You are trained in a subject area, you are trained to teach, you have some years of teaching experience. But are you teaching your subject safely? Or is something more needed to not only engage students in their current learning, but to ensure that first, no damage is done to students’ openness and willingness to learn, and second, that what they learn today will minimise misconceptions and other learning traps for future learning. How do you identify that you have the acumen required to teach safely? What is a teacher’s essential pedagogical content knowledge?
Associate Professor Helen Chick
Associate Professor in Mathematics Education
Deputy Head of School
Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania
In the fields of medicine and veterinary health work the concept of “clinical acumen” is used to describe the knowledge and insight that allows decision-making on complex issues, where information might be incomplete or unknown, and where choices about diagnosis and treatment may be required with little time to consult or do further research. Clinical acumen, though rarely more than implicitly defined in the literature, seems to be that “instinct”—grounded in knowledge and experience but moving beyond this—that allows good decision-making in a constrained, critical moment.
It is posited that there is a parallel for the education professions and the work of teaching. We coin the phrase “pedagogical acumen” to describe the acuity and applied understanding that underpin effective teacher decision-making when dealing with critical moments in teaching. The role of knowledge, both passive and enacted, in building pedagogical acumen is clearly critical for enhancing the quality of educational decisions, but questions arise about how to develop the deeper insight and intuition that seem to be a hallmark of effective teachers. If we can begin to understand pedagogical acumen then there is potential to build teachers’ capacity and achieve better student outcomes.
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