Blair Trewartha


Ontario Tech University


The following chapter discusses the characteristics and applications of a technology integration model known as TPACK, which stands for Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. This model focuses on the interplay between technological knowledge and subject matter specific pedagogical knowledge.  The need for such a model and the barriers that commonly occur are introduced in this chapter and then the TPACK model is defined in more detail with a specific focus on the sub-sections of the model where the three main subfields of knowledge intersect. Included in this background overview is predominantly positive commentary from literature that has used or studied the impact of the TPACK model in various settings with a particular focus on teacher education programs and pre-service instructors. Those contexts are expanded on further with specific applications of the TPACK model and a discussion of its effectiveness in each case. Although TPACK model is not the only effective model that allows educational institutions and teachers to integrate technology into the program, it is one of the most holistic approaches that allows teachers to have the opportunity for metacognition regarding their own learning and professional development.

Keywords: Barriers, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Teacher Education, Technology, TPACK


Although numerous institutions and governmental bodies are investing financially in educational technology, there still seems to be a great deal of obstacles that prevent or hinder effective technological integration and use in education (Atabek, 2019). Barriers to technology integration into classrooms has been identified as both external and internal barriers, or what is known as first order and second order barriers (Wachira & Keengwe, 2011). External barriers include lack of resources and technological capabilities, and can often lead to the more severe internal barriers such as frustration or teachers’ negative beliefs (Kelly, 2015). Internal barriers to integration of technology are defined as teachers’ beliefs and frustrations, lack of pedagogical purpose, lack of knowledge, as well as past negative experiences, and these barriers are largely more detrimental to a tech-integrated learning experience than any external barrier (Kelly, 2015). Without an effective, holistic, and well-planned model or framework to integrate technology, the risks and hindrances presented by these barriers could prevent an effective, technologically designed learning experience from occurring.

The Need for a Framework

The need for effective technology integration into education is essential in order to ensure students and teachers benefit from the tech-based learning experience. Using technology on a superficial level as a gimmick or attention grabber does not enhance learning. Without a proper pedagogical framework and meaningful, long-lasting skill development for instructors, institutions run the risk of using technology without purpose, missing out on the full potential of its positive impact. Additionally, because of digital technology’s rapid pace of change and development, the need for proper integration of technology and training of educators to effectively integrate digital tools into their classrooms is even more crucial than ever before (Jones & Dexter, 2014). In the past, the focus has often been on teachers’ professional development, but as Easton (2008) posits, institutions need to focus on creating teacher learning opportunities where instructors become active learners responsible for their own skill development rather than simply being trained or developed passively.  It is also important for teachers to go beyond seeing technology as an add-on that superficially enhances their traditional classroom; whiteboards or smartboards used as glorified projector screens for passive information delivery is not effective or interactive learning (Lee & Kim, 2014). As such, a fully integrated holistic approach is necessary, one in which educators develop content knowledge, experience active learning, and are able to apply this learning to other situations and contexts (Jones & Dexter, 2014).

One significant integration model for tech in education that focuses on the above principles is TPACK. The TPACK model integrates three major aspects of teacher knowledge, which include content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK) (Koehler, 2012). This framework allows teachers to build their knowledge of subject matter, technology, and pedagogy, but in an integrated and interdependent manner (Lee & Kim, 2014). Thus, the purpose of the framework is to help teachers go beyond merely learning how to use technology in educational settings, but instead how to use it constructively to support students’ learning and tie it into the pedagogical outcomes and subject matter of their program (Lee & Kim, 2014).

