The Importance of Mastering Pedagogy Knowledge in Initial Teacher Training

Abstract

In the context of this article we present some experiential learning paths that we have done in our department. We organized several workshops with different themes, attended by students from the Preschool and Primary Education specialization. Workshops were held under the paradigm of project based learning and were focused just on practical topics from the kindergarten and primary school curriculum: exercises on communication, intercultural education methods, how we calculate the age of a tree (without cutting it), team building games, vocal improvisation, techniques of drawing, creative writing exercises and exercises for personal development. The workshops were focused on student learning goals and achievement of professional and transversal competencies (critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and self-management). The projects proposed for students, future teachers, were authentic, detached from the world of school. Participants received clear tasks and appropriate tools of work. The projects had an impact on students because they presented situations of personal and professional interest. Students' voice and decisions were listened during the workshops. Students who are preparing to become teachers for preschool and young school children reflected on their learning, on the obstacles encountered and how they could be overcome. The article tries to demonstrate that by mastering knowledge of pedagogy the teachers acquire their professional identity. By purchasing pedagogical knowledge during the initial training, teachers are transformed into genuine intellectuals. Thus, teachers can launch interdisciplinary researches which will legitimize and will validate the future educational practices.

Keywords: Knowledge of pedagogyinitial teacher trainingtraining workshops

Introduction

All attempts to reform the education system will fail unless envisages training key actors of this

system: the teachers. How they are recruited, selected, guided during initial training and at the onset of

their career, depends the quality of teaching. Teachers are the driving force of the changes that may

influence the quality of education. The personality type of the teacher, the pedagogical conception and the

didactic competencies of the teacher are the trinomial that can provide a pertinent answer to the problems

of teaching. What underlies the teacher's profession and ensure the meaning and its significance is the

knowledge of pedagogy. There are several ways in which teachers acquire their knowledge of pedagogy.

By that teachers have the strong knowledge in pedagogy, them ensuring their professional identity.

The impression that anyone can make education is false. Each specialist assumes his field of skills. So the

teacher, whatever is the subject to be taught, he must ensure the pedagogical foundation of the teaching

profession. By purchasing thorough pedagogical knowledge during the initial training, teachers become

genuine intellectuals. Thus, the teachers can launch later in the disciplinary or interdisciplinary

researches, which will legitimize and validate their educational practices.

The Need for Pedagogical Knowledge in the Teaching Profession

Mastering the knowledge of pedagogy is the ideal training for future teachers. There are

discrepancies between what a teacher knows and what he does in the classroom. This discrepancy has a

major influence on how students learn. When I refer to pedagogical knowledge needed by a teacher in the

classroom, I consider that special combination between content expertise and pedagogical theory. This

combination represents a particular form of understanding the matter of taught. For teaching any content

(philological, mathematical, biological, artistic, etc.) there is necessary a deeply rooted knowledge of

pedagogy in a teacher's personality. The teaching includes both pedagogical theory taught during initial

training, as well the experience accumulated in daily teaching activities.

Mastering the knowledge of pedagogy illustrates how the teacher transforms the subject of a

scholar discipline in an accessible form of communication with students. To teach content, teachers must

understand the subject deeply and flexible. Only in this way will help students to create their own

semantic map, to move from one idea to another or to link a topic with another. These are the constituent

elements of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) or "craft knowledge" (Shulman, 1987; Harr, 2015).

To understand this approach, is required a brief overview of the concept of knowledge. The notion

of knowledge is part of a conceptual hierarchy. Underlying this hierarchy is the notion of data, followed

by the notion of information. On the third level of the hierarchy is the notion of knowledge, and above it

is the notion of wisdom. This hierarchy or pyramid of knowledge is known by the acronym DIKW –

"Data, Information, Knowledge & Wisdom" (Ackoff, 1989; Sharma, 2005; Baškarada & Koronios,

2013). The data are digit, numbers, symbols, observations, measurable facts. Out of context, the data have

no meaning, but when they can be brought together, make sense and become information. Hence the

expressions: databases, data stream, combinations of data, data transmission etc. If the data is useful to a

person they become information, namely, information involves understanding the relationships between

data. Information is processed data and provides answers to factual questions: "who", "what", "where"

and "when". Information refers to descriptions, classifications, definitions and perspectives.

The knowledge are over the information in this pyramid. The information becomes knowledge,

when the one that uses is able to understand the relationships that exist inside the information and

between information, so it can be used immediately or in the future. Knowledge is information

internalized, processed personally by each person. The knowledge include approaches, strategies,

practices, procedures or methods ("how"), absolutely individual. Proper collection of information is a

process of cognition. The cognition is a relationship between subject and object in which are assimilated

and reconstructed the information from the environment, in a personal mode. When someone memorizes

information (especially when memorization is mechanical) it is said that the person has accumulated

knowledge. Decoding the new information means understanding, acquiring knowledge with meaning that

enables man to adapt to reality. When a person memorizes logic, learning occurs, that makes the

transition from accumulation of knowledge to understanding. Process of understanding is one side of the

thinking and consists of a synthesis of information and the knowledge, which leads to the development of

useful actions. To the top of knowledge pyramid is wisdom, an extensive process that appeals to all

previous levels. Wisdom requires the ability to choose between good and bad, between truth and false,

and answer to the questions of opinion, investigation, confirmation, decision and justification etc.

