for the tasks performed in teaching students effectively; it goes beyond knowledge of subject matter per se to include an understanding of difficulties students often have in mastering the subject and techniques for overcoming those difficulties. While a direct assessment of science and mathematics teachers’ content knowledge for teaching (CKT) would be ideal (e.g., Kersting, 2008; Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005), there are doubts about the feasibility of administering such assessments at scale. Experts interviewed about this indicator focused on potential proximal indicators presumed to be related to teacher content knowledge for teaching. One approach used in the past but that was deemed inadequate by experts is whether teachers had formally studied the subjects they teach in college and how prepared they feel to teach those subjects.

Experts who were interviewed also voiced measurement concerns associated with these proxies. Teachers who are more prepared may be more likely to question their own preparedness and rate themselves lower. Some experts noted that degrees and credit hours in specific subjects often show little or no relationship to student outcomes; however, others indicated there may be value in collecting more nuanced data about teachers’ degrees. For example, research by Monk and King-Rice suggests the degree teachers have matters more for some subjects (e.g., higher level science) than for others. There is consensus among experts that teacher content knowledge data can be collected more accurately and cost-effectively from teachers rather than principals.

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