Teachers must work with different types of knowledge; subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge (deep knowledge about the processes and practices of teaching) and assessment knowledge. All three are integrated and work hand in hand with one another. For example, a teacher might assess a group of students and find they have not understood a particular concept. Unless the teacher understands the concept deeply, he or she is unlikely to be able to analyze possible misconceptions and create alternative approaches to teaching it. Teachers are always selecting particular teaching strategies moment by moment in classroom. Making the right choice and being able to retrieve them and apply them requires an understanding of why one approach is better than another (Timperley, 2011).
Teaching is a complex, theoretically informed activity and the theories underpinning practices are inevitably personal. If personal theories are not deeply informed by wider knowledge about effectiveness and why things work, then teaching becomes a personal rather than professional enterprise. Many teachers resist the need to understand theory because they perceive that their job is about practice. When they understand how theory informs practice and the two are intrinsically linked, they usually come to be more open to the possibility that theory really matters (Timperley, 2011).
Knowledge for practice: Is theory in practice, or the kind of knowledge teachers may need to rely upon in developing their practice (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). Teachers go to university, take courses, go to in-services or have professional development days geared to learning new ideas, models, theories, programs or applications.
Knowledge in practice: Is practical knowledge and reflective practice. Teachers keep their own journals and reflections, probing their own experiences and expertise as makers of wise judgments and designers of rich learning interactions in the classroom.
Knowledge of practice: Emphasizes the relationship between knowledge and practice and the theoretical aspects of both, assuming that “the knowledge teachers need to teach well emanates from systematic inquiries about teaching, learners and learning, curriculum, schools and schooling. This knowledge is constructed collectively within local and broader communities” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001). It emphasizes the role of the teacher in constructing knowledge and learning, and growing through that process. It also suggests the importance of ongoing inquiry by teachers in their own classrooms and into other practical sources of knowledge for addressing problems of practice (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005).
Communities of practice play a central role in developing and transmitting knowledge from practice to research and back again. These notions of knowledge for practice, developed within a professional community of inquiring teachers, inform many of the emerging pedagogies in teacher education associated with the implementation of new teaching strategies and improvements in student learning (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005).