Background Information

Just as Shulman believed that subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge should be interconnected and not perceived as separate entities or bodies of knowledge, Mishra & Koehler (2006) state that technological knowledge requires the complex building of an integrated skillset known as “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge” (p.1017). TPACK is an integration model that is keenly aware of the interconnections between content knowledge, pedagogy, and technological skill and how these three areas are essential for effective learning, and the current iteration of TPACK (derived from Shulman’s original model PCK) emphasizes the complex interplay of these three skill sets and knowledge bodies as well as the need for instructors to make technology an integral tool for learning in any respective field or subject (Jang & Chen, 2010). This model is a necessity to ensure pre-service instructors have more adequate, integrated technological training and skill development (Jang & Chen, 2010). According to Jang & Chen (2010), pre-service teachers are often taught how to use technology in a general way that is not directly linked to their subject matter or pedagogy, and thus, what they learn is often irrelevant to or disconnected from how they would ideally be using the technology in their courses. What is essential for instructors and curriculum designers to grasp is that technology, pedagogy, and subject matter cannot and should not be separated.

Intersections of TPACK

The most significant aspect of TPACK that sets it apart from other approaches to technological integration models is the focus on the intersections and overlapping of the three main knowledge bodies (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). As noted by Jang & Chen (2010), the TPACK model is the “total package required for integrating technology, pedagogy and content knowledge in the design of curriculum and instruction” (p.555). Instead of the traditional approach of separating these knowledge bodies, researchers, instructors, and curriculum creators should be ensuring that teachers “develop an overarching conception of their subject matter with respect to technology and what it means to teach with technology” (Jang & Chen, 2010, p.554). As noted in figure 1 below, taken from Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), the three knowledge bodies of Content, Pedagogy, and Technology overlap and create another four subsets of knowledge bodies that are interdependent.

Model Image of TPACK Integration depicting the intersections of the three knowledge bodies and where they intersect
Figure 1. TPACK Model. This figure shows the major knowledge bodies of the TPACK model as well as the intersections (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p.1025).

It is within these subsets of knowledge where instructors learn and solidify this knowledge into their teaching repertoire, and they do this by learning themselves before (as professional development or “learning”) and after (simultaneously as students learn).


There have been several studies reviewing the integration and implementation of TPACK models in various types of educational settings. A few of these examples have been summarized briefly below and are largely focused on teacher education programs and pre-service instructor development. Each subsection includes a brief mention of the impacts of TPACK, which will also be touched on in the Conclusions and Future Recommendations section of the chapter. Developing theoretical framework about Educational technology and proving positive cause and effect from using said technology can be a difficult process because there are so many contextual variables around each classroom, teacher and student group, and political or curricular concerns (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Fortunately, one potential way to tackle this complex problem is through design experiments, which as Mishra & Koehler (2006) state, “acknowledge the complexities of classroom teaching and enlighten both practitioners and researchers by leading to the development of theoretical ideas grounded in contexts of practice” (p.1019). Design experiments like the one discussed below, allow for researchers to study the implementation of pedagogical frameworks like TPACK.

TPACK-Based ID for Multidisciplinary Technology Integration

Lee and Kim (2014) examine a TPACK-based Instructional Design (ID) model that was applied to a multidisciplinary technology course where the Instructional Design approach was followed, which involved learning by design. In this method, teachers are given the opportunity to assume the role of designers of learning activities, which in turn allows for more integration of digital technologies in the classroom as instructors build their pedagogical skills and technical skills simultaneously (Lee & Kim, 2014). A similar approach was carried out in another context examined by Koehler and Mishra (2005), where faculty members and graduate students were asked to design an online course and were thus forced to consider the complexities of online teaching and integrating technology with pedagogy and content.

There are numerous benefits to following the learning by design approach and encouraging teachers to assume the role of instructional designer, including educational innovation that is in line with 21st century learners’ needs, professional development for teachers that allow them to create authentic learning artifacts, and the creation of learning environments where teachers and researchers can collaborate and experience the complexity of teaching and learning (Lee & Kim, 2014).

Lee and Kim (2014) reviewed three TPACK-based ID models and took the TPACK model even further to offer the TPACK-IDDIRR model, shown below in Fig 2.

Model Image depicting the flow and structure of the TPACK model with an Instructional design framework with teachers learning by design
Figure 2. TPACK-IDDIRR Model. This diagram shows the structure and subtopics of the TPACK model when combined with an Instructional Design model where instructors learn by design (Lee & Kim, 2014, p. 444).

