The TPACCK Model explained

The TPACCK model first featured in my book Love To Teach: Research and Resources (2018) but it is based on the research and work of others. I felt there was something missing from the previous models that I wanted to develop further. The feedback to the TPACCK model, from people that have read my book or attended presentations I have delivered, where I discuss this model, has been very positive with different teachers and leaders telling me that they have applied this in their schools to support and shape teaching and professional learning.

Below is an explanation (with some extracts taken from Love To Teach) that explain the origins and research behind the TPACCK model and I also wanted to explore how this has been useful as both a teacher and middle leader.

The foundations of the TPACCK model begin with the PCK model by Lee S Shulman in 1986. Shulman has written about the importance of teachers possessing strong and confident knowledge of content and pedagogy. Shulman posed the following questions in an article he wrote: ‘whether in the spirit of the 1870s, when pedagogy was essentially ignored, or in the 1980s when content is conspicuously absent, has there always been a cleavage between the two? Has it always been asserted that one either knows content and pedagogy is secondary and unimportant, or that one knows pedagogy and is not held to account for content?

Shulman provides an overview of previous testing and examinations that teachers had to complete which focused on one aspect, content or pedagogy. There was a failure to recognise the importance of both content knowledge and pedagogical methods. Shulman became frustrated with the literature focusing on certain aspects of teaching such as classroom management, activities and planning lessons but neglected the content of the lessons taught and quality of explanations.

Shulman and his colleagues wanted to readdress this imbalance and he referred to this as the ‘Missing Paradigm’. Teachers will have their necessary qualifications that represent their knowledge in a specific domain and teaching qualification, but Shulman was concerned about the transition of teachers from being expert learners to novice teachers. He stressed the importance of blending content with different elements of the teaching process.

The TPACK model took this idea of balance further as it introduced technology focusing on the combination of ‘Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge’.  The first article about this was published in 2006, titled Technological, Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge by Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra. Since 2009 it has been recorded that TPACK has featured in over 1100 journal articles and book chapters and almost 300 dissertations and over 25 books have written about TPACK as the central theoretical construct – illustrating how influential this model has become in education.

A teacher can use their experience and knowledge of effective teaching methods to consider how to incorporate the technology into these methods. If the teacher lacks the knowledge and understanding of how the technology works, then this will undoubtedly cause problems and end up being a barrier to learning – I can certainly recall occasions where technology has hindered rather helped in my classroom! In the same way, if a teacher knows how to use technology and has a good comprehension of teaching and learning approaches but their subject knowledge is weak then this can also have a negative impact on learning. Knowing subject material but having a lack of knowledge on how to communicate that information through pedagogy will also be unsuccessful.

When using technology, all three aspects are very important and need to complement one another. If a teacher has deep subject knowledge, is able to use effective pedagogical strategies combined with a good understanding of the technology being used, then all of this can lead
to greater success in the classroom. It is also important to recognise that this is not about using technology more. Probably the most important element of the technological element is that it is down to the professional choice of teachers whether to use or not use the technology. Koehler and Mishra write, ‘TPACK is truly meaningful, deeply skilled teaching with or without (because sometimes this can be the best choice) technology.

TPACK is a conceptual framework that claims the successful integration of technology to support students learning requires a teacher to have the following:

  • Strong content knowledge of the specific subject being taught.
  • Solid understanding of effective pedagogy.
  • Knowledge and experience of different methods of teaching and learning.
  • A good grasp of the technology that could be used. Koehler and Mishra write, ‘at the heart of good teaching with technology are three core components: content, pedagogy and technology, plus the relationships among and between them.

In September 2018 I was in the final stages of editing my book, ready for print and publication but during this period I discovered on social media a tweet showing that the TPACK diagram had been updated! Mishra revealed an extended version of TPACK, which includes a new focus on contextual knowledge.

Mishra writes ‘contextual knowledge would be everything from a teacher’s awareness of the kind of technologies available for them and their students; to their knowledge of the school, district and state policies that they have to function within’. This is clearly all-encompassing taking into consideration a wide range of factors teachers have to consider when integrating technology successfully into the classroom, some that are out of the control of the teacher, for example, the decision in France made by Emanuel Macron to ban mobile phones enabling a digital detox which all schools have to adhere to.

The creators did not want to add another CK for contextual knowledge as the original CK represents content knowledge. Instead, the new revised model has an outer circle or section that is referred to as XK for Contextual Knowledge, as shown below:

The TPACCK model – the new TPACK perhaps?

The creators of TPACK didn’t want to add an extra C but the extra C, in my proposed TPACCK model, refers to cognitive knowledge and understanding. Essentially, we should combine our content and pedagogical knowledge with our understanding of cognitive psychology when using technology. I know this sounds complex, but it really isn’t.

We know that quizzing is a great strategy to support retrieval practice and there are lots of great digital tools we can use to do this such as Quizizz, Google Forms, Plickers and much more.

To create a challenging and appropriate quiz for students to complete requires subject knowledge. Using quizzing as a method to support learning is a pedagogical strategy and demonstrates our understanding of cognitive psychology and the benefits of retrieval practice. Finally, we are using technology efficiently to create, deliver and record quizzes.

Without the subject knowledge, we would be unable to write questions that cover a wide breadth and depth of content and an appropriate level of challenge. Without pedagogical knowledge, we would not consider effective techniques such as quizzes at the start of a lesson as part of a firmly embedded classroom routine. Being unaware of the impact of retrieval practice for supporting learning would mean that we only use quizzing as an assessment tool instead of a learning tool. Attempting to use technology but failing to understand how to create a quiz online or instruct students how to respond and engage with the quiz will also cause problems.

A successful quiz on Quizizz requires the teacher to have a solid knowledge of all factors involved in the learning process and task design. This does not just apply to quizzes, this is relevant to all tasks involving, or not involving technology.

It could be argued that cognitive psychology should be considered as part of our pedagogical knowledge (PK) or even the new addition of contextual knowledge (XK) as it focuses on how memory works and how we can use this information to support learning. Since the TPACK model was introduced however, our understanding of cognitive psychology has become better known, respected and worthy of inclusion in the debate to help move it forward. It is important that we embrace the findings of this important field of research and think carefully about how we choose to use technology based upon what we know about what works. The findings we know so far and the research taking place right now delve into the complex area of how children learn.

There are still many questions left unanswered in this field of cognitive psychology. There is still progress to be made. Just as new technologies will continue to advance in the future and teachers will continue to need support to improve their technological knowledge, the same can be argued of cognitive psychology – we will never stop learning, teachers embody life long learning. As new research develops explaining what does and does not work or what works best, teachers need to stay informed and then apply this to their practice.

I believe the TPACCK model will encourage teachers to carefully consider how different aspects can impact teaching and learning in addition to recognising the value and importance of cognitive psychology. We can focus CPD on combining all of those factors, without one aspect dominating professional learning and others being completely neglected. TPACK supports the integration of technology but TPACCK focuses on how effective that integration of technology is on learning.


Shulman, L, S. (1986) ‘Those Who Understand: Knowledge Growth in Teaching,’Educational Researcher, 15(2), pp. 4-14. Available at: http://www.fisica.uniud.it/URDF/masterDidSciUD/materiali/pdf/ Shulman_1986.pdf

Mishra, P. (10 September 2018) ‘The TPACK diagram gets an upgrade’. 

Koehler, M, J & Mishra, P. (2009) ‘What Is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge?’ Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education. 

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