Using Teachers’ Choice of Representations to Understand the Translation of Their Orientation Toward Science Teaching to Their Practice

Sarah B. Boesdorfer


Representations are an effective tool that chemistry teachers choose to use in their classes to help their students understand abstract concepts. According to the model of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), a teacher’s knowledge of representations is part his/her PCK, which is shaped specifically his/her orientation towards science teaching. Yet, PCK is criticized as focusing on teachers’ knowledge not how their knowledge is translated to their practice. This study used a comparative case study of two secondary chemistry teachers to explore the relationship between the teachers’ choice of the representations used in their practice and their orientation toward science teaching. The study focused on the teachers’ use of representation for a unit on electronic structure and the periodic table, which they both identified as abstract for students. Results of the study indicate that the teachers’ choices of representations were reflective of their orientation toward science teaching. The finding support questioning a teacher about representations as a useful tool for understanding teachers’ PCK as it is translated to practice.


Orientation toward science teaching, Representations, Teaching Practice, high school, PCK

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