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Knowledge and beliefs of politics teachers at German Gymnasien: Findings of a study

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Political didactics is a field that has long resisted examination of teaching efficacy. Of particular importance are questions concerning what teaching personnel know and where their content-based expert knowledge comes from, what is to be taught and how teachers deal with problems in understanding content. Teachers’ professional knowledge can be divided into ‘content knowledge’ (CK), ‘pedagogical content knowledge’ (PCK) and pedagogical knowledge. Beliefs regarding teaching and learning processes, pupils have active or passive, receptive or constructive roles ascribed to them. These roles are generally distinguished as the basic positions of constructivist and transmission-based concepts of teaching and learning. This study collected the results for German gymnasium teachers (N=196). 38.6 per cent of respondents were female, on average the age of respondents stands at 43.5 years old (SD=11.4). The assumptions about the structure of subject-specific professional knowledge are checked by comparing a one-dimensional IRT model with various multidimensional ones. The model comparison shows a statistically significant model improvement for the two-dimensional model distinguishing between CK and PCK. PCK can be divided into normative political didactic discourses in one dimension and lessonbased items in a second dimension. Investigation of the structural assumptions shows that politics teachers’ beliefs on teaching and learning can be integrated into overlapping belief syndromes. Cognitive constructivist orientations go hand in hand with greater subject interest, while transmission-based orientations tend to be related to less interest in politics. There is a slightly significant small negative correlation between a constructivist orientation and lesson-based knowledge (LBK). Those who have been teaching for a long time attain lower scores in the subject-specific didactic part of the test. Participation in further training only has an impact on normative and not on LBK.
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Keywords: civic teachers; constructivist orientation; interest in politics; lesson-based knowledge; politics teachers; professional competence; teachers’ knowledge; teaching and learning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Karlsruhe University of Education 2: University of Göttingen

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • Citizenship Teaching and Learning is global in scope, exploring issues of social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy. It advances academic and professional understandings within a broad characterisation of education, focussing on a wide range of issues including identity, diversity, equality and social justice within social, moral, political and cultural contexts.
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