The Context of Assimilating Knowledge of Pedagogy

The pyramid of knowledge helps us to understand how learning occurs, how to get the ideas and

knowledge about the surrounding world, how to make the connections between them, how creative

thinking can be stimulated, and how new ideas occur. Respecting the pyramid of knowledge we

understand each other, we can communicate and we can make plans. Given the requirements and the

relationships between components of the knowledge pyramid, teachers build the lessons and courses they

teach students.

Learning is a human activity systematically carried out, in a socially organized framework, in order to

assimilate information. Learning activity includes the development of assemblies and operations skills and

capacities for understanding, interpretation and explanation of the phenomena of nature and society. The

knowledge and skills are "the fund or the treasure of experience - theoretical and practical -, thanks to which

a person can balance, optimum and efficient, the crowd of situations and external requests. Therefore,

learning can be defined as the process of acquiring new experiences". (Nuthall, 1999; Huitt & Hummel, 2003;

Golu, 2007)

To get to the mastery of knowledge, the psychologists recognize at least three forms of processing

information: inductive processing, deductive processing and analogue processing. (Golu, 2007) In the

process of knowledge acquisition, these three forms of information processing acts differently from

individual to individual, at level of elaborating and operation.

Also, there are three levels of information processing: "the superficial level (physical appearance of the

stimulus, for example, the word is capitalized; who or how many letters in a word are bold etc.); the

phonological level (given word rhymes with ...); the semantic level (which is the content of the word; it

resembles another word; it is pleasant or unpleasant etc.)". (Zlate, 2006) The recognition of verbal stimuli is

made easier if they are part of a context: a letter in a word, a word in a sentence, etc. Most complex stimuli are

redundant.We understand approximately 50% of a conversation, not because we recognition the linguistic

stimuli, but because of our semantic and syntactic knowledge. The more processing takes place at a profound

level, the information will be memorized much better and for a longer time. Forms and levels of the processing information act integrated, with specific features for each

individual. In initial teacher training are involved different forms and levels of information processing, so

that they, in turn, can teach their students how to learn. There are several ways by which people acquire

knowledge. The most effective way to master knowledge in any field, but especially in education is

experiential learning (Kolb, 1984). This form of learning stimulates several ways by which the knowledge

are stored, activated, experimented and expressed.

As trainers of teachers, we are always concerned about how our students acquire and process new

information. It is important how teachers communicate information, but more important is how students

process this information, so that they make sense for themselves. There is a whole literature on this topic,

focusing on more psychological theories and training theories, in particular cognitivism and

constructivism. The universal literature of speciality has consecrated name as: Egan, K. (1992); Brandt,

R. 1998; Brooks & Brooks (1999); Berman, S. (2001); Sousa, D. (2005); Hattie, J. (2014); Merzano, R. (2015),

so as we refer only to the past 20 years. Also, in pedagogical literature from Romania were consecrated

personalities, who analyzed and implemented the cognitive and constructivist theories on learning, at different

ages: Neacșu, I. (1999); Negreț-Dobridor, I. (2001); Jinga, I. & Negreț, I. (1999); Joița, E. (2006, 2008).

The common point of these studies and experiments focus on active involvement of students in

processing new information. The process of teaching and learning means the triad: knowledge - teacher -

student (Houssaye, 1988). On this route, the teacher is between knowledge and students, and the teacher has

the role of mediator, facilitator of learning. The students can reach the significance of information received

only on the basis of the teacher's interactions, with the new contents or with other students.

In addition to the levels and forms learning mentioned above, researchers present a variety of types

of learning. Also, learning is conditioned by many factors, internal and external, which influences the

information processed by each student. In this framework we can include the researches of the cognitive

psychologists on the role of "inputs determinant for learning" (Marzano, 2015), namely those experiences

where students learn new concepts. Inputs have different impacts from one student to another. Inputs are

different depending on the school subjects, especially the personality of the teacher, who teaches this

discipline! Often adults report that they performed to a school subject or opted for a professional career

because of a teacher who instilled their the passion for that field.

