TPCK: A Framework for IT Planning in Schools

Teacher education has traditionally been informed by a framework comprising the content dimension (what is to be taught or the curriculum) and the pedagogy dimension (how it is taught or instruction). Shulman (1987) suggested teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge cannot be developed in isolation, so he proposed “pedagogical content knowledge” (PCK) to describe the capacity of a teacher to organize, explain, and communicate ideas so that students understand the content. The adage commonly applied to education, “you never really understand it until you teach it,” captures the interconnected nature of content and pedagogy; educators better understand content through teaching it and they better understand pedagogy by applying it to teaching problems in their classrooms.

In extending Shulman’s concept of PCK, Mishra and Koehler (2006) observed technology had emerged as a distinct type of knowledge. In adding technological knowledge (TK) to Shulman’s model, Mishra and Koehler recognized computer technology is qualitatively different from pencils and paper and the other long-established print technologies, so it enters the models as a separate type of knowledge. It is reasoned that as information technologies becomes more familiar, its existence as a separate type of knowledge decreases. Technology pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) (see figure 2.1) has become a very useful framework for understanding teaching and learning in the technology-rich school. While TPCK does comprise distinct and isolatable types of knowledge, it is presented as a model that “emphasizes the connections, interactions, affordances, and constraints between and among content, pedagogy, and technology,” and “emphasizes the interplay of these three bodies of knowledge.” (Mishra & Kohler, 2006, p. 125).

As a framework useful to inform IT management decisions in school, TPCK identifies seven types of knowledge that can be improved with educators’ increased awareness of new technologies and with their increased knowledge of teaching methods that make use of technology. The state of TPCK within a school community can evaluated from an individual’s perspective (what is the current TPCK of each and how can it be improved), and also from the perspective of the entire faculty. Social influences are known to be an important determinate in technology acceptance (Venktah & et al. 2003), each individual’s TPCK is affected by the group’s TPCK, and the TPCK of influential individuals are even more important in affecting the group TPCK.

Venn diagram illustrating TPCKTPCK is proposed as a dynamic framework and Mishra and Kohler (2006) anticipated it would change over time. Shulman (1987) did not differentiate books, pencils, paper, and other information technologies into a separate type of knowledge when PCK was first elucidated; he reasoned those were transparent technologies and a stable part of teaching and learning for generations, thus no specific knowledge was necessary to use technology. It is likely that that computers and associated technologies will become more transparent, so TK may become a less distinct type of knowledge. Given the continued rapid development and diffusion of information and computer technology hardware, software, and network platforms, technological knowledge is anticipated to be an important part of TPCK into the foreseeable future. Further, the nature of the classroom determines how TPCK is defined and instantiated. Mishra and Koehler (2006) observed, “there is no single technological solution that applies to every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching” (p. 1029).

Using TPCK, IT managers can identify and support all aspects of technology in teaching and learning. The model also allows IT managers to identify and clarify the connections between the various types of knowledge that educators need to provide efficacious experiences. In addition, TPCK facilitates understanding of who must be involved with decisions and who must lead and participate in training, curriculum development, and other professional development activities.


Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technology pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard educational review, 57(1), 1-22.
Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., & Davis, F. D. (2003). User Acceptance of Information Technology: Toward a Unified View. MIS Quarterly, 27(3), 425–478.