The above model follows the original concepts from TPACK but also includes four major guidelines. These guidelines were taken verbatim from Lee & Kim (2014) and include:

  1. Explicit, systematic procedures should be included in the ID model to provide practical solutions for teacher training programs to enhance preservice teachers’ TPACK.
  2. Stages to introduce the TPACK framework and to demonstrate TPACK examples should be included in the ID model to build preservice teachers’ knowledge base of technology integration and to prepare them to design technological artifacts for teaching.
  3. Design-based learning activities such as creating a lesson plan and associated digital artifacts should be included in the ID model to prompt preservice teachers to analyze the content and student learning needs.
  4. A cyclic design-based learning process should be included in the ID model to offer the opportunities for preservice teachers to go through the design process more than once. (p.443).

Thus, by using the TPACK model as the framework for an instructional design model, instructors were given the opportunity to not only see the learning experience from the perspective of designers, but also as instructors, curriculum developers, and students.

TPACK for Pre-Service Science Teachers

The TPACK integration model was also implemented at a teacher education program for pre-service science teachers, and Jang and Chen (2010) studied its impact on developing teachers’ knowledge of technological pedagogical strategies in relation to subject-matter (i.e. science) lessons. The study examined both a transformative model and online system that were put in place to help with the re-structuring of their teacher education courses for science instructors, and relied on surveys, video recordings, written assignments and journals and interviews for data collection (Jang & Chen, 2010).

Results from the study and feedback from the teachers demonstrated several benefits to the TPACK model implementation. First of all, instructors found TPACK far more effective at teaching abstract and particularly difficult concepts from science curriculum compared to traditional instructional methods (Jang & Chen, 2010). Furthermore, veteran science teachers demonstrating the technological initiatives and strategies allowed newer instructors to imitate them in their use of applications, animations, and other technological interventions and strategies, and this observational model also offered pre-service instructors the opportunity to find tools that could be transformed with the curricular and pedagogical concerns of science programs (Jang & Chen, 2010). All pre-service instructors within this study also reported having learned TPACK thoroughly and were now equipped with the skillset and knowledge needed to implement technology into the classroom (Jang & Chen, 2010).

TPACK Leadership Diagnostic Tool: Implementation by Teacher Education Leaders

Another extremely practical application of the TPACK integration model is the “TPACK Leadership Diagnostic Tool” used by education leaders to help each individual institution with its decision-making processes regarding implementation, development, and design of technology initiative as well as their current goals and practices as a teacher education program (Clausen et al., 2019, p.54). This diagnostic tool was not only used to assess how well instructors were integrating technology into the classroom but also how to assess better ways for employers and faculty trainers to support TPACK initiatives taken on by instructors (Clausen et al., 2019).

Results varied from institution to institution, but it is interesting to see how each institution used the TPACK diagnostic tool. For example, one institution used it as a method for administrators and instructors to ensure they were justifying the use (and purchase) of a new digital tool from a pedagogical and practical standpoint, so that instructors did not find themselves being forced to use a digital tool that seemed purposeless (Clausen et al., 2019).

Another institution found that the diagnostic tool was an effective method for facilitating a ‘check and reflect’ process to make sure past measures were analyzed as they moved forward with new initiatives (Clausen et al., 2019).

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

It is clear that no matter how an educational institution or individual teacher decides to integrate technology into their classroom, it is essential that appropriate planning and alignment with pedagogical concerns and learning outcomes is a primary focus. It is also essential that potential barriers, both internal and external, are mitigated and avoided as much as possible. One way to avoid these barriers is to ensure that your technological interventions and integration are tied directly to purposeful curriculum outcomes both in terms of pedagogy and subject matter. Thus, a model that focus on technological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, and the intersecting areas of these knowledge bodies, would be the ideal framework for any institution or educator wanting to implement technology effectively into their programs.


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2019 Copyright © 2019 by Blair Trewartha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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