The Use of Content Representation as a Tool: Exploring the Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Two Lesotho Physics Teachers in the Process of Teaching Radioactivity

By Nthoesele Hlaela Mohlouoa, Marissa Rollnick and Samuel Ouma Oyoo.

Published by The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

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Some teachers perceive radioactivity as a difficult topic to teach due to its abstract nature. This topic is included in Lesotho at the senior secondary level in the combined science syllabus. This paper reports on some findings of a larger study which was carried out to make explicit two teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) on teaching radioactivity, and to investigate the role of experience in the development of PCK. Two teachers participated in the study: Mr. Victor who had 19 years experience and Ms. Grace who had 3 years of teaching experience at the time of the study. The paper focuses on the use of content representation (CoRe), a tool which was employed in this study to portray the teachers’ PCK. The results reflected by the CoRe indicate that Mr. Victor and Ms. Grace had some common views towards the teaching of radioactivity, but they also had differences in the way they conceptualized the teaching of this topic. The evident differences were on the content each teacher intended to teach, difficulties associated with the teaching of this topic, knowledge about students' factors that influence the teaching, and some teaching strategies the teachers employed. Mr. Victor showed greater awareness of learning difficulties than Ms. Grace and this could be linked to his level of experience, as he might have encountered some of these difficulties in his years of teaching. The CoRe was found to be a valuable tool for articulating the teachers’ PCK.

Keywords: Content Representation, Physics, Radioactivity, Teaching, Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Lesotho

The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp.29-37. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 297.743KB).

Nthoesele Hlaela Mohlouoa

Assistant Specialist Teacher of Physics, Department of Science, St Joseph High School, Maseru, Lesotho

Nthoesele recently graduated with the Master of Science in Mathematics and Science Education degree of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Her other qualifications include a Bachelor of Science with Education (Mathematics and Physics)degree of the National University of Lesotho and an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Science Education (physical science)from the University of the Witwatersrand. Since 2008, she has been a teacher of physics and mathematics at St Joseph High School in Maseru, Lesotho where she currently ranks as the Assistant Specialist Teacher of Physics. Her research interest is in physics teachers' knowledge for effective classroom practice.

Marissa Rollnick

Professor and Chair of Science Education, School of Education, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Marissa Rollnick completed her BSc and teaching diploma at Wits University after which she taught at high school level. She obtained her MSc in chemical education at the University of East Anglia and her PhD at Wits University. She has taught at teachers’ colleges and universities in Swaziland for 15 years and since returning to South Africa in 1990, she has worked at the College of Science at Wits University, first as chemistry coordinator and subsequently as director. In 2005 she took up a post in education at Wits as Chair of Science Education. She has 14 years of doctoral and masters supervision and has published over 30 refereed articles

Prof. Samuel Ouma Oyoo

Senior Lecturer in Science Education, Marang Centre for Mathematics and Science Education , School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Dr. Oyoo is the 2011 winner of two excellence awards by the International Journal of Learning: International Award for Excellence in the area of Literacy and Education and the Pippa Stein Award for Excellence in Educational Research in Africa. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Science Education, Marang Centre for Mathematics and Science Education, School of Education, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He also served as an Assistant Professor at the Aga Khan University's Institute for Educational Development, Eastern Africa, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and in a similar capacity at the Department of Educational Communication, Technology and Curriculum Studies, Faculty of Education, Maseno University, Maseno, Kenya. A graduate of both Nottingham and Leeds Universities in the United Kingdom, he also holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education from Monash University, Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Australia. His research interests are in Education as a general area, but with a focus on issues in learning and teaching school science/physics.