PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE OF PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN A MATHEMATICS-PHYSICS INTERDISCIPLINARY TEACHER EDUCATION PROJECT
In many countries, in secondary schools, mathematics and science are taught by different groups of specialized teachers, a situation that in part may explain the difficulty of creating a STEM perspective in our educational systems. This situation has a parallel in teacher education programs, as in many universities prospective mathematics and science teachers attend some pedagogy courses together but do not have the opportunity to discuss interdisciplinary issues between their respective areas, foreseeing their future teacher practice. Acknowledging that developing interdisciplinary activities in school is a complex endeavor, and that the dialogue and cooperation among teachers of different areas is not usual, we developed a project involving prospective secondary teachers of mathematics and of physics that intended to assist them in developing knowledge about how to plan and develop integration activities in school. We adopted authentic integration of mathematics and science’s perspective (Treacy & O’Donoghue, 2014) to discuss interdisciplinarity notion, and to guide the elaboration of exemplary tasks for secondary students, involving the areas of mathematics and physics, and the lessons planning by prospective teachers. Considering that research on teacher education programs with an interdisciplinary focus is scarce, the objective of this study is to understand the Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) prospective teachers have developed in a project intended to promote an authentic integration of those two scientific domains.
The project has been developed collaboratively by 3 teacher educators (the authors) who were responsible for teaching methods courses in the 1st year of the Master’s programs for prospective teachers of mathematics and of physics and chemistry. Prospective teachers, with no previous experience with interdisciplinarity in the program, developed their activities in the project in interdisciplinary small groups of 3 or 4, which consisted in planning and teaching a sequence of 3 lessons for the 8th pupils around an inquiry task to understand a physical phenomenon.
For this study we rely on the individual reflections that the 10 prospective teachers enrolled in the program wrote after they taught the planned lessons in one 8th grade class. From a qualitative analysis of their reflections we observe that they were able to identify important characteristics of the proposed tasks for promoting the integration of the two domains and to justify the main options they made when designing the lessons with a focus on mathematics and physics for promoting pupils’ high-level thinking processes and to establish connections with previous knowledge, important dimensions in the authentic integration model. However, it seems they cannot fully appreciate how the two domains contribute to pupils’ deeper understanding of the physical phenomenon they explored, what might reveal that they still lack important knowledge to effectively integrate the two domains in their activities with students. The results of the study contribute to a discussion about the specificity of the PCK needed for the integration activities and led us also to rethink some aspects of the teacher education intervention that we carried out.
 Treacy, P & O’Donoghue, J. (2014) Authentic Integration: a model for integrating mathematics and science in the classroom. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 45(5), 703-718