One of the secrets of being a good teacher is developing your subject knowledge on a particular subject/concept. In other words, knowing what to teach and how to teach that concept or subject at any point in time are the perks of being a good teacher. Developing your subject knowledge as a teacher is also part of continuous professional development because it is an ongoing routine. There are two different aspects to subject knowledge. One is subject content knowledge: topics and skills that make up the subject. And the second is the methods for teaching the subject.
For example, developing your subject knowledge in Mathematics means knowing the topics therein and knowing how to teach mathematics. You need to learn how to represent the subject with examples, illustrations, and demonstrations to ensure that it is comprehensible. This further includes understanding how learners (students of different ages and backgrounds) make progress in learning mathematics and common misunderstandings the class is bound to experience.
Effective teaching combines the two forms of subject knowledge via curriculum making. There are no shortcuts for acquiring pedagogical content knowledge. Sometimes you will have to learn from mentors and tutors and by observing experienced teachers in that field. Other times, you will have to develop knowledge through discussion, reading widely, and reflecting on your own and others’ practices. A broad subject reading can improve the ‘what’ of our classrooms – the content – while pedagogy can support the ‘how’ – how it is delivered to best suit your target students.
Hence, we will discuss some tips to help you develop your subject knowledge as a teacher.
Tips for Developing your Subject Knowledge as a Teacher
Prepare a learning audit
The first step to developing your subject knowledge is to ascertain what you know and what you don’t. Do you know the curriculum of the said subject? What are the topics therein? These and many other questions you should ask yourself to ascertain your level of exposure to the subject. A regular learning audit allows you to pinpoint lapses in your knowledge. So you can use the right development program. It also provides clarity and boosts confidence; you will know your strengths and weaknesses.
Periodically check the national curriculum
Checking the national curriculum will give you an overview of your subject area, its learning phases, aims, and duration of teaching. It will also help you identify changes earlier and know how to switch without disrupting teaching and learning.
One of the ways of gaining and developing knowledge about a concept is by reading regularly. Regular quality reading of subject-based texts will help you stay up-to-date and also improve your communication skills. When you can read and understand the subject, then you can teach others comfortably. Follow up on new texts and revised editions introduced for the subject to ensure your “knowledge bank” never goes empty.
Besides reading, you can listen to podcasts on the subject during your leisure to help you develop intrinsic motivation for the subject.
Take the exam yourself
After reading, you can test your knowledge capacity with a mock exam, highlighting those areas you studied. This will help you know the obstacles your students could face while learning the subject or concept and ascertain how much you know about the subject.
Join a subject-based association
To further help you develop your subject knowledge, consider joining a subject-based association or group and talk to other teachers who are experts in specific areas. Sharing knowledge, having random conversations with people who have similar goals will boost your prowess for the subject, as no man is an island. You can also find many subject-based communities on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, etc.
Example: You can check out the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM). They provide self-evaluation tools in both subject content and pedagogy.
Technology has made a lot of things more accessible. There are different available options online, including video tutorials, blogs, and resource websites for developing teachers.
YouTube is a good tool for developing your subject knowledge. You can learn the ‘what’ of the subject and how to deliver the content. However, ensure you get videos from authentic sources. You can also use EdTech apps to broaden your knowledge.
As a teacher, prioritize improving yourself and expanding your horizon. Remember that you are first a learner before becoming a teacher. And you cannot give what you don’t have. Develop your subject knowledge and know all you want your students to learn before you storm the classroom.