Effects of Central Aspects of Pedagogical Content Knowledge on Student Competence Development: Findings in Accounting
Through empirical studies in general education domains (mathematics: Baumert et al., 2010; science: Cauet et al. 2015), researchers have already proven that professional knowledge is a central precondition for effective teaching (e.g. cognitive activation) and student competence development. Comparable studies in vocational education domains, particularly in business-related subjects, are still missing, though some are in preparation (e.g. for accounting: Wuttke et al., 2015). Recent video-based studies (e.g. ProwiN, Pythagoras, etc.) have assessed pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) linked to particular topics (mechanics, Pythagorean theorem, etc.). The present study, however, investigates (like the COACTIV study) the impact of teachers’ PCK in several curricular topics on student academic performance; assessments are made covering material from the whole school year at different grades.
Analyses are based on the theoretical model of PCK established in the COACTIV study (Baumert et al. 2010), which defines the three facets of PCK: “knowledge of students’ cognition and typical student errors”, “knowledge of tasks as instructional tools”, and “knowledge of multiple representations and explanations” (see Berger et al. 2013 for accounting). As in the COACTIV study, it is assumed that accounting teachers possessing higher PCK provide more cognitively-activating instructions; these are in turn associated with student academic performance in accounting.
The current study asks (a) whether the three facets of PCK mentioned above can be assessed using an online questionnaire, (b) if so, whether these aspects are related to teacher cognitive activation during classroom instructions (as perceived by students), and (c) whether this is related to student competence development in accounting when mathematics competence is controlled for.
In order to assess the facets of PCK in accounting, almost all Austrian accounting teachers (N = 524) were invited to take part in an online questionnaire consisting of self-ratings and performance items. In total, 91 teachers (67 % female, ageM = 47, ageSD = 9) responded to 11 subscales (68 items: 36 performance items and five open-ended questions), corresponding to a response rate of 17.4 %. Performance items covered the following dimensions: knowledge of student misconceptions, pedagogical-diagnostic competence with regard to item and learning difficulties, knowledge of central student mental steps while solving accounting-specific tasks, knowledge of criteria for cognitively activating learning tasks, knowledge of different ways of how to present and explain accounting-specific concepts to students, and teacher knowledge and use of (content-related) didactical models. Self-ratings regarding individual instructional orientation (goal orientation, student orientation) provided additional data.
Of the assessed teachers, 21 took also part in the so-called LOTUS study (Helm 2015a). In that study the students of each of the 21 teachers (Ngrade 9= 702, ageM = 14.4, ageSD = 0.74) were assessed annually by means of an accounting competence test and an online questionnaire, measuring student perception of instructional aspects such as cognitive activation. These assessments were carried out from grade 9 through grade 11. Using multi-level structural equation modelling, the data collected will be analysed to test the path of effects described above.
Correlation analyses show that the three facets are only weakly associated with each other, indicating that the three facets of accounting-specific PCK might not be related to one single underlying latent construct. However, the subscales within the three facets are significantly related to each other. Furthermore, they are associated with the external criteria of PCK. For instance, teacher knowledge of student mental steps when solving accounting-specific tasks is significantly correlated with facets of the teachers’ self-rating of their competence-oriented teaching (correlations between r = .278 and r = .333*). In addition, teachers’ pedagogical-diagnostic competence is correlated with the number of content-related teacher trainings visited annually (r = .273*).
When relating the facets of PCK to student competence and to student perception of cognitive activation in accounting, the figures draw the following picture: while the teachers’ self-rating regarding their competence-oriented teaching is negatively related to student academic performance in accounting (r = -.275; due to the low sample size this estimate did not reveal anything of significance), teacher diagnostic competence (with regard to the knowledge of student mental steps while solving accounting-specific tasks) is strongly and positively correlated with the academic success of their students (r = .579*). Additionally, these facets, along with teacher knowledge of (content-related) didactical models and the knowledge/use of different representational forms of concepts, correlate strongly with the perceived cognitive activation in accounting lessons (ranging from r = .490* to .702**). While these correlation analyses indicate promising findings, as hypothesized, simultaneous tests of the theoretical assumptions using multi-level structural equation modelling are still in progress. These results will be discussed critically against the limitations of the instruments used, as well as teacher training in business education in German-speaking countries.
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