The learning experiences in the natural sciences and in the social sciences leave different "traces"

in the pupils mentality based on their previous experiences and according to their learning style (genetic

or cognitive). The information presented to the student can be structured differently and this belongs to

the teacher's personality, of the motivation and creativity, of its level of expertise and the knowledge of

pedagogy that has it. It is important for teachers to emphasize with those types of training that boost the

students learning. It is important for teachers to emphasize those types of training that boost the students

learning. It is estimated (Nuthall, 1999; Marzano, 2015) that the most effective types of training to

assimilate new information are: verbal instruction, visual instruction and dramatized instruction. The

latter, basically, incorporates the first two.

This is a model of training which, by school stories (read curriculum), students are drawn into the

narrative space in which learning is natural, pleasant and efficient, alike. Stories offer an efficient

structure to organize and store into the memory the information held in the curriculum. These have an

easy accessible structure, containing a diversity of information and allowing connexions with personal

experiences. The stories have a great quality, being accepted at any age. Teaching at any level, from

kindergarten to university level, knowing to relate a story to a child/youngster, is the "royal pathway" to

determine him to learn something.

At these forms of training can be added the instruction based on non-linguistic representations or

the combination between linguistic and non-linguistic representations: graphic representations (cognitive

organizers - expository, narrative, etc.; illustrated diagrams - Ishikawa, Venn, tree, etc.), manufacturing of

models, generating mental images, designs, pictograph, and kinaesthetic representations of some content.

(Marzano, 2015)

A teacher secures the respect to his students, as far as he masters the pedagogical content that they

teach. Acquiring knowledge of general pedagogy (fundamentals of pedagogy, curriculum theory, the

theory training, evaluation theory, concepts of pedagogical research), as well as acquiring the

fundamentals of didactics of each curriculum specialties from preschool and primary is the start of initial

teacher. The knowledge of pedagogy are found in the mandatory fundamental disciplines and occupies

over 20% of the total hours of study at the Pedagogical Primary and Preschool Education speciality. The

knowledge of applied pedagogy or the didactics are studied in years 2 and 3 and occupies almost 30% of

the curriculum.

Workshops of Optimizing Pedagogical Content and Knowledge

We are always concerned to find ways that would stimulate our students to learn to become good

teachers. Teamwork, friendships, sharing experience, the desire to share with each other what you know

or what you know to do the best represent the determinants of learning inputs.

Thus, we initiated in our department the student workshops, which conducted under a learning

project (Dewey, 1972). In the frame of workshops the students learn new knowledge or real skills.

Workshops are provocative, ad hoc teaching materials are made from inexpensive materials, recyclable

and the products are presented at the end of each workshop, to the whole group. The inductive processing

takes place every moment, taking into account the specifics of the specialization: teachers for preschool

and primary education. The workshops are meant for direct contact with the trainer and other students.

Each workshop was designed so that at the end of 90 minutes, each participant to leave with a product

made on his own.

Let me illustrate some of this workshops. The scientific content of each workshop covers

fundamental knowledge of pedagogy and didactic concepts of different disciplines. Participation in each

workshop is followed by enlarging the perspective of students with new concepts, formation of

connections between concepts or between theory and practice, as well as new skills and attitudes. In the

following paragraphs are summarized the workshops' contents in relation to the experiential areas of

preschool or primary education curriculum.

4.1. Experiential Field/ Language and Communication Curriculum Area

Workshop: Language and Communication - Practical Experiences, aroused the interest of the

participants through the attractive games, dynamic and interactive, through the games of knowledge and

cooperation, and the games for removing the psychological barriers in communication. For example, for a

game of self-presentation or rapid execution of entertaining tasks, of praise or interviewing, a clew of

thread was used. The students were provoked, in the context of children's literature, to make more

teamwork tasks. The students extracted the tickets with short texts from different fairy tales or tales

known from the literature for children. The tasks were: the identification of the negative character from

the given text; finding arguments for the character is a model to be followed; indicating the instructive-

educative value of the literature art from which the presented fragment belongs. Each team has produced

a poster. By presenting open posters and by reasoned answers of the colleagues' questions, the students

demonstrate the creativity and communication skills in the group. The workshop ended with the fun

tongue twisters, in pair, and the joy of reaching interpretative performances in speech.

4.2. Experiential Field / Man and Society Curriculum Area

Workshop: The ethical Teacher, the Teacher that does not discriminate, offered an

interdisciplinary approach to specific issues of intercultural education and teaching of ethics and

deontology. The workshop was conducted in a playful, analytical and creative manner. Analysis and

deconstruction of stereotypes and prejudices revealed specific skills in intercultural education. The

students participating talked in pairs and in small groups to clarify the concepts of the intercultural

education and intercultural competence. Practical approach was based on viewing a few sequences

documentary-film, in which intercultural education in Italy was presented. Here were derived and

developed different ways of the intercultural training skills at little aged students. The particularly

moment of this workshop was the presence, among the participating students, of an Italian student, during

an Erasmus mobility at our university. Examples as "live", offered by this student, of native country,

represented the learning inputs for the working group.

