In this paper we analyse teachers' understandings of their subject specialisation's content knowledge, and the relationship between these understandings, the subject discipline more broadly, and their pedagogical practice measured using the QT framework. We begin by reporting the measured quality of pedagogy received by student cohorts in History and Geography classes, as part of the HSIE (Human Society in Its Environment) Key Learning Area in NSW public schools, and the conceptions of subject knowledge within these outcomes. In this analysis we find that, compared to other subjects in this study, knowledge in the HSIE subjects tended to be treated in only a mildly problematic way, with moderate outcomes in terms of its connection to students lives and cultural backgrounds, and its authentic application. Comparing primary and secondary contexts, we find that HSIE knowledge is treated more problematically, with more direct significance for students, in primary classes. These findings go against initial expectations in which the dominant conventions of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences emphasise its socially constructed nature in particular historical, political and socio-economic contexts (Wallerstein, 2004; 1996). Analysing qualitative data from researchers' narratives of observed lessons, and interviews with teachers, we then elaborate teachers' understanding of their subject content knowledge, and how this relates to the historical development of the discipline and the measured treatment of knowledge in their pedagogical practice. In this analysis we argue that ongoing tensions in the subject discipline between nomothetic and idiographic approaches, coupled with detailed and prescriptive curricula and teachers' apparent disposition towards covering prescribed content, accounts for their treatment of their subject knowledge. Further, through some detailed analysis of cases at the extremes, we argue that teachers' meaningful engagement with the QT framework, as part of a significant, system-wide pedagogical reform initiative, is contingent on their re-thinking the nature of their subject knowledge and its treatment in their teaching.
AERA 2008 Annual Meeting. Abstracts of the AERA 2008 Annual Meeting (New York 24-28 March, 2008)