Shulman (1986) first articulated the importance of acquiring and merging the knowledge of content, the ‘what’ of teaching, and knowledge of pedagogy, the “how” of teaching, in teacher training and practice. He named this knowledge pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). This “special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers, their own special form of professional understanding” (Shulman, 1987, p. 9) has been widely researched and used in international educational landscape from teacher training programmes, evaluations and more. It has also had a number of extensions and variations onto which scholars have grafted and extended their understanding of Shulman’s original idea. We join this list of writers standing on Shulman’s shoulders by suggesting a re-imagination of the model.

Shulman’s PCK model is very useful in understanding different forms of knowledge used by teachers in their daily practice. However, it pays very little attention to the interpersonal dimension of teaching practice. We propose a model in which the teacher’s relational knowledge is added as an integral part of Shulman’s amalgam. The pedagogical content relational knowledge (PCRK) model is a hybrid of three knowledge domains. Here, the term relational knowledge refers to the teacher’s awareness of the interdependent relationship between student and teacher, and the ability to attend to the relationship. The purpose of this relational knowledge is to support the development and maintenance of a working alliance between student and teacher. The teacher’s ability to reflect on things that affect the strength and quality of this working alliance creates the possibility for modification and improvement in their relationship with the student.


Pedagogical Content Relational Knowledge (PCRK) Model

Mounting research evidence (Bernstein-Yamashiro & Noam, 2013; Hagenauer, Hascher, & Volet, 2015; Hargreaves, 2000; Roorda, Koomen, Spilt, & Oort, 2011; Milatz, Lüftenegger, & Schober, 2015; Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, 2018; Spilt, Koomen, & Thijs, 2011; McCallum, Price, Graham, & Morrison, 2017) shows the connection between strong student teacher relationships and academic success, improved prosocial outcomes and with it teacher wellbeing and mental health. One of the key conclusions of the large international survey into teaching and learning in 2013 (TALIS) was that “teacher-student relations have an exceptionally powerful influence over teachers’ job satisfaction” (OECD, 2014, p. 21; Freeman, O'Malley, & Eveleigh, 2014).

The bulk of our work is the space of relational knowledge. The PCRK model is simply a useful representation of its importance and the (mutual) importance and interdependence with content and pedagogical knowledge.


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Bernstein-Yamashiro, B., & Noam, G. (2013, 3 1). Teacher-student relationships: A growing field of study. New Directions for Youth Development, 2013(137), 15-26.

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. (2018). Speaking Out About School and Learning, The views of WA children and young people on factors that support their engagement in school and learning. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, Perth.

Freeman, C., O'Malley, K., & Eveleigh, F. (2014, 11 1). Australian teachers and the learning environment: An analysis of teacher response to TALIS 2013: Final Report. OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (Australian component).

Hagenauer, G., Hascher, T., & Volet, S. (2015). Teacher emotions in the classroom: associations with students’ engagement, classroom discipline and the interpersonal teacher-student relationship. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 30(4).

Hargreaves, A. (2000, 11 1). Mixed emotions: teachers’ perceptions of their interactions with students. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(8), 811-826.

McCallum, F., Price, D., Graham, A., & Morrison, A. (2017). Teacher wellbeing: A review of the literature. Association of Independent Schools of NSW , Sydney.

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Roorda, D., Koomen, H., Spilt, J., & Oort, F. (2011, 12 1). The Influence of Affective Teacher–Student Relationships on Students’ School Engagement and Achievement. Review of Educational Research, 81(4), 493-529.

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