Faculty Development & Center Organization: How do we see ourselves? OR What if we thought of PCK and TPACK as people?



PCK Schulman,1986 & TPACK Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

I am continually struck by the theoretical and practical power of the PCK and TPACK models the more I work with faculty, departments and various units, and the more I teach. PCK and TPCK are largely (if not completely) unknown to most faculty I have had the pleasure to work with despite their tremendous influence on faculty development. Nonetheless, I have had more success with these models than any other when it comes to convincing faculty to invest time in developing knowledge beyond their content specializations. An outcome has been shift: shift in the articulation and often reconceptualization of one’s philosophy of teaching and learning; shift in the way faculty think about course and lesson design; shift in the way faculty seek out and interact with the resources needed to augment their knowledge sets; shift in the way faculty development and support units interact.

As some of my readers may know, I do not believe that a strong argument is generally sufficient to promote positive and progressive shift. It’s necessary, but rarely sufficient. It’s largely a matter of scale; in other words, when working with numerous faculty a good argument will get a lot of affirming head nods, but rarely prompts committed action. One of the purposes of faculty development units is to initiate action.

Disclaimer…The more I read this post, the more I am unsatisfied with my ability to clearly capture what I wish to say. So, please consider this a conceptual draft that will be developed over time.

I want to start with some questions that speak to how I have been thinking about and using the PCK and TPACK frameworks in faculty development.

What if we thought about PCK and TPACK as frameworks for deep self-reflection? I see this question pointing us to a core purpose of these models. They provide a means by which to look within; to explore the limits of our knowledge; to better understand the implications of our work within higher education. Since meaningful knowledge exist within the minds that create it, there is a sense in which that creation challenges us to do the intellectual work necessary to see ourselves within knowledge that is presented to us. We must construct it, we must grapple with it, we must make it our own. In short, we must experience it for it to be substantively used.

  • If I were to place myself within either the PCK or TPACK frameworks, where would I position myself?
  • What would my diagram look like?
  • How could I prove it?

What if we thought about PCK and TPACK as people? What would be the organizational implications? Who are my resources? Who will help me fill my intellectual and skill gaps?  If I thought of TPACK as departments or faculty development or support units, then where are the gaps in my center? How do I cultivate professional relationships with other units to provide robust opportunities for faculty? Might such an imaginative position help us investigate the implications relevant to the various ways faculty development centers conceptualize themselves, the way they work with other departments, and the ways they plan for the future?

What if we thought of PCK and TPACK as frameworks for course and lesson design? It almost goes without saying that this question is implied within the purposes of each framework, but when I think of the potential for transforming faculty consultations I want to make a more explicit connections. So many texts share the multi-dimensional and multi-domain approach to thinking about how to structure our courses, lectures and learning activities. For example,

There are actually too many to list here, but these exemplify my point.

As I continue to contemplate the field of faculty development, I find that returning to foundational tenets of deep reflection are useful and grounding. PCK and TPACK are two such anchors for my teaching and my work in faculty development. I would love to use these as frameworks for thinking about organizational structure, resourcing and commitment.


Here are a couple links to Lee Shulman’s early work on the subject of Pedagogical – Content – Knowledge (PCK)

  • Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4- 31.
  • Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.

4 thoughts on “Faculty Development & Center Organization: How do we see ourselves? OR What if we thought of PCK and TPACK as people?

  1. Really interesting post, Enoch. I think your point about thinking of TPACK as a group of people is particularly insightful. We all have our own particular areas of expertise in content, pedagogy, and technology (in various proportions). It’s unreasonable to assume that many folks have significant experience and expertise in all three. In fact, given faculty members’ focus on teaching, scholarship and service, many don’t have the time or inclination to stay abreast of the latest technology tools and resources (assuming they’re interested in doing so). If, on the other hand, we think of TPACK as distributed expertise that can be leveraged through collaborative planning and course design, we have a much more robust and scalable approach to effectively supporting/enhancing teaching and learning with technology.

    1. I completely agree. I think that the meaningful (I love your use of ‘robust’) scalability is often dependent on the extent to which the different experts are strategically aware of the role one plays in relation to the others. I often see disjointed relationships that are marked by differing perspectives and agendas. For example, how often do faculty members critically (mindfully/strategically/fair-mindedly/open-mindedly) place themselves within the point of view of an instructional designer? A instructional technologist? A program director? We can say this of faculty developers as well. How often do we seek to understand faculty concerns and obligations in such a way that we can empathize and speak their language? I am fortunate that I teach and work as a faculty developer, but I know this isn’t always the case. My point is that much can be accomplished if we can position ourselves within the multiple perspectives in the TPACK framework.

  2. Nice post to get us thinking this New Year! I like your metaphors…but let me fuzzy it up yet some more. What if we thought of TPACK as a three-dimensional landscape? There are nuances to the knowledge structures for content, pedagogy, and technology. I am reading Torria Davis’ 2015 book – Visual Design for Online Learning – which reinforces for me the science behind the design … and the delivery. I suspect that TPACK is rarely three perfect circles … nor would it be the same for every course.

    1. Well said and I agree; particularly with your point that TPACK is rarely three perfect circles. In fact, if that were true in all cases, then I would question the extent to which I am challenging my existing knowledge. Shift in the relationship between each knowledge domain can imply that as I acquire new knowledge and skills I am working to contextualize it in relation to the other domains. It’s an interesting relationship that provides me with a firm framework upon which to reflect: on myself, my work and my center.

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