A Meeting of Minds Around Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Designing an International PCK Summit For Professional, Community, and Field Development

Publication: March 2013

Project: PCK Summit

Authors: Jenifer V. Helms, Laura Stokes

Type: Report

Download Report (pdf, 20 pages)


A “conference” is a familiar mode of work for academics. As common as conferences are, however, they are quite challenging to design in ways that truly succeed in galvanizing the attention of an academic community on a shared problem, in generating powerful new understandings, and in energizing and shaping an agenda for future research and development work that will move a field forward. Conferences may aspire to these ends, but as typically designed, rarely achieve them. This paper presents a case study of a conference—the PCK Summit—that provided an exceptionally powerful experience for the participants—both individually and as a professional community—and is pushing forward important work in the field.

The PCK Summit brought together a group of 22 researchers from 7 countries who are working in the area of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in science. The meeting achieved three outcomes:

  • Formation of professional learning community, where individuals put aside their niche perspectives to work for collective intelligence
  • Conceptual advancement, with emergence of new consensus model of PCK
  • Field development, with new research and policy agendas for individuals and the collective

This paper elucidates the key elements of the PCK Summit’s design and the reasons for its success. Our hope is that others in NSF and beyond may derive practical lessons about how to conceptualize, prepare for, facilitate, and follow up on academic conferences so that they succeed in building individual, community, and field capacity.

Intended Audience

Education philanthropists and funders, K-12 and higher education leaders, educator professional associations, STEM improvement leaders


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