Research in Science Education

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 233–265 | Cite as

Developing Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Teaching a New Topic: More Than Teaching Experience and Subject Matter Knowledge

  • Kennedy Kam Ho ChanEmail author
  • Benny Hin Wai Yung


Teaching experience has been identified as an important factor in pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) development. However, little is known about how experienced teachers may draw on their previous experience to facilitate their PCK development. This study examined how two experienced high school biology teachers approached the teaching of a newly introduced topic in the curriculum, polymerase chain reaction and their PCK development from the pre-lesson planning phase through the interactive phase to the post-lesson reflection phase. Multiple data sources included classroom observations, field notes, semi-structured interviews and classroom artefacts. It was found that the teachers’ previous experience informed their planning for teaching the new topic, but in qualitatively different ways. This, in turn, had a bearing on their new PCK development. Subject matter knowledge (SMK) can not only facilitate but may also hinder this development. Our findings identify two types of experienced teachers: those who can capitalise on their previous teaching experiences and SMK to develop new PCK and those who do not. The critical difference is whether in the lesson planning stage, the teacher shows the disposition to draw on a generalised mental framework that enables the teacher to capitalise on his existing SMK to develop new PCK. Helping teachers to acquire this disposition should be a focus for teacher training in light of continuous curriculum changes.


Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Curriculum change Teaching new topics Experienced teachers 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Sources of Funding

The first author was supported by the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme during his dissertation study. The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those by the funding body of the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme.

Conflict of Interest

There is no potential conflict of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The research involved human participants. Signed informed consents were collected from the participants before the data collection began. The informed consents detailed the rights of the participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Hong KongPok Fu LamHong Kong

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