Understanding pedagogical content knowledge for engineering education: the effect of field and habitus

PhD Thesis


Jolly, Hannah. 2016. Understanding pedagogical content knowledge for engineering education: the effect of field and habitus. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

Understanding pedagogical content knowledge for engineering education: the effect of field and habitus

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorJolly, Hannah
SupervisorBrodie, Professor Lyn
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages428
Year2016
Abstract

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) is a concept that has long been used to explain the professional knowledge and habits of effective teachers, but is yet to be studied specifically for teaching in applied disciplines. For applied disciplines, especially in the academy, what students do when learning and what they do when they reach the workplace can be quite different. The demands on teachers in helping students to develop the requisite knowledge, skills and processes for use in industry are therefore likely to be different than for 'pure' disciplines. This research uses the test-case of engineering education to examine this issue. Both industry and the engineering education research community have been consistently calling for change towards more student-centred and practice-oriented methods of teaching for a number of decades. Despite these calls, the field has made little progress towards significant and lasting change in the methods of teaching that predominate engineering curricula, suggesting a gap between the ideal PCK in the discipline and the realistic possibilities for developing teaching practices in universities.

To understand this, this research focuses on the mechanisms by which teaching practice is realised in the university context. The social site and the knowledge and beliefs which underpin a discipline inevitably affect teaching practice, and this is explored using the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu; the concepts of field, capital and habitus. This approach to the research necessitated an ethnographic methodology in which data was gathered about participants, their teaching and the contexts of their work. A staged research design was used starting with a targeted pilot study, followed by a questionnaire of a broader group of academics, and culminating in a series of three in-depth ethnographic case studies. This design was developmental in that each stage of the process allowed the subsequent stages of data collection to be more effectively targeted and carried out.

The results of this research show that it is possible for engineering educators to develop highly sophisticated bodies of PCK, with significant capacity for teaching about practice in industry. A model for this body of PCK is suggested. However, where those bodies, or aspects, of PCK were seen in the cases, it was the result of participants┬┤ particular habitus for acting in the field, rather than being the result of characteristics of the field itself. In fact, it was found that the university field created significant disincentives for the development of PCK, especially through the dominant forms of capital which privilege attention to research activities over teaching and teaching development. As such, teachers in applied disciplines face a double barrier for PCK development, both through the extra demand for developing their processes of teaching-for practice, and through significant discouragement from the university context for time spent on doing so.

KeywordsPedagogical Content Knowledge; teaching; engineering discipline; tertiary; university; education
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390113. Science, technology and engineering curriculum and pedagogy
390301. Continuing and community education
390402. Education assessment and evaluation
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences
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