4.3. Experiential Field / Mathematics and Natural Sciences Curriculum Area

Workshop: Integrated Approaches of the Sciences was aimed at raising awareness of climate

change and the role of forests in our lives. The workshop was structured on two parts: one theoretical and

the other applied. The theoretical part of the workshop offered to the participants useful information about

the forest and its functions in the context of climate change. The scientific and methodically discourse

helped the group of students to be familiar with the new concepts, and created cognitive anchors through

visual suggestive images. Switching at the applicative part achieved through a dramatization performed

by students in the 3rd grade, they represented a short dramatization with the parts of a tree and related

functions, using elements of theatrical pedagogy. They have prepared a very suggestive and extremely

creative decor, anticipating elements of the workshop applied. Based on the story told by the narrator, in

the dramatic group were approached in an interdisciplinary manner, various issues of STEM education

(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The actual applications made by each participant at

the workshop were: achieving a "lung" of cheap or recyclable materials (plastic bottles, balloons, straws) to

highlight our pulmonary capacity; calculating / estimating the age of a tree in two ways: by section and by

its natural state; calculating / estimating the height of a tree, when sunny, using its shadow, and when is not

sunny. The wood material from forest provides teachers a resource highly diversified for making teaching

materials. At the end of the workshop the students were invited to create out of recyclable materials

"musical instruments" (tambourine, flute, castanets, xylophone, drums). This rational and pragmatic set

opened new perspectives to understand and to explain the little ones the scientific phenomena, physical,

biological, and other ways to use correctly mathematical concepts.

4.4. Experiential Field / Art. Physical Education, Sport and Health Curriculum Area

Another workshop that has gathered much interest from the students was the arts education

workshop. Colour is one that "tells" how we are and how we can become. Emotions and feelings can be

expressed through colour and can, if necessary, be corrected by the colour. Thus, concrete teaching

practices have a crucial role in learning strategies. There are teachers who enter the classroom and teach

theories about working methods. Too little teachers agree to teach pupils / students working techniques,

to work, in their turn, with children during classes. In the workshop of fine arts, students created works of

figurative art objects derived from real sources, and non-figurative works using a colour that would define

them. The works made in pastel on white paper with textured surface were offered to students after the

vernissage of the works. This step consists of spraying a fixative to protect the colour. Students have

realized landscapes, still nature, abstract compositions. In this workshop the students have overcome the

discomfort to draw, to paint, to interpret, to combine colours.

In the same context of training and awareness for the artistic workshop also took place a musical

workshop. The participating students have learned to make rhythmic-melodic improvisations. The

musical games proposed had the aim to valorize the creative-improviser instinct of children, by

composing the polyphonic and monophonic music. This can be done by certain methodical processes that

respect the basic principles of creation: replay, variation, dynamic and contrast. These principles are

manifested strongly and clearly in the children folklore. The message sent through this workshop to the

future teachers is that children's song must be easy to learn, and then possibly, recreated by them. The

participants at this workshop learned that a children's song starts with a simple text, then overlap the

rhythm, and finally the melody. The dissemination of the workshop's activity was done by showcasing the

musical-methodise products in front of all participants at the time of summarizing the day, and was very

successful.

Game and movement are two essential concepts in activities with preschool and primary school

children. The experiential pedagogy workshop combined the two concepts through activities for personal

development of children/students. By these games of move was realized a beneficial working atmosphere

in classroom / group of students: developing self-confidence and confidence in others, the ability of

communication and cooperation etc. Games like: "The Shipwreck" (game of cooperation and

communication); "The Tunnel" (game of attention, concentration and confidence-building) or "The Blind

Snake" (game of development and sense of responsibility) are focused on finding solutions to fictions

problems (of the group / of the community membership). Applying these games it is offered the

opportunity to choose the best solution in solving a problem, especially to negotiate the best way for its

implementation. The stages of the workshop included: actual gaming experience; reflections on own

experiences and facilitating the exchange of views.

These workshops will diversify in the future to cover all subjects in the preschool and primary

curriculum. Their role is to complement the pedagogical practice hours and facilitate the transfer of theoretical knowledge in the practical experiences. The strategies used supported the pedagogical content

knowledge and provides learning opportunities.

Conclusions

Specialized studies show that pedagogical content knowledge has a greater impact on student

achievement than specialist knowledge. Also, only improving the pedagogical content knowledge seems

to have an impact on the quality of teaching. Teachers' pedagogical knowledge represents only a basic

component of teacher professionalism. The pedagogical knowledge base must be constantly upgraded and

adapted to the demands of the 21st century. The content of the workshops presented in this article are

evidence of this concern to find new ways of diversifying the training of future teachers. Any subject of

the curriculum must be viewed from several perspectives, through the eyes of new generations of

children.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.94

Online ISSN

2357-1330